, Volume 36, Issue 11, pp 523-528

Schizophrenia and substance misuse problems: a comparison between patients with and without significant carer contact

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Aim Many researchers and clinicians in the mental health field have given much attention over the last few years to patients with co-morbid problems of schizophrenia and substance use. This population is becoming a focus of attention for all service providers owing to the suggested increase in numbers of patients with these dual diagnoses and the observed negative effects on patients and costs to services. The advantages for providing family interventions in schizophrenia are now well established and increasingly these interventions are being evaluated for families of dual diagnosis patients. Many dually diagnosed patients do not, however, have a great deal of contact with a carer/relative. This paper looks at whether differences exist between patients with a dual diagnosis that have carer contact and those who do not have carer contact in terms of their illness history and type of substance use. For the purpose of this article ‘carer’ refers to an individual who is an informal carer or relative with whom the client has weekly contact of 10h. Many of these carers provide the client with emotional, physical and material support. Method The identification process for both ‘carer contact’ and ‘no carer contact’ patients was conducted through the screening of the hospital's care programme approach (CPA) lists and through contact with care co-ordinators and consultants. Case notes of all patients identified were screened and information on demographic data, duration of illness, admissions and substance use was collected. Results Results indicated that the ‘no carer contact’ group was older and had significantly more days in hospital at last admission. Conclusions It is possible that as patients get older their contact with significant others decreases, i. e. loss of contact with key relatives is due to age rather than severity of substance use. Furthermore, patients' reduced contact results in them having longer stays in hospital possibly because they will not receive additional support when discharged.

Accepted: 16 July 2001