The Effects of Psychosis on Drug Misuse
The use of drugs and alcohol is common among individuals who have a mental health issue. For some, the misuse of substances like prescription painkillers or alcohol is an attempt to self-medicate against the emotional and physical frustrations that come with a mental disorder.
For others, however, there may be shared factors between the mental health issue and substance abuse that make the individual vulnerable to both. The presence of a drug or alcohol dependence can make treating a mental disorder especially challenging, so it is important for clinicians to understand the various issues involved with mental disorders and substance abuse.
While there has been extensive research into the effects of substance misuse on the brain’s functions, emotional and behavioral states and effects on family and friends, there has been a lack of adequate research on the co-occurrence of substance abuse and mental illness.
To bridge this gap, Kim Donoghue of the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Nottingham in England recently did a meta-analysis of the already completed research on substance misuse among those with a history of psychosis.
Substance use is especially common among those who have psychotic disorders, particularly among those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. The study examined both substance and poly-substance use among patients with a diagnosis for psychosis and measured its effects on cognitive tasks.
The analysis involved several studies that examined individuals with psychosis who also had a history of substance misuse, specifically with alcohol, cocaine and cannabis. In addition, the information included data for individuals with a history of psychosis, but not substance abuse.
The study conducted by Donoghue attempted to measure how levels of use and individual substances impacted cognitive functioning. The results were surprising, showing that patients diagnosed with psychosis who also used drugs produced better results on some of the cognitive tests when compared with individuals who did not use drugs.
In particular, the analysis revealed that cocaine users were more proficient with psychomotor processing speeds and attention when compared with those who did not use drugs. However, the cocaine users also had problems in the areas of memory and verbal ability. In addition, those who had psychosis and used cannabis had a stronger overall functioning when compared to those who did not have a history of cannabis use.
Far from an endorsement for drug use, Donoghue stresses that the findings should not be used as an argument to encourage drug use among those with psychosis. Instead, the researchers note that those with psychosis who used drugs may simply be a higher-functioning group than those who did not use drugs.
In addition, the meta-analysis was limited in the amount of research that exists relating to psychosis patients who are also drug users.
The findings for the study are found in a recent issue of the journal Neuropsychology.