Schizophrenia or Drug abuse?


English 101

11 December 2003

With the of symptoms for schizophrenia and amphetamine abuse so similar, the possibility that schizophrenia is being misdiagnosed in people that abuse amphetamines is very likely. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions; often paranoid in nature; hallucinations, and negative symptoms that include social withdrawal and apathy. What is intriguing is that drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can produce symptoms that mimic schizophrenia. Prolonged use of these drugs can produce psychosis, delusions, and often hallucinations in vulnerable people. These cocaine/amphetamine-induced delusions, called amphetamine psychosis, are easy to confuse with those that are characteristic of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia, a severe and chronic disease of the brain, affects approximately 1% of the population of the United States and more than 2 million people suffer from the illness in a given year (Speaking 4). This disorder is found throughout the world and in all races and cultures. Schizophrenia affects men and women in equal numbers, although on average, men appear to develop schizophrenia earlier than women. Generally, men show the first signs of schizophrenia in their mid 20s and women show the first signs in their late 20s.

The behavior of people with schizophrenia is often very strange and shocking. This change in behavior, when people cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not,


is called "psychosis" or a "psychotic episode”. The American Psychiatric Association has

published guidelines that are used to classify people with mental disorders. The most recent guidelines are contained in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (known as DSM-IV for short). The DSM-IV describes several symptoms that a person MUST have before he or she is classified as having schizophrenia. These symptoms include two or more of the following behaviors for durations of at least one month:

Delusions - bizarre, false beliefs. These beliefs seem real to the person with schizophrenia, but they are not real. For example, a person may believe that aliens or spies are controlling his or her behavior, mind and thoughts. Sometimes these delusions can be paranoid in nature. People with paranoia have an unreal fear or suspicion that someone is "out to get them”. Delusions may also be of grandiosity. In these cases, people believe that they are someone important, like a president, king, or prime minister.

Hallucinations - bizarre, unreal perceptions of the environment. These hallucinations can be auditory (hearing voices), visual (seeing lights, objects or faces), olfactory (smelling things), and tactile (feelings that bugs are crawling on or under the skin).

Disorganized Thinking/Speech- abnormal thoughts are usually measured by disorganized speech. Some people with schizophrenia speak very little; others have speech that is disjointed. Sometimes the person will change the topic midway through a sentence.


Negative Symptoms - the absence of normal behavior. Delusions, hallucinations,

and abnormal speech indicates the presence of abnormal behavior. Negative symptoms include social withdrawal, absence of emotion and expression, reduced energy, motivation and activity.

Catatonia - immobility and "waxy” flexibility. Catatonia is a negative symptom where people become fixed in a single position for a long period of time. "Waxy flexibility" describes how a person\'s arms will remain frozen in a particular position if someone else moves them. All of which are typical of amphetamine psychosis.

There are three basic types of schizophrenia. The three main types of schizophrenia are: disorganized schizophrenia, which is characterized by the lack of emotions and disorganized speech; catatonic schizophrenia, characterized by waxy flexibility, reduced movement, and a rigid posture; and paranoid schizophrenia, characterized by strong delusions and hallucinations. There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. Many diseases, such as heart disease, result from interaction of genetic, behavioral, and other factors; and this may be the case for schizophrenia as well. Scientists do not yet understand all of the factors necessary to produce schizophrenia, but all the tools of modern biomedical research are being used to search for genes, critical moments in brain development, and other factors that may lead to the illness.

Amphetamine Psychosis
Amphetamine psychosis is a psychotic mental health disorder that is caused by the use of amphetamines. It is traditionally classified as an organic psychosis. Amphetamines may cause psychotic symptoms in various ways, but usually the term ‘amphetamine psychosis’ refers to a


delusional state, brought on by