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Commentary
August 4, 2010

Violent Behavior in Mental Illness: The Role of Substance Abuse

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York (Dr Volavka); and Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina (Dr Swanson).

JAMA. 2010;304(5):563-564. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1097

That comorbid substance use disorders substantially increase the risk for violence in mental illness has been known for decades.1 However, the prevailing view, based on US1 and Scandinavian epidemiologic studies,2 has been that serious mental illness also confers a significant relative risk for violence even in the absence of such comorbidity. Accordingly, a broad clinical consensus has emerged that violence risk management in psychiatric patients with dual diagnoses requires treatment of both the underlying psychopathology and comorbid substance abuse.

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