How Alcohol Affects People with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental condition in which people’s interpretation of the environment around them is distorted.

When suffering from schizophrenia, subjects will experience hallucinations and delusions. This cognitive debilitation leads to strange forms of behaviour.

Just like any other substance use disorder, schizophrenia is a chronic, relapsing, and progressive disease.

There is a strong chemical alteration in the brain which needs to be treated. It is an illness in which patients need to undergo lifelong treatment in order to minimise its symptoms and to live a happy life.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

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Researchers believe that there is a combination of variables which leads to subjects developing schizophrenia.

Variables such as genes, changes in the brain chemistry and neurological pathways, and the subject’s environment can lead to the development of this disease.

Subjects who have parents suffering from schizophrenia are far more likely to develop the disease than those whose parents do not suffer from it.

While it can be biological or genetic, there are certain factors which can increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia.

For example, schizophrenia can develop in subjects who frequently consume heavy amounts of addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs.

Schizophrenia is prevalent in demographics such as the homeless because they often turn towards addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

When a subject is suffering from schizophrenia, they will experience a range of symptoms. Most of these symptoms will have a profound effect on their cognition, emotions, and behaviour.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can also be separated by positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

Positive symptoms mean ideas and perceptions which are highly exaggerated, highlighting that the subject cannot accurately tell what is real and what isn’t real. Negative symptoms refer to things that cease to work or the absence of something.

Positive symptoms include things such as hallucinations or delusions, whereas negative symptoms might include social withdrawal, lack of pleasure or interest, or poor hygiene, for example.

They can also be categorised by indirect and direct symptoms. Some of the indirect effects of schizophrenia may come in the form of social isolation, financial and legal issues, drug and alcohol addiction, and so on.

Specifically, subjects suffering from schizophrenia might experience direct symptoms such as:

  • Delusions: The subject’s perception of reality will not align with what is actually reality. This means that they will think and act in accordance with their perception of reality. This can lead to them processing situations inaccurately and behaving inappropriately as a result.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Subjects suffering from schizophrenia are far more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts than the general population. In fact, the Handbook of the Dually Diagnosed Patient: Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders claims that individuals with schizophrenia are 900% more likely to commit suicide than others the same age as them.
  • Hallucinations: While delusions are a false sense of belief, hallucinations are a sensory perception. This means that if someone is suffering from hallucinations, they may hear or see something which isn’t actually there. Many of those who suffer from schizophrenia can hear voices in their head.
  • Impaired Communication: Subjects may be unable to articulate what they are thinking and trying to convey.

The Relationship between Alcohol & Schizophrenia


Studies show that subjects suffering from psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are 300% more likely to develop an alcohol addiction than the general population.

Another analysis in the same report discovered that individuals with schizophrenia had a lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorder of 24.3%.

Both schizophrenia and alcohol addiction often leads to anxiety, depression, suicidality, homelessness, aggression, and other complications.

Although different to schizophrenia, alcohol-induced psychosis presents similar symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disorganised thoughts, and more.

While schizophrenia is a mental health disorder, alcohol-induced psychosis is caused by external factors, such as the ingestion of addictive substances which affect the subject’s brain chemicals.

Studies discovered that once a patient has been diagnosed with alcohol-related psychosis, there is a 68% likelihood that they will have to be readmitted for the same episode. Additionally, patients with alcohol-related psychosis have a 5% to 30% risk of developing the schizophrenia-like syndrome.

Often, subjects suffering from schizophrenia turn to alcohol consumption in order to self-medicate. By consuming alcohol, they are searching for relief from these symptoms of schizophrenia.

However, not only can this lead to alcohol dependence, it can exacerbate their symptoms of schizophrenia in the long term.

Residential Rehab for Alcohol Addiction & Schizophrenia


While certain patients may have the option to undergo outpatient addiction treatment or inpatient addiction treatment, it is imperative that subjects suffering from co-occurring disorders such as alcohol addiction and schizophrenia undergo treatment at a residential rehab.

At a residential rehab facility, patients will receive personalised treatment which will not only address their addiction but any mental health disorders which they require treatment for.

A consultant psychiatrist will evaluate the patient’s medical history, addiction history, and so on in order to develop an addiction treatment programme specially tailored for them.

Patients will be able to undergo a medicated detox to overcome their alcohol withdrawals, and this will minimise the severity of their episodes of psychosis.

They will also undergo a range of therapy and counselling in order to minimise and overcome particular symptoms.

Additionally, patients will be provided onsite accommodation. This means that they will have 24/7 access to care and support from medical professionals. With unwavering care and support at a medically supported facility, patients are far safer and are far less likely to relapse.

Should patients undergo outpatient treatment or self-medicate while suffering from alcohol addiction and schizophrenia, they would be at high risk of relapsing.

Additionally, they would not be safe in a state of psychosis whether it is aggravated by schizophrenia or it is alcohol-induced.

Co-Occurring Treatment at Rehab

Both alcohol addiction and schizophrenia are progressive brain diseases which consist of chronic relapsing. This means that both forms of treatment require patients to undergo lifelong treatment in order to optimise their health and general well-being.

This is especially the case if subjects suffer from both forms of illnesses.

When subjects are put in contact with a rehab provider like ourselves, they will be required to complete a health or pre-admission assessment. Here, they can express what illnesses they are suffering from, and what sort of requirements they have to enter addiction treatment at rehab.

Unfortunately, many patients choose to prioritise treatment for one condition over another. This is counterproductive because while one condition may begin to improve, the other can worsen, causing a relapse.

At a drug and alcohol rehab, patients can undergo co-occurring treatment in order to recover from both conditions simultaneously.

At a drug and alcohol rehab, there are many forms of treatment which are incorporated in order to maximise treatment for patients.

Medicated Detox for Alcoholism & Psychosis

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If a person is suffering from schizophrenia and alcohol addiction, it is likely that their episodes of psychosis will become severe. Alcohol can lead to alcohol-induced psychosis, worsening the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Because of this, patients will need to overcome their alcohol addiction in order to overcome schizophrenia.

During a medicated detox, patients will stay at a medically supervised facility in order to overcome their alcohol addiction symptoms. This environment will be safe and comfortable, and it will be occupied by medically trained professionals. This means that patients will have access to 24/7 support.

The medicated detox allows patients to overcome their alcohol withdrawal symptoms safely. During alcohol withdrawals, some subjects may experience things such as hallucinations, headaches, or even seizures.

This is also the case for addicted people who suffer from addiction alone, not to mention a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Subjects who are not suffering from schizophrenia can also suffer from alcohol-induced psychosis.

When a subject suffers from both, the symptoms become much more pronounced. Because of this, they will need the assistance of medical professionals and pharmacological intervention will be required.

Pharmacological intervention refers to the implementation of medication during a patient’s addiction treatment. Patients may receive a wide range of medication prescribed by an addiction physician.

The purpose of these medications is to minimise the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and so on.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Alcohol Addiction & Schizophrenia


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is integral to any comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment. However, its benefits are not limited to those who are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is also used to treat patients suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and more.

The purpose of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to essentially cognitively retrain the patient. By identifying some of the negative thoughts and behavioural patterns of patients, they are then able to discard them in order to develop newer and healthier forms of thinking and behaviour.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is effective in improving interpersonal skills and relationships, and it can help patients prevent relapses whether in the form of substance use disorder or psychosis.

Patients can learn to manage their symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations to minimise its severity.

Family Therapy

The family can play a monumental role when it comes to helping their loved one recover from conditions such as alcohol addiction or schizophrenia.

The purpose of Family Therapy is to educate the family on the complexities of their loved one’s disease and help them understand how they can support them through their recovery.

The family can learn about identifying relapse triggers in environments which may be unsafe for their loved one.

Additionally, they can learn about the healthy coping mechanisms that their loved one can adopt. By educating the family, the addicted person’s support network becomes reinforced and stronger.

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Like schizophrenia, alcohol addiction can be caused due to a range of factors such as biological, genetic, environmental, and so on. Just as the cause of alcohol addiction will vary from one patient to another, so will its symptoms.

The symptoms of alcohol addiction can manifest in many different ways. While most addictive substances may present either psychological symptoms or physical symptoms, alcohol addiction can present both.

Some of its symptoms include;

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Hallucinations
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Paranoia

If you consume a significant amount of alcohol frequently, and you identify with some of these symptoms, it is possible that you are suffering from alcohol addiction.

Screening for Alcohol Addiction

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While you should always seek the diagnosis from a licensed professional, there are many ways that subjects can gain more understanding about the severity of their alcohol addiction.

There are many tools available and accessible to subjects, such as the CAGE Questionnaire and Substance Screening Tool. This questionnaire consists of 4 questions:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticising your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?

If subjects get a score of 2, that is by answering ‘yes’ to 2 or more questions, it would imply that they are suffering from alcohol addiction.

Similarly, subjects can undergo the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). Similarly, this is a questionnaire, however, it contains more questions than the CAGE Questionnaire.

Subjects should answer as honestly as possible in order to receive a score which reflects the level of their alcohol dependence or addiction.

If a subject receives a score of less than 8, it is possible that they are suffering from a mild form of alcohol addiction, or that they are susceptible.

A score of 8 or higher indicates that the subject is suffering from a moderate form of alcohol addiction, whereas a score of 13 or higher means that they are suffering from a severe form of alcohol addiction.

Contact Us Today

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If you are suffering from alcohol addiction, schizophrenia, or both, contact us today. At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, our priority is to help patients overcome their substance addiction and other mental health conditions which they require treatment for.

It is commonplace for subjects suffering from addiction, whether drug or alcohol, to have an additional mental health requirement.

In fact, around 63% of patients entering a drug and alcohol rehab in England from 2020 to 2021 required additional mental health treatment.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we can help patients by referring them to a suitable rehab facility which will cater to their unique needs.

They will be able to undergo personalised addiction treatment at a residential rehab, which is the most optimal form of recovery.


[1] Schizophrenia – Symptoms and Causes,with%20schizophrenia%20require%20lifelong%20treatment

[2] Handbook of the Dually Diagnosed Patient: Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders

[3] Alcohol Use Disorder and Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder

[4] Alcohol-Related Psychosis

[5] Residential Rehab

[6] Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Alcoholism

[7] Family Therapy for Addiction

[8] CAGE Substance Abuse Screening Tool

[9] Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test

[10] Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2020 to 2021,previous%20year’s%20figure%20(132%2C124).