Drug abuse treatment for mentally ill could reduce future violence

A study funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that patients with dual mental illness and substance abuse disorder will reduce their chances of being violent in the future if they seek out an drug abuse treatment program.

A difference of opinions

Yet the opinions on the subject are fairly controversial. Some may believe that violent behavior can only be reduced by having the patient improve his or her symptoms of mental illness. However, researchers from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions believe that limiting substance abuse behavior has a larger influence on reducing the amount of violent acts from patients with serious mental illness.

The study authors followed approximately 300 patients over a six-month period. The patients were all admitted to a dual-diagnosis outpatient program that treated mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

“We were surprised to find that the severity of the patient’s psychiatric symptoms was not the primary factor in predicting later aggression,” lead researcher Clara Bradizza stated.

The correlation between substance abuse and violence

The researchers found that substance abuse and addiction had a stronger correlation to violent behavior than mental illness did.

Though a large portion of the mentally ill population does not actually deal with violence or act violently, the risk of acting violently is higher in this population than the general population. There is a strong correlation between substance abuse, mental illness and violence. These significant ties endanger and concern the general community, treatment programs and public policy.

Learning more about dual diagnoses drug abuse treatment

A dual diagnosis of mental illness and addiction is very common, the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated. People can have a dual diagnosis for battling drug or alcohol addiction. In order for people to be diagnosed with a mental illness, they need to fit the symptoms for the illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Often, one causes the other or they appear at the same time.

An interchangeable issue

However, dual diagnoses are much more complex than having either disorder alone. Recent studies have shown that approximately one-third of all people with mental illnesses and one-half of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, also deal with drug abuse. Conversely, more than one-third of those who abuse alcohol and one-half of all drug abusers deal with a mental illness, NAMI stated.

People with a mental illness may try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, leading to substance abuse. Sometimes, the problem exacerbates because people will not seek help or drug abuse treatment for their issues.

Looking forward

“Our findings suggest that treatment attendance is very important for these individuals and drug abuse treatment programs should include interventions that are likely to decrease drug abuse, as this may provide the additional benefit of reducing the risk of later aggression among dual-diagnosis patients,” Bradizza stated.

Proper drug abuse treatment and handling of mentally ill individuals could protect themselves, their families and society overall.

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