Improving the care of individuals with schizophrenia and substance use disorders: consensus recommendations

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

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Document Type



Algorithms; Antipsychotic Agents; Cognitive Therapy; Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry); Drug Interactions; Evidence-Based Medicine; Humans; Mental Health Services; *Quality of Health Care; Schizophrenia; Substance-Related Disorders




National attention continues to focus on the need to improve care for individuals with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders, as emphasized in the 2003 President's New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health and recent publications from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These reports document the need for best practice recommendations that can be translated into routine clinical care. Although efforts are underway to synthesize literature in this area, few focused recommendations are available that include expert opinion and evidence-based findings on the management of specific co-occurring disorders, such as schizophrenia and addiction. In response to the need for user-friendly recommendations on the treatment of schizophrenia and addiction, a consensus conference of experts from academic institutions and state mental health systems was organized to 1) frame the problem from clinical and systems-level perspectives; 2) identify effective and problematic psychosocial, pharmacological, and systems practices; and 3) develop a summary publication with recommendations for improving current practice. The results of the consensus meeting served as the foundation for this publication, which presents a broad set of recommendations for clinicians who treat individuals with schizophrenia. "Integrated treatment" is the new standard for evidence-based treatment for this population and recommendations are given to help clinicians implement such integrated treatment. Specific recommendations are provided concerning screening for substance use disorders in patients with schizophrenia, assessing motivation for change, managing medical conditions that commonly occur in patients with dual diagnoses (e.g., cardiovascular disease, liver complications, lung cancer, HIV, and hepatitis B or C infections) and selecting the most appropriate medications for such patients to maximize safety and minimize drug interactions, use of evidence-based psychosocial interventions for patients with dual diagnoses (e.g., Dual Recovery Therapy, modified cognitive-behavioral therapy, modified motivational enhancement therapy, and the Substance Abuse Management Module), and key pharmacotherapy principles for treating schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and comorbid anxiety, depression, and sleep problems in this population. Finally the article reviews programmatic and systemic changes needed to overcome treatment barriers and promote the best outcomes for this patient population. An algorithm summarizing the consensus recommendations is provided in an appendix.


J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):315-39.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of psychiatric practice

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