Taking antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications are both associated with increased risks that a person will commit a homicide, according to a study from Finland published in a World Psychiatry letter.
The team of Finnish researchers examined the use of prescription drugs among people convicted of a homicide in Finland between 2003 and 2011, and compared them to a control population.
“After confounding factors were controlled for, the results show that the use of anti-psychotics was not associated with a significantly increased risk of committing a homicide,” stated a press release about the study. “(T)he use of anti-depressants was associated with a slightly elevated risk (+31%), and the use of benzodiazepines (drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia) with a significantly elevated risk (+45%).”
The researchers also found that much higher risks of committing homicide were associated with taking addictive and non-addictive painkillers. In addition, although the researchers did not elaborate on it, being male and intoxicated with alcohol were linked to higher risks of violence than any other factors studied: 88.5% of the offenders were males, and 79.4% were intoxicated by alcohol at the time of their offense.
The researchers concluded that the risks of violence related to the use of painkillers and benzodiazepines warranted further study. They added that antidepressants seemed to increase the likelihood that a person would commit homicide “only modestly,” and therefore, they argued, “the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior.”
Tiihonen, Jari, Martti Lehti, Mikko Aaltonen, Janne Kivivuori, Hannu Kautiainen, Lauri J. Virta, Fabian Hoti, Antti Tanskanen, and Pasi Korhonen. “Psychotropic Drugs and Homicide: A Prospective Cohort Study from Finland.” World Psychiatry 14, no. 2 (June 1, 2015): 245–47. doi:10.1002/wps.20220. (Full text)
Study analyzes link between psychotropic drugs and homicide risk (University of Eastern Finland press release on MedicalXpress, June 1, 2015)
Killer Drugs? Homicide Risk Linked to Medications (LiveScience, June 1, 2015)