Simultaneous Treatment for Co-Occurring Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Improves Outcomes

Advances in dual diagnosis treatment have responded to the prevalence of co-occurring schizophrenia and substance use disorders. It is becoming more common for clients to undergo integrated treatment for mental health disorders and substance use disorders because these treatment plans are more appropriately designed around the individual and more likely to support long-term recovery. If you have a friend or family member who may need immersive treatment for both schizophrenia and substance use disorder, getting connected with a comprehensive treatment program can expand the care options on their path to recovery.

Schizophrenia may be a lifelong disorder, but the best treatment options can help individuals to manage their symptoms and build a life they really want. When a substance use disorder further complicates life for someone with schizophrenia, it also complicates the course of treatment. However, that life of successful recovery is still very possible when the right pieces and resources fall into place. In a residential treatment setting, a client is most likely to engage and commit to their own health and recover when attention is given to who they actually are, what their experiences are, and what forms of treatment are best for their comfort and likely success.

Integrated schizophrenia and substance use disorder treatment is unlike the outdated model of dual diagnosis treatment where one condition had to be treated and resolved before the other could be addressed. Often, a client was required to get sober before they could be admitted to undergo mental health treatment. But this strategy is short-sighted in that when conditions such as schizophrenia and substance use disorder occur together, each disorder works to aggravate and exacerbate the other. The symptoms and challenges of each exist simultaneously, and the best resolution is to untangle and treat each diagnosis simultaneously too.

Why Do Substance Use Disorder and Schizophrenia Commonly Occur Simultaneously?

When an outsider’s perspective is primarily focused on the symptoms of schizophrenia, it can be easy to overlook the issues of substance use also at play. And vice versa: the problems of substance use can distract from the realities of schizophrenia happening simultaneously. But roughly 50% of people affected by schizophrenia also experience substance use disorders, and the dangers and negative outcomes are compounded by the co-occurring disorders.

It’s possible for substance use disorders—especially heavy use of methamphetamine and other stimulants; alcohol, marijuana, and other depressants; and hallucinogens—to induce symptoms of psychosis that can last for a short time or even for months and years after the individual stops using. In these cases, long-term residential treatment is critical to provide personalized dual diagnosis treatment for the substance use disorder and the symptoms of psychosis together.

In other cases, schizophrenia is an independent diagnosis and substance use occurs simultaneously. Often, people use substances to cope with the burdensome symptoms of schizophrenia and even the side effects of antipsychotic medications that are prescribed to manage those original symptoms. With empathy for the steep uphill journey that many with schizophrenia must travel through life, it is no surprise that this mental health disorder and substance use disorders so often co-occur. But it is with this empathy that we insist that options for successful, compassionate treatment exist and that there is a way to restructure that uphill journey so clients have the resources, the confidence, and the personal serenity necessary to walk a gentler path.

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Why is Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Schizophrenia and Substance Use Disorder Essential?

Substance use can set in as a means of self-medicating when there are no other accessible options for managing the difficult experiences and pressures of schizophrenia. With continued use, tolerance to the substance builds, and a person needs more and more of it to achieve similar relief. Whatever the origins of these co-occurring disorders—however they interact and intensify each other—there are welcoming and productive options available for enlightened treatment.

Life is complex and layered for each of us in unique ways. Dual diagnosis treatment responds to these complexities, allowing treatment plans to be different for each individual to match their true needs. Residential treatment facilities that host a small number of clients at one time can provide dedicated attention to each care plan, so the clients feel understood and have a better chance of connecting and engaging with their personal recovery journeys.

From the very start, expert attention is critical to narrow in on the appropriate diagnoses and the relationship between these co-occurring disorders. From there, specific treatment options and medications are ordered, and treatment plans for different clients may end up being very different depending on their personal needs. Integrated schizophrenia and substance use disorder treatment involves:

  1. Simultaneous treatment strategies for mental health and substance use disorders
  2. Persistent, medical attention to find the appropriate medications for the client
  3. Progressive therapy and counseling to support recovery for the short and long term
  4. Family and community involvement during the client’s time in treatment, including individual and group support, as well as education, so the ongoing recovery environment is as strong and stable as possible for all

More than simply a series of remedies, simultaneous treatment for schizophrenia and substance use disorder prepares clients for a life of greater strength and independence. Whereas they may have had few strategies in the past to cope with both schizophrenia and substance use disorder, after treatment they have a stronger support network, accessible tools and techniques for stress management, and ongoing professional support for medication and symptom management.

How to Get on the Path to Recovery

If you have a friend or family member who may be struggling with substance use disorder and a serious mental health disorder such as schizophrenia, it’s time to widen the scope of strategies and resources available to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. It’s essential that they no longer feel at a loss for knowledgeable support and insightful treatment that really makes a difference in their life.

In fact, awareness and knowledge about both substance use disorder and schizophrenia are increasing, and treatment options continue to improve and expand. Reaching out to a care facility that is on the cutting edge of this expansion and creative approaches to individualized treatment can help your loved one to turn a corner on their path to lasting recovery. Turn to a treatment program that is as three-dimensional as they are.

BrightQuest offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance abuse and eating disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program, and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.