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Eur Psychiatry. 2000 Mar;15(2):115-22.

Addiction and schizophrenia.

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Unit¿e de Traitement Ambulatoire des Malades Alcooliques, H¿opital Beaujon, 100, Boulevard du G¿en¿eral Leclerc, 92110 Clichy, France.


Epidemiologic studies in the general population and those based on the clinical assessment of schizophrenic populations have revealed a high degree of overlap between schizophrenia and addictive disorders. The abuse of psychoactive substances (including alcohol) throughout life is so frequent (50%) that the possibility of a specific link inevitably arises. Various hypotheses have been suggested to explain the high co-morbidity between schizophrenia and addiction: 1) The social-environmental hypothesis has been developed but studies have provided poor evidence to validate it. 2) The possible shared biological vulnerability between schizophrenia and addictions led researchers to explore common genetic determinants and study the involvement of the dopaminergic and opioid systems in the aetiology of both schizophrenia and the abuse of and dependence on psychoactive drugs. 3) Finally, the theory of self-medication suggests that schizophrenics may be attempting to counter the deficit linked to their disorders by using the substances they take or their dependency-type behaviour to cope with their emotional problems. The clinical profile of schizophrenic addicts does seem to display some distinctive features, such as the high level of depressive co-morbidity, very high nicotine and alcohol dependence, with a very poor prognosis. These patients are difficult to manage; the possibility of pharmacologic interactions between the substances they are taking and neuroleptic medication calls for prudence, and their compliance is also poor. Addictive disorders in schizophrenics are currently a topic of active research intended to lead to identifying specific treatments. The early identification of addictive disorders in schizophrenics should make it possible to limit their development and improve the prognosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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