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What is the relationship between schizophrenia and addictions?

Despite the fact that psychiatric diseases and psychological disorders are defined and limited in the manuals diagnoses, beyond the pages the reality is that, in practice, there are many pathologies that overlap each other in various aspects.

Thus, for example, there are symptoms that may be typical of depression and bipolar disorder, and only one vision global mental processes and behavior of a patient allows to distinguish what is the alteration that it affects.

But these blurred boundaries between pathologies are present even on the dividing lines that separate disorders that are practically nothing alike. For example, this is what happens when it is observed that a large proportion of people who develop one disease also develops the other... something that happens with schizophrenia and disorders addictive.

In this article we will explore the topic of what is the relationship between schizophrenia and drug addiction, and what implications does this have in the treatment of these pathologies.

  • Related article: "What is schizophrenia? Symptoms and Treatments "

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness suffered by approximately 0.5% of the general population at some point in their life, being the most common psychotic disorder. Although it can express itself for the first time during childhood or adolescence, the most common is that its symptoms begin to manifest between the ages of 25 and 30.

Being a pathology linked to the spectrum of psychotic disorders, schizophrenia is associated with the concept of a break with reality; that is, those who develop it suffer severe alterations in basic processes to dispose of personal autonomy, such as the perception and interpretation of facts, and the management of thoughts and emotions. These symptoms are not always present, but are expressed throughout "crisis", although in some cases the beginning and end of these episodes may be gradual and not too defined.

In addition to being varied, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into two types: positive symptoms and negative symptoms. The former encompass the set of alterations that are characterized by the presence of elements strange in the way of thinking or perceiving things of the person: hallucinations and delusions, mainly. On the other hand, negative symptoms are characterized by the lack of elaboration or intention in the psychological processes necessary to live adequately in society and have a good quality of life, such as a lack of emotional response to important events, poor language use, or a persistent tendency to isolation Social.

This set of symptoms has internal and external causes, and many of them can be facilitated by the social dynamics that occur around the person (the clearest example being that of isolation Social).

In any case, Another characteristic of schizophrenia is its destabilizing nature of people's lives, which is associated with a greater predisposition to develop other psychiatric illnesses or psychological disorders.

Schizophrenia and drugs
  • You may be interested in: "What is psychosis? Causes, symptoms and treatment "

What is the link between addictions and schizophrenia?

As we have advanced, there is numerous evidence that people with one or more Drug addiction (with polydrug addiction) is overrepresented among those who have developed schizophrenia. That is among people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, the proportion of people with addiction to psychoactive substances is much higher than the average for the population usually. Thus, while approximately between 16% and 20% of the population have developed an addictive disorder towards a drug (legal or illegal), in those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia this percentage rises to 47%. The drugs most consumed by this segment of the population after tobacco are alcohol, cannabis and cocaine.

The implications of this phenomenon are serious, because although addictive disorders are already pathologies that must be treated as soon as possible. Before, drug abuse and dependence statistically makes people with schizophrenia more likely to suffer psychotic crises, to not complying with the doctor's instructions or to abandon treatment, to adopt violent behavior patterns, to lose autonomy, and to develop suicidal ideation, among other things. In addition, this group of patients is more likely to relapse into drug use after trying to overcome addiction.

A) Yes, drug use makes the development of schizophrenia worse, but also creates the right circumstances for the person to develop other psychological disorders (such as the depressive disorders) that are derived from the accumulation of behavioral and emotional problems and imbalances generated by this combination of pathologies.

  • Related article: "The 5 psychological traps in which people with drug addicts fall"

What are the causes of this relationship between diseases?

To this day, the causes of this relationship between schizophrenia and drug addiction are not yet known in great detail; that is, the causal mechanisms behind this overlap remain relatively hidden. In any case, the scientific consensus is that there is no single cause, but rather a combination of several interacting biosocial factors.

However, in recent years several hypotheses based on increasing empirical evidence have been suggested. One of them is the hypothesis of self-medication in people with schizophrenia, according to which those who develop this disease try to incorporate into their nervous system elements that help them to reestablish a certain balance in the chemical imbalance that generates schizophrenia. A) Yes, the use of drugs would be a semi-unconscious way of "counteracting" neuropsychological alterations from which the symptoms of the pathology arise.

On the other hand, the hypothesis of genetic predisposition should also be highlighted. According to this, there are a series of genetic configurations underlying both the propensity to develop schizophrenia and the propensity to “hook” on a drug. In any case, the idea that both pathologies arise simply from the genetic code is denied; simply, a combination of certain alleles would contribute to the appearance of these health problems, but it would not be a determining factor.

Furthermore, it is known that the use of certain drugs can trigger a psychotic picture that consolidates into schizophrenia, so that once an addiction has been installed, it is easier for a predisposition to schizophrenia to manifest itself.

  • You may be interested in: "The 14 most important types of addictions"

Looking for treatment for addictive disorders?

If you are looking for treatment for addictions with or without substances, get in touch with our team of professionals.

On CITA Clinics we specialize in the intervention before this class of pathologies, and we offer both outpatient care and treatments complete detoxification, cessation and rehabilitation by entering our residential module located in Dosrius (Barcelona). In our fully equipped facilities we work from both medicine and psychotherapy to make it possible that patients get out of the vicious cycle of dependence and gain in health and quality of life by minimizing the risk of relapses.

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