Man with schizophrenia struggling with alcohol abuse

Schizophrenia and Alcohol Abuse – What You Need to Know

Alcohol use and schizophrenia are co-occurring disorders. People with mental health conditions are likely to choose illicit substances when trying to control their symptoms. As a result, the person faces two health problems, both of which require medical treatment.

Alcohol’s ability to mask mental health symptoms turns it into an easily accessible remedy for people with schizophrenia. As a result, schizophrenia and alcohol use disorder go hand in hand.

To help a person struggling with both conditions, it’s essential to arrange timely treatment. Some alcohol rehabilitation clinics offer dual-diagnosis treatment programs that address both disorders simultaneously.  

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder that affects around 1.5 million Americans. A person with this condition has a distorted perception of reality that changes their behavior.  

Symptoms of this disorder can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confused thoughts
  • Disorganized and unpredictable behavior
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Withdrawal from social activities 

While there isn’t a cure for schizophrenia, the condition is highly treatable. Unfortunately, many people don’t get timely treatment and turn to illegal drugs or alcohol to alleviate unpleasant symptoms.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

A person with an alcohol use disorder can’t control alcohol use. This brain disorder can be mild, moderate, and severe. Around 14.5 million Americans ages 12 and older live with alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, less than 10% of them choose to get professional help.

Similar to schizophrenia, alcohol abuse is highly treatable. However, quitting alcohol and staying sober without professional assistance can be nearly impossible. While many credible rehabilitation centers offer comprehensive alcohol detox and rehab programs, few people use them.

A person with schizophrenia and alcohol abuse disorder is even less likely to seek professional assistance. One of the symptoms of schizophrenia is withdrawal from society. This makes it harder to ask for help.  

How Are Schizophrenia and Alcohol-Related?

People with schizophrenia are more susceptible to substance abuse. Studies show that up to 50% of patients with schizophrenia have either substance or drug abuse disorder. More than 70% are dependent on nicotine

While scientists are yet to discover the main reason why people with schizophrenia are highly susceptible to alcohol use, several theories exist:

Genetic and Environmental Factors

A mix of genetic and environmental factors, including family history, social influences, personality traits, and childhood trauma, can contribute to developing both alcohol abuse disorder and schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, chronic stress plays a big role in the severity of symptoms of both alcohol use and schizophrenia.


Abnormalities in the brain that exist in people with schizophrenia may reinforce substance use disorders. They could also increase the effects of alcohol rewards and reduce the ability of the person to control cravings.


Researchers believe that people with schizophrenia use alcohol to relieve the unpleasant symptoms. While alcohol can provide short-term relief for such symptoms as hallucinations, it eventually worsens the condition. This creates a vicious cycle that leads to alcohol abuse.

How Does Alcohol Affect Schizophrenia?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It dulls a person’s senses. For people with schizophrenia, this can bring significant relief. People who struggle with this mental health disorder may start feeling closer to normal when they stop noticing such symptoms as hallucinations and confusion.

Meanwhile, patients with schizophrenia could experience more positive sensations after using alcohol than healthy people do. This makes it easy to develop alcohol abuse disorder.

Besides alleviating schizophrenia symptoms for a short period, alcohol can have as many adverse effects on a person’s health as it does on otherwise healthy people.  Meanwhile, alcohol withdrawal can worsen schizophrenia symptoms.

Does Alcohol Make Schizophrenia Worse?

People with schizophrenia are almost three times more likely to start abusing illicit substances. If a person has schizophrenia and uses alcohol, they may:

  • Experience worsening schizophrenia symptoms
  • Stop complying with treatment
  • Exhibit violence
  • Be more prone to suicide
  • Get hospitalized more often

If a person with schizophrenia develops alcohol abuse disorder, they put themselves at a higher risk of developing complications. These people are also more likely to become homeless, end up in prison, or suffer from other comorbidities like depression.

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Schizophrenia?

While alcohol can’t cause schizophrenia, these two conditions are closely related. Having one disorder increases the chance of developing the other one.

Alcohol can cause a condition with symptoms that are similar to the signs of schizophrenia. It’s called alcohol-induced psychosis. This condition has various symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, confusion, and paranoia. However, unlike schizophrenia, alcohol-induced psychosis doesn’t last longer than a few days.  

Does Schizophrenia Increase Alcohol Dependence?

Schizophrenia can increase alcohol dependence because people with this condition:

  • Often have a heightened positive reaction to alcohol.
  • Experience a short-lived reduction of symptoms.
  • Don’t have strong control over their alcohol use.

The above reasons increase the frequency of these disorders occurring together and needing dual-diagnosis treatment.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

When a person with an alcohol abuse disorder suffers from a co-occurring mental health condition, such as schizophrenia, they have a dual diagnosis.

Individuals diagnosed with these two disorders require a comprehensive treatment plan that simultaneously addresses both problems. This approach can reduce the rehabilitation time and minimize relapses.  

Find Support for Addiction with Inland Detox

Schizophrenia and alcohol are co-occurring disorders that require a unique approach to treatment. This includes dual-diagnosis detox and rehabilitation programs focusing on the patient’s needs.

Inland Detox provides dual-diagnosis treatment programs for people who suffer from schizophrenia and alcohol abuse disorder. Treatment options are available for people struggling with schizophrenia and an alcohol use disorder AUD.

From medicated detoxification assistance to cognitive behavioral therapy and group support, Inland Detox patients can take advantage of various effective tactics supported by an experienced clinical team. This professional, comprehensive approach can help people with schizophrenia and alcohol use disorder improve their quality of life.  

Don’t wait. Reach out to us at any convenient time.