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Psychiatr Serv. 2000 Feb;51(2):210-5.

Shorter hospital stays and more rapid improvement among patients with schizophrenia and substance disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Washington School of Medicine at Haborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA.



Length of stay and treatment response of inpatients with acute schizophrenia were examined to determine whether differences existed between those with and without comorbid substance-related problems.


The sample comprised 608 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder treated on hospital units with integrated dual diagnosis treatment. They were rated on admission and discharge by a psychiatrist using a structured clinical instrument. Patients with no substance-related problems were compared with those with moderate to severe problems using t tests, chi square tests, and analysis of variance.


When analyses controlled for age, gender, and other clinical variables, dually diagnosed patients were found to have improved markedly faster compared with patients without a dual diagnosis. Their hospital stays were 30 percent shorter on both voluntary and involuntary units. They also showed somewhat greater symptomatic improvement and no increase in 18-month readmission rates. On admission the dual diagnosis group was more likely to be younger, male, and homeless and more likely to be a danger to self and others. Severity of psychosis was the same at admission for the two groups, but the dually diagnosed patients were rated as less psychotic at discharge.


Dually diagnosed patients with schizophrenia appear to stabilize faster during acute hospitalization than those without a dual diagnosis. The authors hypothesize that substance abuse may temporarily amplify symptoms or that these patients may have a higher prevalence of better-prognosis schizophrenia. The availability of integrated dual-focus inpatient treatment and a well-developed outpatient system may also have helped these patients recover more rapidly.

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