Not all mental disorders push people into the realms of complete adversity. However, there are certain mental health problems like schizophrenia that seriously impact the way people think, feel and act. People suffering from this mental illness find it difficult to differentiate between the real and the imaginary state of mind. They are also at risk of abusing substances to deal with their symptoms or as a result of the illness.
However, a recent study conducted by the Copenhagen University Hospital, Mental Health Center in Denmark has found that the consumption of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs ups the chance of developing schizophrenia, as well.
The researchers indicated that the likelihood of being detected with schizophrenia go up by six times in people diagnosed with substance abuse problems of any kind. The observations were presented at the International Early Psychosis Association (IEPA) meeting in Milan, Italy, in October 2016.
The scientists analyzed details obtained from 3,133,968 people born between 1955 to 1999 using Danish registers on a national level. Among them, 200,000 cases of substance abuse and more than 21,000 cases of schizophrenia were identified. The scientists also took into account other controlling factors like gender, urbanity, detection of other mental illnesses and simultaneous abuse of more than one substance.
Assessing risk of schizophrenia due to substance abuse
It was observed that abuse of any kind of substance aggravated the chance of developing schizophrenia. Detailed examination of the data collated enabled the scientists to quantify the risks as:
- misuse of marijuana increased the risk of schizophrenia by 5.2 times
- alcohol abuse causes schizophrenia risk to increase by 3.4 times
- abuse of hallucinogens ups schizophrenia risk by 1.9 times
- unbridled use of sedatives can increase the risk of suffering from schizophrenia by 1.7 times
- constant use of amphetamines raises the risk by 1.24 times
- other substances elevate the risk by 2.8 times
The authors of the study said, “We present a large scaled population-based cohort study analyzing a wide variety of substances. Our results illustrate a robust association between almost any type of substance abuse and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.”
The findings indicate a visible relationship between heightened risk of schizophrenia and abuse of various substances, though it is not able to substantiate on the cause-and-effect relationship. The scientists have not been able to pinpoint if abuse caused people to develop schizophrenia or vice versa. This kind of uncertainty stems from other studies which suggest that people suffering from some or the other mental illness are two times more likely to have a substance use problem compared with the general population. The proclivity in the case of schizophrenics may be as high as 50 percent.
Repercussions of parental substance abuse on schizophrenia risk
As the link between substance abuse and mental illness is complex, the researchers also tried to find out if parental abuse of substances had anything to do with schizophrenia in offspring. For the study, data of people distinguished for their schizophrenic symptoms were taken from Denmark’s Psychiatric Central Research Register.
While in the case of mothers, the associated risk increased by six times, substance abuse by fathers raised the chance of schizophrenia to roughly 5.5 fold. In the case of mothers detected with alcohol abuse prior to giving birth, the increase in schizophrenia risk was nearly 5.6 times, but if detected after birth, the risk decreased to approximately 50 percent. Fathers too consuming alcohol before and after birth raised the risk of schizophrenia in their offspring by 4.4 times and 1.8 times respectively.
Stressing on timely treatment
According to a recent study, published in the Psychiatric Times in October 2016, there were 3.5 million people with schizophrenia in the United States in 2013 and the overall economic burden of the disorder was $155.7 billion. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the triggers of this illness and seek professional help.
The observations pinpointed at the need for timely treatment for those abusing drugs as not doing so could increase the risk of such people developing schizophrenia in the long run. The findings also emphasized on the necessity of medical practitioners to check if their mentally ill patients abused any kind of substances for temporary relief.
Every year, roughly 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the U.S. encounter their first bout of psychosis which is a symptom of schizophrenia, says a 2015 study. If a loved one or someone you know is suffering from coexisting disorders, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline to understand the condition better and get assistance in finding the best dual diagnosis centers. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with one of our representatives to know about various dual diagnosis rehab centers across the U.S.