Treating Schizophrenia and Drug Use in South Florida

Schizophrenia is a highly complex brain disorder that affects more than 21 million individuals around the world. Although this illness is incurable, there are treatments to help find relief from the symptoms and live a healthy life. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from schizophrenia run a high risk of developing some sort of substance abuse. The reasons for substance abuse may vary, but wanting relief from the symptoms is a very popular motive. 

There has been heavy debate on the topic of schizophrenia and substance abuse, especially over the cause. Some theorize that substance abuse can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, while others argue that individuals use substance abuse to cope with the symptoms. Either way, a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and substance abuse can be tricky, as they share several symptoms. 

Recovering from substance abuse and treating schizophrenia is key in an individual’s recovery, so Intrepid Detox has more information about dual diagnosis. Be sure to visit our website for more information and get the help needed to start recovering. 

What is Schizophrenia?

Like mentioned before, schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder that affects millions worldwide. Individuals dealing with this mental disease have what doctors call a type of “psychosis,” which means a mental condition where the individual is unable to tell the difference between their thoughts and ideas from reality. This mental disorder has a heavy impact on how a person thinks and behaves. 

Individuals suffering from schizophrenia can go through a vast number of symptoms, such as hallucinations and abnormal behavior, but they may also believe there’s no need for help. Not wanting help can cause obvious problems when needing treatment, especially for long-term relief, but this is a reason individuals turn to substance abuse. Denying help and turning to substance abuse isn’t uncommon, but it can lead to addiction and even more problems. This is why dual diagnosis treatment and support are so important.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown. There is more being discovered every day and treatments are being improved, but there is still heavy debate over the exact cause. Despite the debate, genetics, environmental factors, and altered brain chemistry are all popular potential causes among researchers. Experts have notably been studying and searching for potential causes of schizophrenia through behavioral research, studying genetics, and studying advanced imagery of brain structure/functions. 

  • Genetics – The specific gene which causes schizophrenia is still unknown. Many scientists theorize that various genes could increase the risk of schizophrenia, due to the disorder running in families. However, someone with a family history of being diagnosed with the disorder is not guaranteed to develop the condition. 
  • Environment – Multiple environmental factors, such as malnutrition before birth, exposure to viruses, and brain development issues before birth, may all contribute to the development of the disorder. 
  • Brain chemistry – There is a connection between genes and environmental factors, but brain chemistry is also connected. Researchers theorize that problems with neurotransmitters in the brain could also contribute to schizophrenia. 

Can a Traumatic Event Cause Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia and drug use

Another possible cause, or at least a contributing factor, in the development of schizophrenia is theorized to be trauma. Childhood trauma specifically has been referenced by some individuals when they experience hallucinations. The hallucinations can relate to some sort of abuse and or neglect that was experienced during childhood. Individuals who experienced the separation or death of one or both parents are more likely to develop the mental disorder as well. This type of trauma can be tied to a number of other early development experiences, so more data is needed to know the complete connection between trauma and schizophrenia.

What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

This mental illness is one of the most complex and difficult to manage because there are so many symptoms, which can vary in intensity. Individuals can be diagnosed at any age, but the disease usually develops in the teenage years and slowly intensifies over time unless treated properly and managed. The severity of a person’s symptoms is heavily affected by high levels of stress, refusal to take prescribed medication, and drugs or alcohol. This disorder changes how an individual thinks and behaves and it’s also slightly more common in men than women. Here are some common symptoms of schizophrenia:


This symptom can affect all of an individual’s senses, not just their visual sense, causing the person to see and or hear things that aren’t really there. Hallucinating voices is the most common aspect of this symptom overall, but teens are more likely to visually hallucinate than adults.


The severity of this symptom can vary, but individuals with this symptom have an unrealistic or false belief in something. This can be anything from suffering from intense paranoia in fear that a major problem is just around the corner, to believing another person is in love with them. Delusions are another common symptom of individuals suffering from schizophrenia, but this symptom is less common in teens. 

Strange Motor Behavior

This symptom encompasses multiple aspects of motor behavior. Individuals display this symptom through inappropriate or bizarre posture, lack of response, excessive and or useless movement, and even resisting instruction. Childlike body language and unpredictable agitation are both characteristics of this symptom as well. 

Disorganized Thinking

This symptom causes individuals difficulty thinking and can overlap with disorganized speech. Either way, communication is impaired. Disorganized thinking causes individuals to answer questions incompletely or give answers to an unrelated question. On more rare occasions, individuals may struggle with clearly speaking by producing meaningless words, sometimes known as “salad”.

Abnormal Behavior

This symptom may also vary, but individuals usually display the same characteristics. Lack of personal hygiene, emotion, and eye contact are also considered symptoms of abnormal behavior, and this may even affect a person’s ability to function. Individuals might also lose their interest in daily activities or hobbies, along with socially withdrawing and losing the feeling of pleasure. 


Some people believe that schizophrenia causes individuals to become violent and volatile. This is an inaccurate stigma because that is not always the case. Violent actions are usually brought on by some sort of co-occurring problem, such as drug or alcohol abuse. 

The Link Between Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction

A common issue with individuals suffering from schizophrenia is that they may not believe help is needed. Even after being prescribed medication, an individual may be feeling relief from symptoms, so they stop taking their medication. This can lead to psychosis symptoms coming back. If an individual believes they do not need help, they may try and find relief from symptoms on their own through drug and alcohol usage. The temporary relief provided by substance abuse is a hook for addiction and can bring individuals another whole series of problems. 

Symptoms of addiction actually mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, but most individuals start to experience symptoms and then turn to substance abuse. There is also debate within the scientific community about the possibility of substance abuse making individuals more prone to schizophrenia, but more research and evidence is needed. The top three substances linked to schizophrenia and its symptoms are cannabis, alcohol, and nicotine. 

Common Drugs Used to Treat Schizophrenia

Unfortunately, the cause of schizophrenia is still up for debate, but the disorder is treatable. When individuals are prescribed medication and take it accordingly, then usually progress is made, and normal daily life can be enjoyed. Antipsychotic medications are a common prescription for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. These medications are believed to reduce the psychosis symptoms by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitter dopamine, which relieves hallucinating, delusional thoughts, paranoia, and even disorganized thinking. 

Although the medications work well for multiple symptoms, other treatments can be more effective with motivational issues, social withdrawal, and lacking emotional expression. There is also a multitude of differences in medications. There are first-generation antipsychotics and second-generation antipsychotics. However, second-generation medication is usually preferred because of the lower risk of serious side effects compared to the first-generation. 

First-generation antipsychotics:

  • Chlorpromazine
  • Fluphenazine
  • Haloperidol
  • Perphenazine 

Second-generation antipsychotics:

  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Paliperidone (Invega)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Lurasidone (Latuda)
  • Iloperidone (Fanapt)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril, Versacloz)
  • Cariprazine (Vraylar)
  • Brexpiprazole (Rexulti) 
  • Asenapine (Saphris)
  • Aripipazole (Abilify)

What Treatment Options are Available for Schizophrenia and Drug Use?

A healthy recovery is not only dependent on a diagnosis and prescribed medication, but also on multiple other treatment options. Prescribed medication can help manage certain symptoms, but different forms of therapy, social training, rehabilitation, and support can also provide great results and relief. According to, most individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia will need some sort of daily living support, which most communities have programs to help with. Assisted living, job support, self-help groups, and crisis workers are usually a resource for case managers assigned to help manage an individual’s illness. 

Some common treatment options include:

  • Individual Therapy – a targeted form of therapy, called psychotherapy, can be an incredible help to finding relief and identifying early warning signs of relapse. Drug abuse drastically increases the odds of an individual relapsing and having an episode, but individual therapy can help individuals learn to cope and normalize their thought patterns. 
  • Social Skills Training – Improving communication is a major step in recovery and helping an individual manage their symptoms. Social skills training helps individuals deal with social interactions more efficiently and gives them more ability to participate in daily activities.
  • Family Therapy – This form of therapy can be incredibly important from an emotional level, but also vital for the support and relationships provided. This form of therapy also gives family members and loved ones the chance to learn more and become more sympathetic, educated, and understanding of schizophrenia and drug addiction. 
  • Vocational Rehab and Supported Employment – this is another incredibly valuable form of treatment, which helps individuals become ready for, obtain, and keep jobs. This form of treatment can also help with long-term results. 

What Does Long-Term Treatment Look Like?

Schizophrenia and drug use

A lot of treatment options for recovery can be carried through to long-term treatment, for example understanding the importance of medication. Being diagnosed with schizophrenia and possibly substance abuse does not mean an individual will have to be hospitalized or they will never live a normal life. With the right treatment, a crisis experience is much more likely to be avoided. 

In addition to first and second-generation medication, there are also long-acting injectable antipsychotics available. The injectable medication is usually administered every two to four weeks, depending on the medication and amount being prescribed. Some common medications available as injection include:

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify Maintena, Aristada)
  • Fluphenazine decanoate
  • Haloperidol decanoate
  • Paliperidone (Invega Sustenna, Invega Trinza)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal Consta, Perseris)

Medication can be a great way to manage an individual’s symptoms, but there are more options available and treatments that can help provide lasting results. It’s important for individuals to have a strong support group, so friends and family should all be educating themselves on the disorder. Sticking to treatment plans is also vital, just like consistently taking prescribed medication, and staying focused on goals can give people a sense of direction, motivation, and responsibility. 

Avoiding substance abuse is another key in long-term treatment, which might seem obvious. However, quitting is a challenge, and a strong support group can make all the difference. Stress management, which is a skill that can be learned in therapies, is another great treatment that can provide long-lasting effects.

Intrepid Detox Can Help You or Your Loved One Receive the Care Needed

Schizophrenia and drug use can be a deadly combination, but there are ways to recover and find relief. This mental illness is not crippling and can be managed. Individuals who are diagnosed with schizophrenia can still move forward with their lives, accomplish their goals, and sustain healthy relationships. Treatment options are always being more refined and there are always improvements being made. 

With a strong support system and the will to recover, an individual can find relief from their symptoms and enjoy their daily life. It’s important to find help for you or a loved one and Intrepid Detox is a great source, so don’t hesitate to contact us for information.