Disease States / Health / Toxicology

Treatment of substance abuse can reduce risk of violence in mentally ill patients

Treatment of substance abuse can reduce risk of violence in mentally ill patientsResearch by the University at Buffalo has found that in patients diagnosed with both a severe mental illness and substance abuse, treatment of the substance abuse has a greater influence in reducing violent acts by the patient.

The study was founded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and followed roughly 300 patients over a six month period.  The patients had been admitted to an outpatient dual-diagnosis treatment program that provided both substance abuse and mental illness treatment.

The university wanted to find out whether improvements in these patients’ mental health or substance abuse issues were likely to reduce the risk of future violence.  Although some believe that improving symptoms of mental illness is more likely to reduce the risk for future violent episodes, this new study suggests reducing substance abuse has a greater influence.

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

Although the vast majority of mentally ill people do not engage in violent acts, the connection between severe mental illness, substance abuse and aggression is a significant concern for community safety, treatment programs and public policy.

“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 says. “This not only improves the lives of affected individuals and their families, but also provides a safer environment for society as a whole.”

Source: Science Daily

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