Schizophrenia – a term which can be dated as back as the early 19th century. What is Schizophrenia? It is a mental disorder that creates a delusion or an altered perception of the actual reality. It affects the way a person thinks, acts, feels, behaves, emotes and associates with others. They may hallucinate, have disillusioned oration, or have a constant fear that others will harm them etc. Schizophrenia, usually can start in the late adolescent years to early adulthood. It is more common in males as compared to females.
Schizophrenia and alcohol is like the chicken and the egg story. People affected with schizophrenia may resort to alcohol as a way to self-medicate or to escape the constant mental discomfort. On the other hand, long term addiction to alcohol may trigger a psychotic disorder leading to schizophrenia.
As part of research presented by Dr Stine Mai Nielsen and Professor Merete Nordentoft, Copenhagen University Hospital, Mental Health Center Copenhagen, Gentofte, Denmark, and colleagues alcohol and other substance abuse have a complex relation with psychotic disorders. As per this study, people addicted to alcohol are 3.4 times more likely to develop schizophrenia. The second phase of the study also concludes that maternal alcohol abuse or drinking while pregnant, was associated with a 5.6 times increased risk of schizophrenia in the child. However, this fell to half the risk, if the alcohol abuse took place after the birth. There was a similar relationship in fathers (4.4 times increased risk with pre-birth abuse versus 1.8 times for a diagnosis after the birth).
In addition, some recent studies conclude that 30% of schizophrenics currently are or have been addicted to alcohol. That’s a large number, considering that only about 10% of the general population have alcohol abuse issues. The research data indicates that substance abuse is the most common method to alleviate fears, mental disorders and hallucinations. Schizophrenics also suffer from depression, lack meaningful relationships and have stressful living conditions, which makes them resort even more to alcohol consumption. Thus, alcohol and abuse of other substances more likely precedes the detection and diagnosis of any disorder.
Alcohol also has a negative impact and interferes on the course of treatment of schizophrenia. It reduces the effectiveness of drugs being administered to treat schizophrenia. Physically the person becomes more prone to heart ailments, blood pressure, strokes and stomach ulcers. Apart from the treatment aspect, the social impact of such abuse is even worse. Alcohol heightens psychotic symptoms, leading to frequent relapses. It enhances disruptive behavior and adversely affects the person’s relationships, reputation and halts career progress. Substance abuse, in some situations can lead to extremely violent behavior and/or suicide.
Without alcohol in the equation, schizophrenics can return to normal life through treatment and medication. Co-occurrence of schizophrenia and alcohol addiction requires dual edged treatment. If the alcohol abuse is significant, then steps need to be taken to eliminate it completely. This is a difficult task for someone so reliant on it.
Alcohol addiction and schizophrenia definitely has some positive correlation. Either the consumption begins at the onset of the disease or it surfaces as a symptom, although alcohol abuse definitely complicates exacerbates the issue. Though Schizophrenia is a persistent disorder, with proper treatment and support, affected individuals can live independently and have a clean life.