A new study published in World Psychiatry suggests that prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines are associated with greater risks of committing homicide. Researchers behind the study sought to investigate if there was any scientific data linking psychotropic drug use and violent behavior, a subject of debate following cases of massacres in public facilities around the world.
The team of researchers examined data from the Finnish Prescription Register and Finnish Homicide Database of the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy. The data consisted of information gathered in Finland between 2003 and 2011. The researchers collected data on 959 convicted murderers, focusing the participants’ mental health conditions prior to committing murder.
The results found no significant link between the use of antipsychotics and an increased risk of committing murder. On the other hand, antidepressant use seemed to predict a slightly increased chance of committing murder, with a 31 percent higher risk of violent tendencies.
The use of prescription narcotics showed to have a much more significant link to incidents concerning homicide. Benzodiazepines were associated with a 45 percent increased risk of committing homicide, opiate painkillers showed to have a 92 percent increased risk and the leading narcotic triggering violence was anti-inflammatory painkillers with a 206 percent increased risk.
The results also suggest that there is a 95 percent increased rate of homicide when using benzodiazepines in people under 25 years old. Those under 25 who used prescription opioids revealed a 223 percent increased risk of homicide.
In several of the cases examined, the convicts were prescribed benzodiazepines at very high doses for prolonged periods of time. Research indicates that long-term benzodiazepine consumption could affect impulsivity. Painkiller use has been shown to affect how the brain processes emotions.
Dr. Jari Tiihonen, lead author of the study said, “I think that these chemical substances affect the impulse control of the person.” Past studies have analyzed data concerning the effects of antidepressant on users, however, Tiihonen’s study compared data across a wide range of medications. Tiihonen added “On the basis of our results, benzodiazepines and painkillers, but not antidepressants, are linked to a significantly higher risk.” Tiihonen wondered if similar research from other countries would produce the same results.
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Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer