No, cocaine does not cause schizophrenia. However, cocaine can mimic some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Also, people with a co-occurring mental illness are more likely to have a substance use disorder (SUD).
Cocaine Use and Schizophrenia Symptoms
Positive symptoms are symptoms that are there that should not be. Cocaine use and addiction mimic the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Examples of positive symptoms are:
- Abnormal motor behavior: Movement that is random and unpredictable. Abnormal movement leads to difficulty functioning. Someone with schizophrenia can have a difficult time with normal activities of daily life.
- Delusions: A delusion is a fixed belief that cannot be changed, even when there is evidence the belief is not true. An example might be someone who believes they can shoot fire out of their fingertips or that television programs are speaking directly to them.
- Disorganized thinking: Someone experiencing disorganized thinking may jump from one topic to the next when the topics are not related. Their speech might be so disorganized that it cannot be understood by people listening.
- Hallucinations: Hallucinations are symptoms of perception. A hallucination is something that a person can see or hear and nobody else can see or hear it. Hallucinations are either visual or audio.
Negative symptoms are symptoms that should be there but are not. Negative symptoms include a lack of emotion and the lack of initiative to accomplish tasks (avolition).
Cognitive symptoms include impaired memory and the inability to focus. Cocaine side effects might sometimes mimic cognitive symptoms.
Cocaine and Schizophrenia Treatment
Cocaine use and schizophrenia together are co-occurring disorders. People with schizophrenia are likely to have a substance use disorder (SUD).
Cocaine makes positive symptoms of schizophrenia worse and it makes the disease harder to treat. Schizophrenia and cocaine SUD will most likely require inpatient treatment.
Cocaine use makes the treatment of the underlying schizophrenia almost impossible. Schizophrenia treatment requires full attention from the person experiencing the disease and their care providers.
Key Points: Can Cocaine Use Cause Schizophrenia
Keep the following key points in mind when considering if cocaine use can cause schizophrenia:
- Cocaine use does not cause schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia is a thought disorder
- Schizophrenia is inherited genetically but can be worsened by environmental factors
- Cocaine use negatively impacts schizophrenia treatment, making it unlikely to be successful
- Cocaine addiction co-occurring with schizophrenia will likely require inpatient treatment
MedlinePlus. Cocaine Intoxication: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. 2016. Accessed May 17, 2019. Sanders, Lisa. “Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia.” WebMD, 2007. Accessed May 17, 2019. WebMD. “Schizophrenia: What About Substance Abuse?” 2019. Accessed May 17, 2019.
MedlinePlus. Cocaine Intoxication: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. 2016. Accessed May 17, 2019.
Sanders, Lisa. “Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia.” WebMD, 2007. Accessed May 17, 2019.
WebMD. “Schizophrenia: What About Substance Abuse?” 2019. Accessed May 17, 2019.