HealthDay News — According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, released prisoners may be less likely to commit violent crimes if they are prescribed certain kinds of psychiatric medications.

Seena Fazel, MD, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues looked at information on 22,275 prisoners in Sweden. They were released between July 2005 and December 2010. 

The researchers had a median of nearly 5 years of follow-up information. During that time, 18.1% of the prisoners committed violent crimes.

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There were 3 classes of drugs that were linked to much lower rates of violent crimes. Antipsychotics were tied to a 42% reduction in violent crimes. For psychostimulants, the reduction was 38%. Drugs to treat addiction were linked to a 52% reduction. 

Antidepressants and antiepileptics didn’t seem to have an effect on violent crime rates. Psychological treatments targeting general criminal attitudes and substance abuse also helped lower the likelihood of violent crimes.

“These findings may have implications for risk management, because prison psychological programs need appropriate facilities, require sufficiently trained and supervised therapists and are likely to be relatively expensive,” the authors write. 

“Because prisoners with psychiatric disorders benefit from both pharmacological and psychological treatments, research should investigate whether combining therapies improves outcomes.”


Chang Z, Lichtenstein P, Långström N, Larsson H, Fazel S. “Association Between Prescription of Major Psychotropic Medications and Violent Reoffending After Prison Release.” JAMA. 2016. 316(17):1798-1807. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.15380.

Swanson J. “Mental Illness, Release From Prison, and Social Context.” JAMA. 2016. 316(17):1771-1772. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12434.