A study that was recently concluded by the University of Buffalo shows that the risk of violence associated with severe mental illness may be lowered with effective substance abuse treatment. Severe mental illness is often complicated by substance abuse, and alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of the individual becoming violent. For many physicians and medical professionals it is difficult to determine whether the intervention should place a focus on the substance abuse treatment or on treating the severe mental illness. Study co-author Clara Bradizza, Ph.D., who is associated with the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, stated “We were surprised to find that the severity of the patient’s psychiatric symptoms was not the primary factor in predicting later aggression. Rather, the patient’s substance abuse was the factor most closely associated with future aggression.”
Individuals with a severe mental illness have a higher risk of committing acts of violence than those without any mental illness, and substance abuse can greatly increase these risks. Without substance abuse treatment the mentally ill may become aggressive in the future. Clara Bradizza went on to say “Our findings suggest that treatment attendance is very important for these individuals and treatment programs should include interventions that are likely to decrease substance abuse, as this may provide the additional benefit of reducing the risk of later aggression among dual-diagnosis patients. This not only improves the lives of affected individuals and their families, but also provides a safer environment for society as a whole.” The study involved almost 300 patients who had received a dual diagnosis.