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Can Alcohol Consumption Lead to Schizophrenia in Teens?

Teen boy drinking alcohol  

Mental health and drinking are closely linked. This is especially true for schizophrenia. If you are a teen who drinks and you are concerned about your mental health, you may wonder if alcohol is causing the mental health problem.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health problem. The main symptom is having trouble knowing what is real and what is not. In most people, schizophrenia starts during the teen years, especially in males. The disease often develops slowly over months or even years. Early schizophrenia symptoms include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling tense
  • Problems focusing
  • Trouble sleeping

Over time, more severe symptoms often develop, including:

  • Hearing things that are not there
  • Seeing things that are not there
  • Showing less emotion than normal in your voice or facial expressions
  • Problems making decisions
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Having a delusion, or a belief that is not true
  • Not making sense when you speak
  • Having thoughts that aren’t connected

Different people can have different severity of schizophrenia. About 20% of people with schizophrenia have only mild symptoms. In contrast, about 33% of people with schizophrenia have severe symptoms. The disease is usually lifelong, especially if the person does not make a quick recovery. More than half of people with schizophrenia symptoms make a full recovery if their symptoms last less than three months.

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Schizophrenia?

Drinking does not cause schizophrenia. However, drinking is linked to schizophrenia. Doctors think that mental health problems like schizophrenia are a risk factor for developing a problem with substances like alcohol.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Doctors are not sure what causes schizophrenia. The cause may be a mix of factors like genetics and social issues. More study is needed to know for sure what causes schizophrenia. However, doctors do know that schizophrenia in teens can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Illness

Schizophrenia vs. Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

In rare cases, when someone drinks heavily, they can develop a condition called alcohol-induced psychosis. Doctors are not sure what causes this condition but suspect it may be due to abnormal brain chemicals. Symptoms of psychosis from drinking are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Fear

Because the condition is linked to drinking, you have a good chance of recovery if you stay sober. The condition is highly likely to recur if you start drinking again.

Although symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis resemble schizophrenia, it is a different condition. People with alcohol-induced psychosis may be at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia or other mental health problems.

Detoxing from Alcohol

Medical detox is the first step in recovery from drinking. In detox, you stop drinking while being closely monitored by doctors and nurses. Because supervision is needed, medical detox takes place during inpatient treatment.

It is important to note that going through detox does not stop future drinking. However, detox does safely manage withdrawal symptoms. Since having withdrawal symptoms is linked to trouble staying sober, detox can help improve your long-term success. Factors that can impact how severe the withdrawal symptoms include:

  • How much you drink
  • If you use other drugs
  • Your physical health
  • If you have any nutritional problems
  • How well-hydrated you are

A detox program will take these factors into account to manage your symptoms and put you on the road to sobriety.

Dual Diagnosis

Drinking and schizophrenia are closely linked. Studies show that almost 10% of people with schizophrenia will have an addiction to drinking, meaning that they continue to drink despite negative consequences. Further, 24% of people with schizophrenia will have alcohol dependence, meaning they crave drinking and have trouble controlling their intake.

For this reason, treating schizophrenia alongside a problem with alcohol is crucial. Even if you stop drinking, your schizophrenia still needs to be treated. Otherwise, you may stay at risk of drinking and other substance use. In dual diagnosis treatment, both drinking and schizophrenia are treated together. This is especially important, as studies have shown that when someone with schizophrenia stays sober, their mental health can improve. Better mental health leads to fewer trips to the hospital and a better quality of life.

Getting Help with Mental Health and Substance Abuse

If you are a teen with schizophrenia who struggles with drinking, rehab can help. The goal of rehab is to help you build skills and coping mechanisms to create a meaningful life outside of drinking.

Contact Next Generation Village to speak with a representative about how professional treatment can address a substance use disorder. You deserve a healthier future, call today.


U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Schizophrenia.” September 3, 2019. Accessed September 5, 2019.

National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. “Psychosis and Schizophrenia in Children and Young People: Recognition and Management.” British Psychological Society, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed September 5, 2019.

Sinha R. “New Findings on Biological Factors Predicting Addiction Relapse Vulnerability.” Current Psychiatry Reports, October 2011.  Accessed September 5, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Medical Detoxification.” February 2016. Accessed September 5, 2019.

Petrakis, Ismene L; et al. “Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2002. Accessed September 5, 2019.

Drake, Robert E; Mueser, Kim T. “Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Schizophrenia.” Alcohol Research & Health, 2002. Accessed September 5, 2019.

Stankewicz, Holly A; Salen, Philip. “Alcohol Related Psychosis.” StatPearls, 2018. Accessed September 5, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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