Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Schizophrenic or addict? The difference is obvious!

I want to share a story from my life.
In short, my friend who has schizophrenia has been taken as a drug addict by a man in the store (he called the police…). I was horrible. They did not hear my words and took him to the prison for a couple of hours until his mom went with medical docs which proved his state.

People! Are you serious??? Drug addiction and schizophrenia are two separate conditions!!! After this case, I researched and found out that abuse drugs show symptoms similar to schizophrenia ones. But still, I believe that looking at the addict and a person with schizophrenia, the one can distinguish both. You can read on any drug prevention site like or others the symptoms of heroin or meth abuse. Even the person’s appearance is different. Any drugs or tobacco only amplify and worsen the schizophrenia-related conditions. So, there are not may people with schizophrenia who smoke, not talking about drugs.

Please, don’t make snap judgements about strangers. It may apear not what it looks like.


I understand your frustration, I am so sorry for your friend. That is entirely unfair and all too common.
As a mother and full time caregiver of an adult son who has schizophrenia and had a history of drug abuse. I would just like to add that before I knew my son was schizophrenic I knew nothing of schizophrenia (sadly a large part of the population also does not know anything or very little about any mental illness) -

So before I finally got him diagnosed I too thought my son’s entire problem was the drug abuse, albeit the worse kind of symptoms I ever saw, still I had no frame of reference to know it could be anything else. I made him go to rehab on several occasions and even the drug counselors there did not pick up on the duality of his affliction.

It took an accidental ibuprofen overdose to get the right diagnosis when the paramedics reported hearing him say repeatedly “The voices made me do it” Up until then he had not said anything about voices to anyone, even me. His diagnosis was officially “Disorganized Schizophrenia” which one key symptom of that besides disorganized thought processes is poverty of speech and speaking in what can only be referred to as a “word salad” where the sentence structure is completely out of order.

My point is even if the person with schizophrenia does no drugs at all, the average layman’s frame of reference is very limited in the knowledge of mental illness, I wish that was not the case. Most people will think odd behaviors are likely due to drugs. That is infuriating and dangerous especially when police or involved.

As for smoking cigarettes, I may have misunderstood your post and if I did I am sorry- but it seemed you said that most schizophrenics are not inclined to smoke cigarettes and actually the opposite is true. All of my sons previous and his current doctors have spoke of the inclination patients with schizophrenia toward smoking and studies have been done it’s prevalence.

Again I am so sorry for your friend and I appreciate you sharing that story, it really sheds light on how under-educated much of society is on mental illness. I would hope that can change in the future.


I have to totally agree with that comment. The average person has very little knowledge of any type of mental oddness, and tends to shy away from learning about mental illness or substance abuse psychotic breaks. Only when forced to learn about these things by trouble in my own family, did I start to understand. I can’t believe I was so ill informed and prejudiced against those operating with any type of psychosis before…

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Thank you for sharing your story and life experience. I’m sorry that your son is schizophrenic. I believe you’ve learned how to cope with it and it is not so hard as before. Still, schizophrenics are the same people we are, just with their particularities.

Regarding smoking, I tried to say that often, tobacco makes the symptoms of schizophrenia more intense. It is not recommended to smoke or use drugs, but yes, many schizophrenics smoke cigs.

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I understand that an average person may be unaware of different mental illnesses. We shouldn’t be afraid of what we don’t know or don’t understand (although it pertains human beings). Of course, there are different situations but we shouldn’t run to extremes. We need to learn how to tolerate and empathize.

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I was like you @oldladyblue I did not know anything at all about mental illness before faced with my son’s situation. It was me “trying to treat him just like me only with a few peculiarities” that got me and him into big trouble. He was never going to be just like me or like anyone ever again. Even stable he is unable to socialize or work or handle many everyday responsibilities that a lot of us take for granted. With my help he can get by okay.

That was very hard for me to accept, as it is for most people who are caregivers. It was only after I took the “Family to Family” course offered by NAMI that really opened my eyes to the very specific and real differences that the mentally have because their brains operate entirely differently, often even after on steady medication.

I realized it was up to me to accept the new and different way my son thinks and acts, he acts acceptable in most social situations, now that he is stable on medication but it is not at all like when he was not sick and it is not like me or anyone else in our family accept maybe my one sister who is also ill with schizoaffective disorder. Admittedly, those two share some glaring similarities in thinking and behavior.

Overall the the uneducated public at large does need to try to educate themselves on mental illness because it can strike anyone at anytime and I agree we always need to mindfully lead with compassion.

@Catherine and @CatherineF Both of you put your finger right on what is needed, but I don’t know how exactly to bring it about. My own family members are intolerant and don’t empathize with my daughter’s illness. Her brothers are afraid to be with her in public because of her odd outbursts toward other people (strangers). So mostly they ignore her (and me). I myself was afraid and didn’t handle my daughter’s illness in the beginning, before NAMI, and I certainly didn’t accept it for a long time. I resented her. It took me sooooo long, to be nice again. Ugh.

I didn’t understand that mental illness can strike anyone at anytime, until it hit my daughter. Only through NAMI classes did I begin to accept her illness. During family-to-family, I finally realized that my husband is also mentally ill and self-medicates with alcohol. Then I felt doubly depressed and resentful. Compassion came quite a bit later. Neither of them will treat. I look back and wonder at my own meanness… But life is certainly much improved in my household following my finally understanding that their brains don’t function normally.

I wish there were a way to educate the public at large, but their resentment and fear toward anyone who can’t help themselves with their odd behavior is very strong. Look how long it took me to educate myself and feel compassion?


We also thought our sons behavior was due to drugs and then got him clean and passing drug tests. He still had the symptoms and they got worse. We do the best with the knowledge we have at the time. I often wish we had done things differently but I know we did the best we could and keep learning. I can relate to your story!


It seems to me that you have been able to move into compassion amazingly rapidly, given the circumstances.

It has been seven years for me so far, and I still find myself moving in and out of my preferred states (compassion and acceptance).