The combination of drugs and violence is not a new occurrence in drug addiction research and literature. Studies regarding drugs and violence tend to be focused on the external nature of the two, in terms of how and why getting, keeping and selling drugs incites acts of violence. While there have been several studies on alcohol and violence, until recently, there have been relatively few studies that examine if taking prescription drugs induces violent behavior.
Researchers from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Harvard Medical School and Wake Forest University School of Medicine have published a new study looking at which drugs people report having thoughts or conduct acts of violence towards others in association with taking prescription drugs.
The group analyzed reports collected by the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), to look at all of the “serious adverse event reports for drugs with 200 or more cases received from 204 through September 2009. Specifically, cases indicating homicide, homicidal ideation, physical assault, physical abuse or violence related symptoms were considered.”
According to the article, the results were as follows:
- 1527 cases of violence disproportionally reported for 31 drugs
- Primary suspect drugs included:
- Varenicline (an aid to smoking cessation)
- 11 antidepressants
- 6 sedative/hypnotics
- 3 drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- The evidence of an association was weaker and mixed for antipsychotic drugs
- Evidence was absent for all but 1 anticonvulsant/mood stabilizer.
- Two or fewer violence cases were reported for 435/484 (84.7%) of all evaluable drugs suggesting that an association with this adverse event is unlikely for these drugs.
*Results taken directly from report.
Based on what the group found, they were able to make the conclusion that “acts of violence towards others are a genuine and serious adverse drug event associated with a relatively small group of drugs. Varenicline, which increases the availability of dopamine, and antidepressants with serotonergic effects were the most strongly and consistently implicated drugs.”
There definitely needs to be more studies that look into the reasons behind why these drugs cause a violent reactions, specifically, in what ways they target the brain differently than other, non-violence inducing medication.