First episode schizophrenia-related psychosis and substance use disorders: acute response to olanzapine and haloperidol. Academic Article uri icon


  • Co-occurring substance use disorders, mostly involving alcohol, cannabis or cocaine, occur commonly in patients with schizophrenia and are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Available but limited data suggest that substance use disorders (especially cannabis use disorders) may also be common in first-episode patients and appear linked to a poor outcome in these patients. Strategies to curtail substance use form an important dimension of the treatment program for both first-episode and chronic patients. We report on rates of co-occurring substance use disorders in patients within their first episode of schizophrenia-related psychosis from a multicenter, international treatment trial of olanzapine vs. haloperidol.The study involved 262 patients (of 263 who were randomized and who returned for a post-randomization evaluation) within their first episode of psychosis (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or schizophreniform disorder) recruited from 14 academic medical centers in North America and Western Europe. Patients with a history of substance dependence within 1 month prior to entry were excluded.Of this sample, 97 (37%) had a lifetime diagnosis of substance use disorder (SUD); of these 74 (28% of the total) had a lifetime cannabis use disorder (CUD) and 54 (21%) had a lifetime diagnosis of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Patients with SUD were more likely to be men. Those with CUD had a lower age of onset than those without. Patients with SUD had more positive symptoms and fewer negative symptoms than those without SUD, and they had a longer duration of untreated psychosis. The 12-week response data indicated that 27% of patients with SUD were responders compared to 35% of those without SUD. Patients with AUD were less likely to respond to olanzapine than those without AUD.These data suggest that first-episode patients are quite likely to have comorbid substance use disorders, and that the presence of these disorders may negatively influence response to antipsychotic medications, both typical and atypical antipsychotics, over the first 12 weeks of treatment.

publication date

  • February 2004