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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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Treating mental illness and drug or alcohol use

This scenario will discuss the use of drugs and alcohol that may occur with people who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It provides information on where to get treatment and how families can help.

My relative was diagnosed with schizophrenia 4 years ago. About 1 year ago, they became stable enough to get an apartment on their own. After they moved out, they began using street drugs. My relative was doing better on their medication, and I don’t understand why they stopped taking their medication. Why would someone with mental illness use drugs or alcohol? I am worried that my relative will get sick again. Their doctor knows a lot about schizophrenia, but does not treat drug abuse. He said that my relative should get treatment for their drug abuse. He said that my relative should go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. My relative did not want to go, but then went to a few meetings. After attending these meetings, they quit taking all of their medications, saying that the people at the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings told them that an addict should not take drugs of any kind, including the medications to treat schizophrenia.