Treating Substance Abuse in Those With Mental Illness Prevents Future Violence

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Mental illness is often cited as a high risk predictor for future violence, but substance abuse is statistically the most highly associated factor in determining how likely someone is to commit violence in the future. A new study supports these ideas as it finds treating substance abuse in mentally ill patients could lessen the risk of future violence.

The researchers from the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions claim reducing substance abuse has an even greater impact in reducing violent acts by patients with severe mental illness than improving mental well-being.

“We were surprised to find that the severity of the patient’s psychiatric symptoms was not the primary factor in predicting later aggression,” Clara Bradizza, senior research scientist at RIA and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Rather, the patient’s substance abuse was the factor most closely associated with future aggression.”

It is important to note that the vast majority of those who live with mental illness do not commit violent acts. However, when mental illness and substance abuse come into contact, especially in someone with aggressive tendencies, it can be a disaster.

The study, published in the online edition of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, evaluated nearly 300 patients during a six-month period after the admission to an outpatient dual-diagnosis treatment program that treated both substance abuse and mental illness treatment.

“Our findings suggest that treatment attendance is very important for these individuals and treatment programs should include interventions that are likely to decrease substance abuse, as this may provide the additional benefit of reducing the risk of later aggression among dual-diagnosis patients,” Bradizza said. “This not only improves the lives of affected individuals and their families, but also provides a safer environment for society as a whole.”

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