A leading psychiatrist has stated that the huge violent crime rate reduction in the western world can be attributed in part to an increase in the use of antipsychotic drugs by patients suffering from mental illness.
Several countries, including the UK, have recorded a steady decline in recorded violence over the last few years, with the reason for it remaining a mystery. Explanations have ranged from the widespread use of CCTV cameras to the reduction in lead present in petrol.
However, a new study indicated that people using antipsychotic medications to treat their mental illnesses were almost half as likely to commit violent crime, than if they were not using the medication. This according to Dr Seena Fazel, a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at Oxford University, who has had his paper published in The Lancet medical journal.
The paper did not state if this was the effect on overall crime rates. Dr Fazel stated that there is documented evidence of increases in prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs in several high income countries. Taking this evidence, along with the disproportionate number of crimes committed by those suffering severe mental illness, alcohol or drug problems, it was ‘an interesting possibility’ that the medication may be partly responsible for the overall decline in violence.
He stated that about 2% of people with severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are prescribed this type of medication. They fall into the group which is responsible for up to 10% of violent crime in most of the western countries.
The data also includes those who have alcohol and drug problems, but not severe mental illness. These people fall into a group that is 10 times more likely to commit violent crimes, compared to the general population. This indicates that within the groups of people who are prescribed these drugs, the risk of violent crime is particularly high.
He said that they cannot be sure that antipsychotics are contributing to the decline in violent crime, but it should be viewed as an interesting possibility.
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