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This study was designed to assess whether cocaine abuse was associated with a different set of antecedents and course for hospitalized schizophrenic patients. Forty-three cocaine-using and 27 non-cocaine-using patients with schizophrenia admitted to a dual diagnosis unit were compared with regard to antecedents to hospitalization such as prior treatment episodes, reliance on drugs for pleasure and tension reduction, and criminal history as well as course of hospital treatment. Cocaine-using patients were more likely to have had a history of prior inpatient drug treatment and to rely on drugs to a greater extent for tension reduction and pleasure. There was a trend for cocaine users to have a history of arrests for violent crimes. Although cocaine-using patients exhibited lower levels of global distress during the first week of hospitalization, they were no different from their counterparts who abused nonpsychostimulant drugs with regard to outcome of hospital treatment. These findings suggest that the lifetime course of illness among schizophrenic patients presenting for hospitalization who abuse cocaine may be characterized by episodes of repeated inpatient drug treatment and impaired impulse control. More rigorous discharge planning and aftercare program monitoring in the community as well as stress management interventions directed to tension reduction are therefore warranted.