Violence and severe mental illness: the effects of substance abuse and nonadherence to medication.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVE: Violent behavior among individuals with severe mental illness has become an important focus in community-based care. This study examines the joint effect of substance abuse and medication noncompliance on the greater risk of serious violence among persons with severe mental illness. METHOD: Involuntarily admitted inpatients with severe mental illness who were awaiting a period of outpatient commitment were enrolled in a longitudinal outcome study. At baseline, 331 subjects underwent an extensive face-to-face interview. Complementary data were gathered by a review of hospital records and a telephone interview with a family member or other informant. These data included subjects' sociodemographic characteristics, illness history, clinical status, medication adherence, substance abuse, insight into illness, and violent behavior during the 4 months that preceded hospitalization. Associations between serious violent acts and a range of individual characteristics and problems were analyzed by using multivariable logistic regression. RESULTS: The combination of medication noncompliance and alcohol or substance abuse problems was significantly associated with serious violent acts in the community, after sociodemographic and clinical characteristics were controlled. CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol or other drug abuse problems combined with poor adherence to medication may signal a higher risk of violent behavior among persons with severe mental illness. Reduction of such risk may require carefully targeted community interventions, including integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Swartz, MS; Swanson, JW; Hiday, VA; Borum, R; Wagner, HR; Burns, BJ

Published Date

  • February 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 155 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 226 - 231

PubMed ID

  • 9464202

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-953X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1176/ajp.155.2.226


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States