Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects roughly 1% of all Americans. Those who suffer from schizophrenia often find themselves having difficulty when it comes to separating imagination from reality. As a result, this can lead to difficulties in relationships with others. It can also cause problems in other major areas of life, such as at work or school because they have difficulty responding to various social situations in an emotionally appropriate manner.

Unfortunately, due to many of the troubles and issues associated with schizophrenia, many people who suffer from it turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the disease. Many use drugs and alcohol as a way of self-medicating, while some turn to these substances in an effort to feel more “normal”. For those suffering from both schizophrenia and drug use, the best course of action is detox followed by a treatment program that specializes in treating both schizophrenia and substance abuse.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Partially because it only affects roughly 2 million people, there are still a lot of questions when it comes to the direct cause of schizophrenia. While doctors and researchers have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for schizophrenia, there are several factors that contribute to the development of the ailment.

Genetic Makeup

Like most other ailments and diseases, genetics plays a pretty major role in the development of schizophrenia. Just how large of a role? Well, roughly 10% of people who have a direct family member (parent, sibling, etc.) who has schizophrenia will develop it as well.

Not only that, but researchers also say that certain genes inherited from a person’s parents might actually increase the risk that they will develop schizophrenia. Additionally, those who suffer from the disorder have a rare genetic mutation that can disrupt brain development over time.


Believe it or not, the environment you grew up in can play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Combined with genetics, certain environmental factors such as exposure to certain infections, viruses, or malnutrition can increase the chances that schizophrenia develops.

Brain Chemistry

Imbalances of certain chemicals in the brain, such as glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine are linked to schizophrenia. These chemical imbalances can affect the way that the brain reacts to certain stimuli. This can lead to hypersensitivity and hallucinations, two of the more common symptoms of schizophrenia.

Those suffering from schizophrenia also tend to have a decrease in gray matter. Individuals may also experience enlarged ventricles. Some areas of the brain may experience an increase or a decrease of activity.

What is The Connection Between Schizophrenia and Addiction?

An addiction to drugs or alcohol occurs when someone uses a substance so frequently that the brain becomes dependant on that substance in order to function normally. This happens as a result of biochemical changes in the brain that makes the body and brain think that it needs more and more of the substance in order to function. Over time, it can turn into a debilitating or even potentially life-threatening addiction. 

In some cases, a drug or alcohol addiction can lead to the development of schizophrenia as an environmental trigger. But it is much more common for someone who is suffering from schizophrenia to develop a substance abuse issue.

A person suffering from schizophrenia might be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the issues associated with their mental health issue. They might even be too embarrassed to ask for help in treating their schizophrenia and turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate.

When someone suffers from both mental illness, like schizophrenia, and a substance use disorder simultaneously, that person has a co-occurring disorder. The best way to go about treating a co-occurring disorder is by first undergoing detox before entering a treatment program.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

If someone suffers from a co-occurring disorder, such as schizophrenia and drug use, it is crucial that both get treated at the same time. If someone were to get treated only for their schizophrenia and not address their addiction, not only would that person still suffer from addiction, but that could lead to additional mental health issues or even other types of health issues in the long run. 

On the opposite side of that, only addressing your addiction and not the schizophrenia will lead to an increased risk of relapse, especially in those who turned to drugs and alcohol as a direct result of their schizophrenia.

The first step in successfully treating any co-occurring disorder is to enter detox to rid your body of the substance or substances of abuse. From there, you will enter either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program that will address both your schizophrenia and drug use.

How Does Detox Work?

Detox occurs when the body rids itself of any chemicals or substances that it deems are harmful to it. In the case of addiction detox, this would be any alcohol or substances that your body developed an addiction to. As a result of the withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with detox, it is crucial to have the supervision of trained medical professionals.

This can be done at a hospital that provides detox services, a dedicated detox treatment facility, or a rehab facility that also offers detox like Coastal Detox. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening.

In some cases, such as those who may suffer from a co-occurring disorder, the patient may be given certain medications during the detox process. This can be common for those suffering from both schizophrenia and substance abuse. To help offset some of the chemical imbalances in the brain as it undergoes detox, some patients might be given an antipsychotic medication for both the detox and the schizophrenia.

What is the Detox Process?

While the exact process varies from person to person depending on their situation and needs, the overall detox process revolves around 3 main steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Preparing for Treatment

The Evaluation

The first step of the detox process is the evaluation. During the evaluation process, the medical team at wherever you are undergoing detox will look at your medical history as well as what types of substances you currently have in your body and how much of each substance is in your system. This will help them determine not only the best type of detox for you, but it will also help them determine if any type of medication is needed.

Becoming Stable

After the evaluation has been completed and the detox plan has been drawn up, the next step is to get your body stabilized. The ultimate goal is to get your mind and body stabilized without doing any harm to either. If it was determined during the evaluation that you need to take any medications, that’s when those come in to play. 

Getting Ready to Enter Treatment

As your time in detox starts to come to an end, the next step will be learning about your options as far as entering treatment goes. If you underwent detox at a facility that also provides treatment services, like Coastal Detox, you will likely be able to easily transition from detox into either inpatient or outpatient treatment.

If you underwent detox and either a detox facility or a hospital, the treatment professionals at those facilities will likely recommend a treatment center or centers, that will best fit you and your needs.

What is the Difference Between Medical Detox and Holistic Detox?

While medical detox is typically the most popular and common type of detox, it is not the only option. Holistic detox focuses more on finding natural ways for your body to detox without the use or need of any sort of medication. Holistic detox incorporates things such as a healthy, balanced diet and exercise in order to help rid the body of the drugs and alcohol.

That’s not the only difference between the two though. Another major way in which holistic detox differs from medical detox is the amount of medical care required. Because of the nature of medical detox and its reliance on medication, that kind of detox has to be done under 24/7 medical care and supervision. 

On the contrary, because holistic detox focuses on nutrition and exercise, it does not require around-the-clock medical attention. Additionally, while the focus of medical detox is to stabilize the body, holistic detox puts more of a priority on the stabilization of the mind, the body, and the soul. During the evaluation process, it will be determined if medical detox or holistic detox is best for you.

Under What Circumstances Is Medical Detox the Best Option?

There are certain situations where medical detox might be the best or only option. Certain substances are so addicting and to so much damage to the body that medical detox is the only option. If you are addicted to any of the following options then medical detox will be the best course of action:

What Happens After Detox?

Upon completion of detox, the next step will be to enter a treatment program to treat both your addiction and your schizophrenia. During treatment, you will undergo rigorous therapy sessions, both private, group, and family, in order to not only learn what triggered your addiction in the first place but also to learn healthier ways to deal with your schizophrenia and drug use once you finish up treatment and return home.

When it comes to completing your treatment program, there are many different options to choose from. The most popular treatment options are:

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Partial Hospitalization

Upon completing detox, your treatment professional will likely recommend the best treatment program for you based on your needs. While inpatient treatment is the most popular and typically tends to be the most effective, some people respond better to an outpatient or even partial hospitalization program.

Want To Know More About Schizophrenia and Drug Use?

Unfortunately, the correlation between schizophrenia and drug use is quite high. Many people simply don’t know how to live with their schizophrenia or are too scared or embarrassed to ask for help. As a result, they turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, which can ultimately lead to the development of addiction.

While all might seem lost and hopeless it’s important to remember that it is never too late to get the help you need. At Coastal Detox we specialize in treating co-occurring disorders such as schizophrenia and addiction. If you or someone you know suffers from schizophrenia and substance abuse, contact us immediately to learn more about the treatment plans that we offer.