Substance Dependence, Not Mental Disorders, Predictive of Future Violence

Rob Wipond
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No types of major psychiatric disorders contribute at all towards a higher likelihood of future violent behavior, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. However the researchers found, as have many other studies, that substance abuse and addiction were positive predictors.

The Northwestern University researchers used data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a longitudinal study of youth who were detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago between 1995 and 1998, explained a press release about the study. “Violence and psychiatric disorders were assessed via self-report in 1,659 youth aged 13 to 25 years interviewed up to four times between three and five years after detention.”

“Aside from substance use disorders, the psychiatric disorders studied may not be useful markers of subsequent violence,” the researchers wrote.

“Our findings are relevant to the recent tragic plane crash in the French Alps,” said a co-author in the press release. “Our findings show that no one could have predicted that the pilot — who apparently suffered from depression — would perpetrate this violent act. It is not merely a suicide, but an act of mass homicide.”

Mental disorders don’t predict future violence, study suggests (Northwestern University press release on ScienceDaily, April 24, 2015)

Elkington, Katherine S., Linda A. Teplin, Karen M. Abram, Jessica A. Jakubowski, Mina K. Dulcan, and Leah J. Welty. “Psychiatric Disorders and Violence: A Study of Delinquent Youth After Detention.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 54, no. 4 (April 1, 2015): 302–12.e5. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2015.01.002. (Abstract)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Then what will replace the power of that misconception in the popular imagination if everyone suddenly becomes rational about problems in living and people who struggle with them? Oh, the dreadful work of fantasy upon the mind. What propaganda changes will this entail about “the new stigma”? That seems right to speculate about.

      • squash – I think you’d like that book, form other things you say, and it certainly makes for a snug fit with the whole history and mythology of psychiatry, on purpose. I wanted some context that you might have felt some need for with this headline, too, I mean in that in reacting to the article, your comment asserts the attitude of taking a step back to get a better angle for approaching the message implied, since it is intended to reach more than just us, the psych industry, & the popular press audience. Lots of cultural mythos jumps out if you are apt to consider the force of representations. Again, the cited book….