Top Ten Legal Drugs Linked to Violence

Dees Illustration

Maia Szalavitz
Time Magazine

When people consider the connections between drugs and violence, what typically comes to mind are illegal drugs like crack cocaine. However, certain medications — most notably, some antidepressants like Prozac — have also been linked to increase risk for violent, even homicidal behavior.

A new study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices published in the journal PloS One and based on data from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System has identified 31 drugs that are disproportionately linked with reports of violent behavior towards others. (More on Time.com: New Hope For An Anti-Cocaine Vaccine)

Please note that this does not necessarily mean that these drugs cause violent behavior. For example, in the case of opioid pain medications like Oxycontin, people with a prior history of violent behavior may seek  drugs in order to sustain an addiction, which they support via predatory crime. In the case of antipsychotics, the drugs may be given in an attempt to reduce violence by people suffering from schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders — so the drugs here might not be causing violence, but could be linked with it because they’re used to try to stop it.

Nonetheless, when one particular drug in a class of nonaddictive drugs used to treat the same problem stands out, that suggests caution: unless the drug is being used to treat radically different groups of people, that drug may actually be the problem. Researchers calculated a ratio of risk for each drug compared to the others in the database, adjusting for various relevant factors that could create misleading comparisons.  Here are the top ten offenders:

10. Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) An antidepressant which affects both serotonin and noradrenaline, this drug is 7.9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.



9. Venlafaxine (Effexor) A drug related to Pristiq in the same class of antidepressants, both are also used to treat anxiety disorders. Effexor is 8.3 times more likely than other drugs to be related to violent behavior. (More on Time.com: Adderall May Not Make You Smarter, But It Makes You Think You Are)

8. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) An antidepressant that affects serotonin (SSRI), Luvox is 8.4 times more likely than other medications to be linked with violence

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