The definition and classification of mental disorders is a key issue for addiction treatment service providers and those who may be diagnosed. For a mental state to classify as a disorder, it generally needs to cause dysfunction. There are many different categories of mental disorder, and many different facets of human behavior and personality that can become disordered.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak periods for the onset of schizophrenia, critical years in a young adult’s social and vocational development. In 40% of men and 23% of women diagnosed with schizophrenia, the condition manifested itself before the age of 19.
Individuals with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations (most reported are hearing voices), delusions (often bizarre or in nature), and disorganized thinking and speech. The last may range from loss of train of thought, to sentences only loosely connected in meaning, to speech that is not understandable known as word salad in severe cases. Social withdrawal, sloppiness of dress and hygiene, and loss of motivation and judgment are all common in schizophrenia.
50% of Schizophrenics Abuse Drugs & Alcohol
About half of those with schizophrenia use drugs or alcohol excessively. Although it is not generally believed to be a cause of the illness, people with schizophrenia use nicotine at much greater rates than the general population.
Schizophrenia and smoking have shown a strong association in studies world-wide. Use of cigarettes is especially high in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, with estimates ranging from 80 to 90% being regular smokers, as compared to 20% of the general population. Those who smoke tend to smoke heavily and smoke cigarettes with high nicotine content.
Marijuana Use & Schizophrenia
The Daily Mail reported on a long term research project from Australia that revealed 4 out of 5 people who developed schizophrenia smoked marijuana regularly when they were in their teens. Of the patients involved in the research, 75 to 80% were discovered to have used marijuana habitually between the ages of 12 to 21.
Dr. Andrew Campbell of the NSW Mental Heath Review, who conducted the study warned of a hidden epidemic of marijuana-induced psychosis with psychiatric wards full of people who had smoked marijuana as adolescents. He went on to say, “There seems to be a vulnerable period at critical adolescence”. Dr. Campbell feels so strongly about the health problems associated with the teenage use of marijuana that he wanted to start a national campaign to warn the public.
Swedish Army Study of Young Men
A Swedish study has shown that young men joining the army were more likely to suffer from schizophrenia in later life if they had smoked marijuana regularly in adolescence. Scientists knew the early stages of schizophrenia cased people to be more likely to take drugs at a young age, but until now they could not prove the drug abuse was causing the earlier onset of schizophrenia.
The primary treatment of schizophrenia is antipsychotic medications, often in combination with psychological and social support.