Antidepressants Tied To Increased Risk of Homicide “Only Modestly”; Benzodiazepines More So


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)


  1. I guess that with benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers there may be yet more confounding factors that explain the correlation, after all there are certain type of people who try to get prescription for these drugs. Antidepressants had +31% risk, benzodiazepines +45%, opioid painkillers +92% and non-opioid painkillers (NSAID, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) +206%. Any ideas how to explain that correlation for non-opioid analgesics?

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    • Inflammation/chronic pain? People take these to control pain and chronic suffering can cause violence. I’m of course just speculating here. It’s hard for me to imaging aspirin could cause aggression. Benzos – hell yeah.

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  2. How very reassuring! Only a 31% increase – not that important, unless you’re the one getting killed or doing the killing!

    Did they at least suggest that warning patients that this is a rare but serious side effect would be necessary?

    —- Steve

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    • That is a topic that needs to be discussed.

      Hightened risks or not, SSRI-antidepressants has left a trail of many “uncharacteristicly violent” men and women. If we accept that, then we must also be prepared to write a warning about it on the panflet and labels.

      Personally I’d prefer it if we left SSRI’s.

      I’d even say any “risk/benefit”-ratio is nonessential – homicide kind of cancels any and all benefit, wouldn’t you say?

      Steve McCrea shows great empathy when he acknowledges that many “killers” probably would NOT want to have a homicidic reaction to their medicines. No matter what kind of elevated risk he was facing.

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