Specialists have known for years that drug addiction can be an escalated form of self-medication for mental illness. But now research is catching up to reveal that not only is addiction often evoked by mental instability, it has the potential to become the origin of various mental health disorders.

Research published in Milan at the Early Psychosis Association meeting last week illuminates the relationship between drug addiction and the early onset of schizophrenia.

“Our results illustrate robust associations between almost any type of substance abuse and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life,” researchers concluded.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness often passed down through a genetic chemical imbalance. The disease controls the thoughts and actions of the person it afflicts. Those with schizophrenia often hear voices that tell them what to do, which may lead to unfortunate consequences such as violence and cerebral entropy if left untreated. Symptoms of the disorder include losing touch with reality, hysteria, visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, trouble focusing, memory loss, and decreased sensations of pleasure. All of which are also common symptoms of substance abuse.

This correlation is associated with the brain’s inability to release pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate. When the brain becomes dependent on a powerful drug like heroin, the substance inhibits the mind’s ability to release gratifying neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and others. It fabricates a reward of euphoria that can only be achieved by using the drug. Once addiction has taken hold, it has the capability to alter the brain’s chemistry and cause irrevocable damage that may lead to mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

According to the research published in Milan, Italy, cannabis is 5.2 times more likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and alcoholism is 3.4 times more likely. Hallucinogens broaden the risks by 1.9 times.

Any diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder increases the dangers of developing the disease six times more than a person without an addiction. Maternal marijuana and alcohol abuse were also found to be inflating factors in the augmentation of a child’s schizophrenia. The research analysts concluded that the increase is prevalent “even 10 or 15 years after a diagnosis of substance abuse.”

A 2014 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 7.9 million Americans live with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders, nearing half of all drug addictions, which hovers around 20.2 million people.

Studies like these validate how much drug addiction is… (continue reading)