Better Mental Health, Less Crime

Psychiatric disorders controlled with medication linked to lower violent crime rates

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit violent crimes. But there remain some outliers among those with psychiatric disorders who do commit violent crimes.

A recent study found that treating psychiatric patients with antipsychotic and/or mood stabilizing medications also had an effect on the violent crime rate.

The rate of violent crimes dropped considerably among the patients when they were taking their medications, compared to when they weren't.

Mood stabilizers are primarily prescribed to those with bipolar disorders, and antipsychotics are prescribed to those with schizophrenia or a number of other psychotic disorders.

"Discuss mental health medication options with your psychiatrist."

This study, led by Seena Fazel, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, looked at whether the use of antipsychotic and mood stabilizing medications had any effect on violent crime rates by patients with mental disorders.

The researchers used data from 82,647 individuals with psychiatric disorders in Sweden, where medical records are nationally kept and easy to study.

The patients had all been prescribed either antipsychotic medications or mood stabilizers.

The researchers compared these patients' criminal convictions between 2006 and 2009 with the time period they were and were not taking their medications.

In other words, for each person, the researchers looked at whether and how much violent crime that person committed while prescribed psychiatric medication, compared to the violent crime they committed while not taking medications.

Among the total sample in the study, 40,937 were men who had been prescribed antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. A total of 6.5 percent (2,657 men) were convicted of a violent crime between 2006 and 2009.

Meanwhile, among the 41,710 women prescribed these psychiatric medications, 1.4 percent (604 women) were convicted of a violent crime.

When the researchers compared the violent crimes committed by these individuals while on and off medication, they found that violent crime fell by 45 percent when participants were taking antipsychotics, compared to not taking them.

Among the patients taking mood stabilizers, the violent crime rate was 24 percent lower when patients were taking the medications than when they weren't taking them.

However, the reduction in crime among patients taking mood stabilizers only existed for those patients who had bipolar disorder.

In looking at the patients taking antipsychotics, the researchers also found that other types of crime, including drug-related crimes, less severe or nonviolent crimes and violent arrest, were about 22 to 29 percent lower when the patients were taking their medications.

Another finding was that the link between fewer crimes and medication was most pronounced in patients prescribed higher medication doses, compared to those with lower doses.

"In addition to relapse prevention and psychiatric symptom relief, the benefits of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers might also include reductions in the rates of violent crime," the researchers wrote.

"The potential effects of these drugs on violence and crime should be taken into account when treatment options for patients with psychiatric disorders are being considered," they wrote.

This study was published May 8 in The Lancet.

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 10, 2014
Last Updated:
May 12, 2014