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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1991 Jul;179(7):410-4.

Subjective experiences related to alcohol use among schizophrenics.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire.


Comorbid alcohol use disorders are common in schizophrenia. Although a variety of explanatory hypotheses involving self-medication have been proposed, few data available regarding schizophrenic patients' subjective experiences while using alcohol. We report interview data from 75 DSM-III-R schizophrenic outpatients regarding their subjective responses to alcohol. Over half of our sample reported that alcohol improved social anxiety, tension, dysphoria, apathy, anhedonia, and sleep difficulties. Other nonpsychotic experiences were frequently improved as well. In contrast, no more than 15% of subjects reported that alcohol relieved any specific psychotic symptom; similar proportions of subjects reported that alcohol aggravated psychotic symptoms. Reporting that alcohol had a positive effect on nonpsychotic experiences was associated with having lifetime alcohol use disorders. Reporting that alcohol relieved psychotic symptoms was associated both with having lifetime alcohol use disorders and with the number of psychotic symptoms reported. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding alcohol abuse and dependence among schizophrenics.

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