Substance Abuse Treatment Can Reduce Violence And Aggression

Substance AbuseSubstance abuse treatment has proven to be incredibly effective for those who are seeking a sober life. Drug detox and rehabilitative services work well to keep someone sober, especially if a recovering addict is serious about their drug treatment.

But how does drug treatment affect the lives of those with mental illness? Especially patients with severe mental illness? According to a new study done by the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), reducing substance abuse has a great influence in reducing violent acts by patients with severe mental illness.

Having both an addiction to substances and a mental illness is known as a co-occurring disorder. It’s also known having a dual diagnosis. Approximately, 60-75% of those who abuse drugs or alcohol also have a mental illness. Mental illnesses that frequently co-exist with substance use are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those with severe mental illnesses might have disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or disorders of psychosis.

Treatment Helps With Underlying Issues

As you can imagine, to best treat both the mental illness and an addiction, there would ideally be an integration of services between the psychiatric and the drug counseling fields. Treatment should also explore any underlying issues that may have contributed to either the mental illness or the addiction in the first place.

Often, this can be early childhood trauma, the presence of addiction in the family home, the loss of a loved one, or chronic experiences of helplessness. However, those with severe mental illness may have suffered from both early childhood traumas as well as have a genetic predisposition that might have brought on a psychiatric illness.

The study suggests that substance abuse treatment is important for those who have a dual diagnosis because as the results of the study suggest, drug treatment might also lead to reduced levels of violence.

Although the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, the risk of violence is greater among those with mental illness than other substance abusers. The connection between severe mental illness, substance abuse, and violence is a concern for many communities.

Mental health professionals see the need to protect a community’s safety, the effectiveness of treatment programs, and the family members of those who are in drug treatment.

Substance AbuseIt’s not uncommon that an individual with schizophrenia would have an addiction to either drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have schizophrenia are much more likely to have a substance abuse addiction than the general population.

Yet, at times it can be difficult to tell the difference between those with schizophrenia and those who are affected by alcohol or drugs because those who abuse drugs can show similar symptoms to those who have schizophrenia.

Sadly, a schizophrenic individual who uses substances is less likely to follow their therapeutic treatment plan, and the substances used can make treatment less effective. Furthermore, not following one’s treatment plan might increase the chances of violence for that individual.

However, according to the study, if he or she were actively participating in substance abuse treatment, the risk of violence may decrease.

Study Results

Interestingly, the most common substance addiction is not what most people think. Most people with schizophrenia have an addiction to nicotine. In fact, they are three times more likely to be addicted to nicotine than the rest of the general population.

Although nicotine is a common addiction, alcohol addiction is a close second. Many individuals who have a severe mental illness fit the criteria for a substance abuse disorder diagnosis.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Substance abuse treatment can bring those with severe mental illness more benefits than sobriety alone.


University at Buffalo. (2014, October 1). Treatment of substance abuse can lessen risk of future violence in mentally ill. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from


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