Benzodiazepine medications that are commonly used for calming or sedating people can sometimes apparently cause violent or aggressive responses in some people, according to a review of the scientific literature in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.
A team of Australian researchers analyzed forty-six studies in total, though they could not do a formal meta-analysis because the studies were so different. However, they concluded that, “An association between benzodiazepine use and subsequent aggressive behaviour was found in the majority of the more rigorous studies, although there is a paucity of high-quality research with clinical or forensic populations.”
“Dose-related findings are inconsistent,” the authors noted. “Therapeutic doses may be more likely to be associated with aggressive responding when administered as a once-off, whereas higher doses may be more risky following repeated administration.” The authors also found that people who already have “trait levels of anxiety and hostility” may be more likely to have violent responses to the drugs.
“There appears to be a moderate association between some benzodiazepines and subsequent aggressive behaviour in humans,” the authors concluded. “The circumstances under which aggressive responding may be more likely to follow benzodiazepine use remain unclear, although some evidence suggests dose and/or personality factors may influence this effect.”
(Abstract) Benzodiazepine use and aggressive behaviour: A systematic review (Albrecht, Bonnie et al. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. December 2014. doi: 10.1177/0004867414548902)