Alcohol use in veterans with schizophrenia less common than thought

March 28, 2017 by Leigh Hopper

U.S. military veterans who are being treated for schizophrenia are much less likely to drink any alcohol than the general population. However, they are equally likely to misuse alcohol. And when they do misuse alcohol, it leads to worsening of their symptoms, according to a new study led by Dr. Alexander Young, a psychiatry professor at UCLA.

Alcohol and drug use disorders are believed to have substantial negative effects on outcomes in people with schizophrenia. However, it has not been possible to know the extent of this problem, because diagnoses and details regarding substance use are typically not documented in people's medical records, previous research shows.

Prior studies of veterans with serious mental illness have found that heavy drinking prevents them from sticking to prescribed medication regimens. Efforts to reduce and better ensure that veterans with schizophrenia take their medications would improve outcomes for them and could reduce the incidence of hospitalization.

Researchers randomly selected 801 veterans undergoing treatment for schizophrenia at Veterans Health Administration medical centers in California, New York, Louisiana and Texas. Trained assessors conducted confidential interviews to collect information about their psychiatric symptoms, how well they followed their prescription regimens, alcohol and illicit drug use, quality of life, and use of treatment services.

At these clinics, only 23 percent of those interviewed said that they drank any alcohol in the previous 30 days. Fifteen percent reported some use and 7 percent reported to intoxication, or "misuse." In contrast, 56 percent of the report drinking in the past month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The veterans in the study who misused alcohol were less likely to take their medications as prescribed, more likely to use other drugs and had worse quality of life. Both alcohol users and misusers, compared with those who didn't drink at all, reported less use of general medical, mental health and housing services. Less use of services correlates with worse outcomes.

The findings indicate there is no safe level of alcohol use for people with schizophrenia, suggesting that clinicians should ask patients with about use or misuse and advise them about risks.

Explore further: Drug and alcohol problems linked to increased veteran suicide risk, especially in women

More information: Eric R. Pedersen et al. Alcohol Use and Service Utilization Among Veterans in Treatment for Schizophrenia., Psychological Services (2017). DOI: 10.1037/ser0000109

Related Stories

Drug and alcohol problems linked to increased veteran suicide risk, especially in women

March 16, 2017
Veterans who have drug or alcohol problems are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as their comrades, a new study finds. And women veterans with substance use disorders have an even higher rate of suicide—more than ...

Young adults' problem drinking may have lasting health effects

November 1, 2016
Young adults with symptoms of alcohol dependence may see health effects late in life—even decades after conquering their problem drinking, according to a study in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol ...

Mental health screening in primary care helps veterans

August 13, 2014
Veterans who receive mental health screening during primary care visits are generally getting adequate follow-up treatment, but the process for acquiring care could be improved, finds a new study in General Hospital Psychiatry. ...

Experts call for earlier diagnosis of bipolar disorder

May 21, 2015
Delays in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, particularly in those with alcohol and substance misuse disorders, could be preventing people from receiving effective treatment for the condition, according to a new study by ...

Survey shows lower rate of impaired driving in U.S. for 2014

December 30, 2016
(HealthDay)—The prevalence of driving under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs has been quantified in a report published Dec. 28 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Does smoking hamper treatment for alcohol abuse?

December 8, 2014
A new study has shown that smoking can inhibit the success of treatment for alcohol abuse, putting people who are addicted to both tobacco and alcohol in a double bind.

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.