Substance use disorder is common in patients with schizophrenia and dramatically worsens their outcome. The typical antipsychotic medications, introduced over 50 years ago, are effective for the treatment of psychosis but may have only limited efficacy in patients with these co-occurring disorders because patients continue to use substances while taking them. In preliminary studies, however, several of the atypical antipsychotic medications have shown promise for reducing alcohol and drug use in patients with schizophrenia. A neurobiologic formulation is discussed, suggesting that the use of substances in patients with schizophrenia may be based on a dysfunction within the dopamine-mediated brain reward circuitry, and that clozapine in particular, may potentially ameliorate this dysfunction and lessen the desire for substance use. Medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorders, such as disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate, as well as other adjunctive medications, may also be useful. Further studies are required to establish a solid evidence base of best practices for the use of medications in these patients.
Keywords: Schizophrenia, Substance Abuse, Brain Reward, Atypical Antipsychotics, Clozapine