Drug-Induced Schizophrenia: Who’s at Risk?

Taking drugs comes with a long list of risks and side effects that range from mild to life-threatening. But what many people don’t know is that certain drugs can actually trigger severe mental health crises. One of these events is known as drug-induced schizophrenia.

Today, we’ll take a look at what drug-induced schizophrenia is, including how it happens, what its symptoms are, and the outlook for treating this condition. Most importantly, this information on drug-induced schizophrenia will help you to understand if you are at risk for developing serious mental health concerns as a result of drug use as well as what the next steps are for getting treatment for drug addiction as early as today.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia highlighted on the dictionary - illustration
Schizophrenia highlighted on the dictionary – illustration

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that is characterized by its sometimes severe symptoms in the people who have it. Most commonly, schizophrenia comes with symptoms that make people appear out of touch with reality or as if they are living in their own world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this is because schizophrenia can cause hallucinations, delusions, and troubles with communication.

When somebody experiences hallucinations or delusions, it means that they are seeing or believing in things that are not really there. Delusions specifically refer to a false sense of reality when it comes to beliefs, such as believing that you are being spied on or that somebody is out to get you. Hallucinations can involve all five of the senses and cause people to see, hear, and even feel things that aren’t there.

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Unfortunately, schizophrenia is widely misunderstood in society. People with schizophrenia are often seen as “crazy” because of these symptoms. This can make it extremely difficult for somebody with schizophrenia to build strong relationships, maintain a job, or complete daily responsibilities.

There are certain factors that put people at risk for developing schizophrenia symptoms. First, schizophrenia is genetic, meaning that it can be passed down from generation to generation. If schizophrenia or other mental health issues run in your family, you could be at an increased risk for developing these conditions as well.

Second, environmental factors and one’s upbringing play a big role in the risk of having schizophrenia. Experiencing trauma, neglect, or being around others who make harmful life decisions can all increase the likelihood that you will develop mental health symptoms associated with schizophrenia or other conditions.

Lastly, studies show that addictive substances, such as illegal drugs, can trigger the onset of schizophrenia in people who already have the condition, but have not yet presented with symptoms. This means that if it runs in your family or if you have any environmental risk factors that increase the chances of developing schizophrenia, taking drugs could be the event that finally causes the symptoms to appear. In these cases, this is called drug-induced schizophrenia.

Drug-Induced Psychosis vs Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?

Drugs are one of the most common schizophrenic episode triggers. This means that using drugs—as well as going through withdrawal from them—can act as a catalyst for a mental health breakdown or episode. For people who already have schizophrenia, even if they aren’t diagnosed and never had symptoms before, drugs can easily cause hallucinations, delusions, and feelings of paranoia to begin.

Of course, drug-induced schizophrenia isn’t the only mental health side effect that comes with using addictive substances. Another common mental health side effect that stems from using drugs would be drug-induced psychosis. Some people believe that drug-induced psychosis is similar or even identical to drug-induced schizophrenia. However, there are some key differences that set them apart.

For starters, psychosis is a more general term than schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is actually a type of psychotic disorder. The defining element of psychosis is that the person going through it loses touch with reality. Thus, psychosis can happen even if other symptoms of schizophrenia aren’t present.

Drug-induced psychosis can sometimes be more temporary, meaning that the symptoms appear and disappear within the matter of hours or days. On the other hand, schizophrenia symptoms usually last at least 6 months and are recurring, especially if they aren’t maintained with proper mental health treatment.

Regardless of the differences between these two terms, the biggest takeaway here is that drugs and alcohol serve as triggers for drug-induced schizophrenia and psychosis. If you are struggling with substance use and you feel that your mental health might be deteriorating, it’s important to seek help right away before the situation becomes even more dire. After all, drug-induced psychosis and schizophrenia can lead to long-lasting harm.

How Do You Treat Drug-Induced Schizophrenia?

Patient explaining her schizophrenia issues to the medical doctor
Patient explaining her schizophrenia issues to the medical doctor

The most effective way to address drug-induced schizophrenia is to receive dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis programming works to treat both mental health and substance abuse simultaneously. This is extremely important in situations of drug-induced psychosis or schizophrenia because the symptoms cannot truly go away until all of the problems are addressed.

In dual diagnosis treatment, you will have the support of certified mental health professionals as well as from your peers who understand what it’s like to struggle with both a mental illness and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Dual diagnosis treatment involves a variety of different options for full recovery, but some of the highlights include:

Features like life skills groups are meant to help patients develop important skills that will make it easier to manage stress, make healthy decisions, and live a healthy lifestyle once treatment has ended. Maintaining recovery is one of the hardest aspects of sobriety, especially after leaving a inpatient treatment facility, but practicing skills like budgeting, keeping up proper hygiene, and building healthy relationships can all contribute to lifelong recovery success.

Moreover, getting treatment for drug-induced schizophrenia is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your dual diagnosis treatment team will work with you to construct a specialized plan meant to help you get back on your feet. Though taking the first step toward recovery can be overwhelming, it is well worth it to finally regain control of your life.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital.

For more information on drug-induced schizophrenia as well as your options for recovery, reach out to the experts at Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital by phone at (419) 949-8590. Not quite ready to talk? You also have the option to submit a contact us form with your questions, concerns, and to share your story.

We are proud to offer programs that can help you take those first steps into sobriety and a stable mental health state. Don’t let your mental health or your addiction hold you back—find freedom in recovery today.


FAQ – Schizophrenia

1. What is drug-induced schizophrenia?

Drug-induced schizophrenia refers to the development of schizophrenia-like symptoms as a result of substance abuse or medication use. While these symptoms may mimic those of schizophrenia, they typically resolve once the substance is discontinued.

2. What substances can induce schizophrenia-like symptoms?

Various substances, including cannabis, hallucinogens (such as LSD or psilocybin), stimulants (like cocaine or amphetamines), and certain prescription medications, can potentially induce schizophrenia-like symptoms in susceptible individuals.

3. What are the risk factors for developing drug-induced schizophrenia?

Risk factors for drug-induced schizophrenia include a personal or family history of mental illness, genetic predisposition, prolonged substance abuse, and high doses of certain medications. Individuals with underlying psychiatric vulnerabilities are particularly susceptible.

4. How is drug-induced schizophrenia diagnosed?

Diagnosis of drug-induced schizophrenia involves a thorough evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. This typically includes a comprehensive medical history, physical examination, psychiatric assessment, and possibly laboratory tests or imaging studies to rule out other medical conditions.

5. What treatment options are available for drug-induced schizophrenia?

Treatment for drug-induced schizophrenia often involves discontinuing the offending substance or medication under medical supervision. Additionally, supportive therapy, psychoeducation, and, in some cases, antipsychotic medications may be recommended to manage symptoms and facilitate recovery.

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