Antipsychotic Medication Associated With Decreased Rates of Violent Crime in Patients

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According to a new study published in The Lancet, prescribing antipsychotics could potentially reduce psychiatric patients’ propensity to commit violent crimes. Mood stabilizers also had a similar affect, though only in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said lead researcher Seena Fazel and colleagues from the University of Oxford.

In a press release, Fazel stated that the study “provides evidence of potentially substantial reductions in risk of violence, and suggests that violence is to a large extent preventable in patients with psychiatric disorders.”

The researchers used data from Swedish national registers for 82,647 patients being prescribed antipsychotics or mood stabilizers between 2006 and 209. The overall rate of crime in this cohort during this period, including crimes that dd not lead to conviction and those that were investigated but no charges were brought, was 6.5% among men and 1.4% among women.

The researchers saw that the rates of violent crime fell by a significant 45% during period when patients were taking antipsychotics compared to when they were not. There was also a significant 24% reduction found in those prescribed mood stabilizers, but the effects were only significant for patients with bipolar disorder when the researchers grouped by diagnosis. Among patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder taking mood stabilizers, Fazel and colleagues saw a 56% reduction in violent crime.

Antipsychotic treatment was correlated with a 35% reduction in violent crime in patients with schizophrenia, a 48% reduction among those with bipolar disorder, and a 57% reduction among patients with other psychotic disorders.

Neither drug treatments were associated with a reduction in violent crime among patients with depression.

However, in a commentary that accompanied the study, Sheilagh Hodgins from the University of Montreal highlights that there was a 43% reduction in violent crime for all patients given a psychiatric drug, despite about 60% of patients not having a psychiatric diagnosis.

“These results might represent the increased risk of violent behavior in people with psychotic-like experiences who do not have psychotic disorders”, she suggests, adding that this “warrants further investigation.”

Hodgins also points out that among those with schizophrenia, those who commit violent crimes are not a homogeneous population. In particular, she highlights that those with conduct disorders predating schizophrenia onset “represent a distinct phenotype who may respond differently than other patients to antipsychotic drugs.”

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