Schizoaffective Disorder and Substance Abuse

schizoaffective disorder and substance abuse

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that causes the symptoms of schizophrenia and a co-occurring mood disorder like bipolar or depression. This means individuals with this condition may experience hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, mania, and depression. 

Because schizoaffective disorder is a combination condition, many people are initially misdiagnosed with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This mental health disorder is also less discussed, so mental health professionals often apply treatment methods from evidence-based bipolar or schizophrenia treatment tactics.

When it comes to schizoaffective disorder, it is common for someone to also suffer from a co-occurring substance use disorder. The combination of these conditions can complicate treatment, making it imperative for individuals struggling with schizoaffective disorder and substance abuse to attend a dual diagnosis treatment program. 

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

The symptoms of this condition can become severe, making close monitoring of symptoms to be extremely important. About 1 in 200 people develop schizoaffective disorder at some point in their lives.[1] Individuals occupy more psychiatric hospital beds with this condition than any other mental illness.

The symptoms of this mental health condition include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking and trouble verbalizing (forgetting what one is talking about mid-sentence or using unintelligible words)
  • Depressed mood 
  • Symptoms of mania (euphoria, racing thoughts, increased risky behavior, etc.)
  • Catatonia 
  • Irritability 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Poor hygiene habits 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia 
  • Increased social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts 

When diagnosing this condition, individuals must display at least 2 of the following symptoms:

  • A major mood episode (either mania or depression that lasts for an uninterrupted amount of time)
  • Delusions or hallucinations for two or more consecutive weeks without mood symptoms 
  • Mood symptoms are present for the majority of the illness 
  • The symptoms are not caused by substance abuse 

While schizoaffective disorder can mimic schizophrenia, the two conditions are very different. Instead of only experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, individuals also experience the symptoms of a mood disorder. 

Is There a Risk of Substance Abuse Associated With Schizoaffective Disorder?

There are multiple ways that schizoaffective disorder and addiction are connected. First, individuals with this condition are at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. The psychosis as well as the mood swings caused by schizoaffective disorder can make people more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction.

Some experts wonder if drug abuse can cause the development of schizoaffective disorder. Because both conditions often go hand in hand, there is some possibility of drug addiction leading to the development of this illness. Also, it is believed that mental health is the cause of drug addiction in most cases, and nearly half of all patients in substance abuse treatment centers have a co-occurring mental health condition.

In some cases of schizoaffective disorder, the patient has no symptoms of a mental health condition until they begin abusing drugs. This occurs when an individual abuses substances which can lead to the symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is characterized by delusions, disorganized thinking, hallucinations, and paranoia – some of the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.

Drugs that can cause psychosis may include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Meth
  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • DMT
  • Mushrooms 
  • Marijuana 
  • Alcohol 
  • Benzodiazepines 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 8 million people have experienced co-occurring mental health and substance abuse at some point.[2] Mental health conditions often cause people to self-medicate, and the same is true for someone with schizoaffective disorder.

Treating Co-Occurring Schizoaffective Disorder and Addiction

When someone suffers from both schizoaffective disorder and addiction, they must receive treatment for both conditions at the same time. Otherwise, the untreated symptoms of one condition will cause a relapse in the other. 

In a dual diagnosis program for substance abuse and schizoaffective disorder, patients will receive medical detox, medication management, behavioral therapy, and group counseling. This combination of therapeutic approaches will help patients overcome their addiction issues and learn to manage their schizoaffective disorder.

Medications can help soothe and limit the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. The medications commonly used to treat this condition include:

  • Antipsychotics like Seroquel, Abilify, Lamictal, and Geodon (help to stabilize mood symptoms and psychotic symptoms)
  • Anticonvulsants like Tegretol, Depakote, and Trileptal (help stabilize bipolar symptoms)
  • SSRIs like Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft (help soothe symptoms of depression)

When it comes to therapy for addiction and schizoaffective disorder, most programs will use behavioral therapies. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating the depressive type of schizoaffective disorder and helps individuals learn to manage their substance use disorder simultaneously. A different type of CBT known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may be used for individuals who suffer from the bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder and substance use disorder. 

Both forms of therapy help individuals learn how to identify negative patterns of thought to change them into positive ones. Additionally, they help individuals learn their addiction triggers and find healthy coping mechanisms to use in times of need. Lastly, these coping mechanisms can also be used in times of hallucinations or delusions. 

Find Help for Co-Occurring Disorders Today

Individuals who suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorders may have a harder time accepting treatment. Unfortunately, the only way to fully recover from co-occurring conditions is to get help from a dual diagnosis rehab center

Thankfully, Moving Mountains Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us today for more information on our dual diagnosis treatment program in New Jersey. 



Related Posts

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops after you experience something traumatic. You could also develop this condition after seeing or hearing about a traumatic event. The symptoms can begin immediately after the traumatic...

6 Warning Signs of Relapse

Maintaining long-term sobriety from addiction is never easy. People must continuously practice their recovery maintenance techniques without cutting any slack. When someone does slack in their recovery, they put themselves at risk of suffering from a relapse. ...

Stereotypes About Addiction and Why They Are Dangerous

Addiction is a common disease that affects about 10% of Americans.[1] Despite addiction being so prevalent in our country, the attitude around this condition is not always supportive or understanding. Many people still believe in stereotypes and the stigma surrounding...

Hydrocodone Addiction: Signs Symptoms and Treatment

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to treat pain. This substance belongs to a class of drugs known as narcotic analgesics (opioids) and acts on the central nervous system in the brain. While this medication helps treat severe cases of pain, it is also known to...

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment

Heroin is a powerful, illicit opiate drug that has been a major contributor to the United States opioid crisis. In 2020, about 691,000 people had a heroin use disorder and more than 13,165 people died as a result of a drug overdose involving heroin.[1] Despite how...

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes, including emotional highs and lows. People who struggle with this condition may experience mania (emotional highs) for weeks to months on end until they crash, leading to emotional lows...

What Can I Expect During Benzodiazepine Rehab in New Jersey?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 40 million adults in America suffer from an anxiety disorder.[1] One of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety is benzodiazepines and many Americans take these substances daily. ...

Should I Go Back to Rehab After Relapse?

Drug addiction and alcoholism are complex and progressive diseases that require constant dedication and practice to recover. If you suffer from a substance use disorder, you know that attending professional treatment is the best way to learn how to maintain long-term...

Dangers of Mixing Xanax (Alprazolam) and Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.[1] This substance is highly dangerous, claiming the lives of thousands of Americans each year. Oftentimes, fentanyl is mixed into drugs to create a stronger...

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. Individuals who suffer from this condition suffer from an array of consequences that hinder their ability to function in their daily lives. One of the most concerning risks of drug addiction is the possibility...

Take The First Step to a New Life

Transform daydreams into realities

Moving Mountains takes a whole-person approach to recovery by offering a continuum of care, clinically proven treatments, and holistic healing. We work closely with you to identify your unique needs, facilitate individualized treatments, and help you establish a foundation upon which your recovery--and the rest of your life--can grow. Our compassionate, friendly staff is available 24-hours a day to take your call and help you begin your recovery journey.


Combatting the ever-growing drug epidemic that this country faces begins with you. Make the most of our vast knowledge of addiction treatment and our proven ability to change lives. Let's Move Mountains together.  Take the first step towards a new, better life by giving us a call today.

Begin RecoveryVerify Insurance

Get Addiction Help Now
(973) 397-5055
Representatives available now.