Persons with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders frequently have coexisting substance use disorders that require modifications to treatment approaches for best outcomes. The objectives of this review were to identify evidence-based practices best practices that improve outcomes for individuals with schizophrenia and substance used disorders.
We reviewed guidelines that were published in the last 5 years and that included systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Most of our recommendations came from 2 publications from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): the 2011 guidance titled Coexisting Severe Mental Illness (Psychosis) and Substance Misuse: Assessment and Management in Healthcare Settings and the 2014 guidance titled Psychosis and Schizophrenia in Adults: Prevention and Management. We placed these recommendations into the Canadian context to create this guideline.
Evidence supports the inclusion of individuals with coexisting substance use disorders in first-episode psychosis programs. The programs should integrate psychosis and substance use treatments, emphasizing ongoing monitoring of both substance use and patterns and symptoms. The best outcomes are achieved with combined use of antipsychotic medications and addiction-based psychosocial interventions. However, limited evidence is available to recommend using one antipsychotic medication over another or one psychosocial intervention over another for persons with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders with coexisting substance use disorders.
Treating persons who have schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders with coexisting substance use disorders can present clinical challenges, but modifications in practice can help engage and retain people in treatment, where significant improvements over time can be expected.