Substance Abuse Treatment Cuts Violence Risk In Severely Mentally Ill

A new study suggests treating the substance abuse problems of those with severe mental illness can reduce their risk of future violence.

Severe mental illness is often accompanied by substance abuse. In these cases, it is often difficult to determine if interventions should focus on improving mental health or mitigating substance abuse to reduce the risk of future violence.

“We were surprised to find that the severity of the patient’s psychiatric symptoms was not the primary factor in predicting later aggression,” said Clara Bradizza, Ph.D., of the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions and co-author of the study.

“Rather, the patient’s substance abuse was the factor most closely associated with future aggression.”

Although the vast majority of people with mental illness do not engage in violent acts, the risk of violence is greater among the severely mentally ill than among the general population.

Moreover, 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 said.

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

Researchers followed nearly 300 patients over a six-month period after admission to an outpatient dual-diagnosis treatment program that provided both substance abuse and mental illness treatment.

The results appear in the current online edition of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Source: University of Buffalo

Man receiving treatment for substance abuse photo by shutterstock.