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Effect of Psychotropic Drugs in a Prison Setting.

A Federal Maximum Security Institution.

Workman D.G., Cunningham D.G.
Canadian Family Physician, November 1975.
  • Observations:
  • Violent aggressive incidents occurred in inmates who were on psychotropic drugs more frequently than in those who were not.
  • 81% of the cases took diazepam (valium).
  • 3.6 times as many acts of aggression occurred when inmates were on these drugs.
  • For the other classes of psychotropic medication the aggressive incident rate was double the rate of those not no psychotropic medication.
  • Crimes committed by those inmates in the study included: murder, attempted rape, rape, attempted murder, indecent assault, assault, armed robbery, robbery with violence, assault or wounding with intent.
  • Period studied: 1st December 1972 - May 31st 1973 (6 months).
  • All males , age range 18 - 50.
  • Of the 28 inmates who received some psychotropic medication, 22 showed a greater rate of aggressive incidents on days when on medication than days when off medication.
  • The group who did receive some medication were not significantly more aggressive as a group over the whole time period studied, but their acts of agggression were clearly tied to the taking of psychotropic drugs.
  • Of the total psychotropic medication used, 70% was prescribed by the prison psychiatrist.
  • This seems to disprove any disclaimer that the aggressive incidents occurred because the inmate was anxious and unable to control his frustration, or would have been aggressive regardless of drug ingestion, since the inmate was better able to control his aggression before he received the psychotropic medication, whereupon the aggressive incident rate almost triples.
  • Considering that certainly not all aggressive personalities are in prison, that frustration also abounds in society and that diazepam is the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S., with chlordiazepoxide (librium) third. The implications of the combination of anti-anxiety agents and agressiveness are astounding.
  • Further, considering the paucity of information concerning the effects of psychotropic medication on selected groups, or on the mechanisms of these drugs, more investigation seems mandatory.

Canadian Family Physician,
November 1975.