Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Is addiction tied with mental illness?

My child’s father is a recovering Synthetic Marijuana addict. He hasn’t been on it for a year now , but he still seems to have the same ways and habits as if he was still on it. He still walks around begging for change and has now developed a dangerous nicotine addiction . He was diagnosed schizophrenic and is on haloperidol and benztropine. He takes the medicine every other day but he is not consistent. He smokes a whole pack of cigerettes in less than a day if you buy him some , and will walk to the store 3 or 4 times a day asking for change to buy black n miles. I don’t understand why he does this . He gets a disability check and it’s gone within 3 days , and he’s back to asking for change . He thinks nothing is wrong with him but I feel like he needs to go to rehab , to cope with his past addictions . Any suggestions on what he could do to help with this ?

lol, i smoke more than that… don’t give him a penny…

He is SZ, cant help it…

Does he live with you ? can you take his disability check and give him small amounts from it every day ? Having no insight is part of schizophrenia , you don’t need to convince him he has it , just try your best even with bribes for him to take his meds every day . My son has no insight and i control all his money , what ever i give him it gets spent immediately so i give him small amounts every day . See if he will Vape instead , my son stopped smoking cigarettes and vapes now .

mental illness can come with addictions. With my son, it was mountain Dew (which I’ve read can cause hallucinations by itself alone) and cigarettes. I no longer allow the Mountain Dew and a support group I’m in was successful in having it removed from the local state hospital drink machines. There was a brand of additive free cigarettes he used to smoke but there has been a government stoppage/suit so now he smokes only the ones that are the “cheapies.” 40% of the cigarettes sold are supposedly smoked by those with varying types of mental disorders. Even the mental hospitals here in Florida used to allow smoking because they knew they were linked but have since gone the PC route and limited the patients. While they have done that, they’ve also had guards, staff, etc sneak cigarettes to my son during the two times he was in for long term. I do NOT condone my son’s smoking but realistically I know that it is calming to him and is part of the disorder. At the same time, I fear for the health ramifications. This is nothing new since I’ve been dealing with his disorder since he was nine - and before him, his Dad. Over 40 years dealing with someone else’s mental illnesses - and I have honestly “earned” the distinction of being my son’s doctors “worst nightmare” since they know that I will research, call the NIH (NIMH), FDA, state reps, etc. I will read boring research papers and all the side affects of the different medications he’s on. You may want to research the vaping because I read something about it pitting the lining of the lungs. There’s always something for us to be on guard for. But he’s my only kid and I have to do what I can to at least bring an awareness to friends, family and anyone else who will listen.

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In regards to my son the illness and the addiction were happening at the same time. My son smoked unlimited cigarettes before I gained control of the situation. He also smoked massive amounts of pot, drank alcohol and coffee and mountain dew. Whatever he couldn’t buy he got from so called friends or he pan handled. He started all of this at 14. It didn’t help that at 14 he looked 18 or older and had a beard and mustache. It is hard to say which came first or if they came all at once. Addiction behavior and mental illness runs in our family so it’s anyone’s guess. I will say once my son got stabilized on the right medicines and they began to work for him the addiction subsided at least for the bad things. He increased his desire for candy and sweets but today he has only 1 Pepsi a day and only one cup of coffee a day and smokes a little over 1/2 pack of cigarettes a day. It helped that I was his rep payee and he had little to no access to money except through me. Now he has a Paypal debit card and I always keep money on it for him. It took years but there is a strong trust between us now. He has been sober for over 8 years. Delusion free for almost as long. My opinion on vaping is it’s just another delivery mechanism for nicotine and not necessarily safer just different. Doctors are finding young people developing “popcorn lung” from it so it is still potentially just as physically damaging and there is little is known about the exact quantity of nicotine that is being ingested during vaping sessions. I am against it. My son continues to lower how many cigarettes he smokes and has come down from 3+ packs to a 1/2 pack and my hopes are that will continue. Overall I do think addiction and mental illness in some ways have a strong correlation to one another, not always but in some cases.


@Catherine, I really enjoy reading about you and your son. You two have gone thru hell together, endured the hardships, and now it sounds as though you two have reached a place of complacency, peace, and acceptance. Your son has come such a long way, and he sometimes takes on the role of being your rock. And although you never mention it, the sacrifice you made for your son is beyond immeasurable. You have dedicated your whole life for your son, and will continue to do so until your last days.

I only hope my son and I can reach this place one day. There are many days where it is still rough between us, and I’m just really seeking peace and stability, I can live without all the jazz and the glitter. I’ve heard this condition stabilizes as they get older, (my son just turned 25), and god I hope this is really true.

And what you state is so true. Trust is everything. If they trust you enough, and in turn can listen to you when you try to help them with what’s in their best interest, that is over half the battle. It is their delusional thinking and paranoia that makes everything so difficult. I think my son trusts me more than he did about a year ago, and I hope he continues to go in this direction, but I know it’s still not 100%. And I also know he doesn’t trust anyone else, I’m it.

I just think you’re a very smart and wonderful mom who is pouring her whole life into her son.

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Addiction is the need for a substance or activity to quiet whatever unbalance urge is going on in the brain. So in a way it is an mental illness too. In many cases people are diagnosed with a ‘dual’ diagnosis of substance abuse and addiction. It makes recovery harder in my opinion.

However from a practical standpoint, if he has the dual diagnosis you can go to social security and ask to be appointed or have someone appointed as his representative payee. Do not try to do it by simply taking money away. It could get ugly and unless you have authority puts you in the position of “stealing” from him. Best of luck.

Thank you so much @mbheart for what you said, I rarely if ever hear that-said that way, I have often been told (in r/l) I was foolish and stupid for doing what I have done for my son and I find that incredulous that anyone would think that, but I have learned more and more that not everyone views parenthood the way that I do.

I think the “acceptance” part was the hardest aspect. Accepting that for my son to be his best I could not continue to thrust social expectations on him, as in “you have to get a diploma” “you have to work” “you have to live on your own” " you have to have friends and even a girlfriend" etc etc etc…He will devolve and eventually become unwell again from the stress of it all… if I pursue those expectations again and again… I don’t think I could have done what I did without having consistent therapy, both individually and in a group setting through out. Also if my own health had not dictated that I go on permanent disability myself and quit working, I would have never been able to be as fully available to my son and care for him as I did otherwise…it would have been completely impossible.

Additionally I am a single mom with only myself to answer to, so no spouse to either to assist or to interfere. I also have no functional family members to lean on, again, none to support and none to interfere. Having said all of that I figured out how to make a safe, functioning and protective “bubble” within our home together for us both to have all of the time and peace and quiet we need to recover from our individual illnesses and to thrive. I think that is why we are doing as well as we are doing.

Truth be told, I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything that I wouldn’t have done anyway. My kids are everything to me. I came from a very dysfunctional family where I was less important than a garbage can, because of that being a better mom than I had is a big win for me in my life. I still feel I could have done better and I am my own worst critic, but my therapist helps me see the positives at every turn.

The best thing I can focus on is how my future with my son looks bright, bright enough for me to believe it will (hopefully) never be so dark as it once was. I wish that for everyone here. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts::sun_behind_small_cloud::two_hearts:


@Catherine, if you only knew the number of times over the last few years people told me to “go out and live your own life”, “do what makes you happy”, “go enjoy yourself with some friends”, and I have tried. But, to be honest, I find myself deviating away from “those things” and from “them”, and I’m right back to my son time and time again. My heart is where my son is. I have to be true to myself, and I’m most content/happy when I know my son is somewhat (at least to the best of his ability) ok.

Some people see that as being depressed or lonely or strange or stupid, that my life revolves around my son, but it’s only their opinion. I know what makes my heart full.

I’m also lucky in that I have my own business and can work from home, not tied & bound to restrictive hours. I take great comfort in knowing if my son needs me, I’m readily available. I’m also a single mom, and I think that brings its own set of extra challenges when caring for your child with sz. But truth be told, when people offer their help or advice, I decline most of the time anyway. I’ve always been self sufficient, but now more so, for obvious reasons.

My 2 sons are truly my life, and I know when my head hits that pillow at night, I’m doing right by them to the best of my ability. It’s such a wonderful feeling when I see tiny glimpses of my sz son’s appreciation towards me. But that doesn’t happen often.

I’m wishing you and your son a bright cheery home of your own in the future, and that he continues to grow & improve in a positive direction. And I hope all of our ill loved ones can somehow gain alittle insight, and know just how much we caretakers love them.


I understand. I wish you all the best as well. Thanks for sharing :two_hearts:

I’m one of those rare individuals who can smoke but not get addicted. I smoked a little when I was hospitalized just to fit in. I would give cigarettes to anyone who asked-- looking back on it, it was a bad idea and I regret enabling people’s habits. This was before no smoking environments were common, I imagine this must be an enormous hassle for hospital caregivers nowadays. They had these odd cigarette lighters on the walls, I suppose as a concession to disallowing lighters.

My worst vices are caffeine and diet sodas. I’ve quit from time to time, but seem to always come back to it. I drink occasionally, but don’t keep any spirits in the house.

Given the studies of links of cannabis smoking triggering SZ in some people, I strictly stay away from the stuff. I’m also extremely leary of things that mess with dopamine and serotonin like Molly / Ecstasy / Bath Salts and the like. I shudder to think what this stuff is doing to young people’s brains which aren’t fully developed until their twenties. Don’t they realize that most antipsychotics and antidepressants act on these brain chemicals? It’s scary to me.

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