A Killer Combination: Study Reveals the Risk of Homicide Among Prescription Medication Users

In the past few years, the nation has been plagued by a prescription pill epidemic that is showing no signs of abating. Despite their high addiction potential and its dangers to the physical and mental health of those who use them, the use of prescription medications is widespread in the United States. The following statistics that are provided by the According to statistics provided by the National institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) brings into clear focus just how prevalent prescription pill use is in the United States:

  • The United States makes up only 5% of the total world population, yet consumes 75% of all prescription drugs.
  • An estimated 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription medications such as painkillers and anti-anxiety medications for non-medical reasons.
  • 6.1 million Americans used prescription medications for recreational purposes.

When we talk about prescription medication abuse in America, the majority of the focus in on prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. Statistics from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) show that nearly 19,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2014. Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 years or older that had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million were addicted to prescription pain medications.

The statistics and the news reports aren’t exaggerating the issue; prescription pill abuse is an all too vivid reality in the United States. To make matters even worse, the use of prescription painkillers–even when taken as directed and under the supervision of medical staff–can pose dangers to one’s health and can even lead to far more dire consequences.

The Use and Abuse Of Prescription Painkillers Can Be Dangerous…and Even Deadly


As stated in the opening, prescribed medications have a high potential for addiction. When these medications are being used on a recreational basis and not under the close supervision of experienced medical staff, users can experience significant and adverse changes in their mental health. If these drugs are taken in excess or are combined with other illicit and over-the-counter medications, the results to an individual’s overall health can be catastrophic. According to a study published last June in The Journal of World Psychiatry, the use of painkillers (such as Oxycontin and Vicodin) and anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Klonopin are associated with an increased risk of homicide.

Prescription Pills As ‘Killer Drugs’: A New Study

It has long been established that mental illness and the use of psychiatric drugs have been blamed for violent behaviors. However, the scientific evidence for a connection had in large part been limited. However, a new study suggests that taking not only tranquilizers but also regular prescription pain relievers is linked with an increased risk of committing homicide.

In an article published last month in Forbes magazine, writer David DiSalvo references a major study that was conducted by Finnish researchers regarding the connection between the use of prescription medications and the occurrence of homicides in Finland. In this particular study, researchers had collected data from just under 959 men and women who were convicted of homicide between 2003 and 2011. Researchers had searched out their records in the country’s extensive drug registry. These records included the subjects’ use of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Klonopin and Valium, as well as antidepressants, and prescription painkillers. The use of the drugs spanned over a seven-year period.

three prescription bottles

The Results of the Study


When researchers compiled the results, the findings were shocking. For those who were incarcerated, using sedatives had correlated with an increased homicide risk of 45%. Additionally, those in the study that had used antidepressant medications correlated with a 31% increased risk and those who had used prescription painkillers had a 92% increased risk of committing homicide.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was those subjects who used over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Those who had used these medications had seen a  a 206% increased risk of committing homicide. In those in the sample group who were 26 years of age or younger, the highest increased risk was associated with opiate painkillers and benzodiazepines.

Additionally, researchers had cross-checked the records against available police reports from these homicides to find out whether the assailants had alcohol or illicit drugs in their blood. It was discovered that 79% of the homicides did involve alcohol. However, the results that linked the risk of homicide to the various classes of drugs was still statistically significant.

What This Study Suggests and Possible Future Study

According to the authors of the study, there are some possible reasons for the positive correlations between use of prescription medications and the risk for violent acts such as homicide. First, there have been previous studies which suggest that the use of benzodiazepines such as Xanax reduce a person’s impulse control. Additionally, the period of time these drugs are taken can also have adverse effects. Long-term use of benzos can cause increased aggression and well as a phenomenon called emotional blunting in which users will fail to experience normal responses to emotions.

When people experience this phenomenon, they feel “flat” and will not experience the highs or lows that emotions bring. When emotional blunting occurs, people recognize they have feelings, but they can’t find in their heart to genuinely express those emotions. Ultimately, people will feel like that don’t care about anything anymore.

In regards to the extremely high correlation in the risk of homicides with use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, recent studies have suggested that the use of these types of medications may dull negative and positive responses in some people. It is important to note this study found an association between increased homicide risk and use of prescription pill and not a definite cause-and-effect relationship. Future research should be aimed towards substantiating the finding of this current study.

Are You Struggling with an Addiction To Prescription Medication?


Prescription drug addiction is widespread across the United States and causes great emotional and mental damage to those addicted as well as their families. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription pill abuse, it is important that you seek help immediately to break the dangerous cycle of addiction. You need to turn to a drug treatment center like Dream Center of Recovery to have the best chance at long-term recovery.

As one of the premier drug treatment facilities in the state of Florida, Dream Center for Recovery offers all people who struggle with addiction a wide range of treatment programs and services that are evidence-based and proven to work for you. From medical detoxification and therapy to life skills training and relapse prevention education, the experienced addiction professionals at Dream Center for Recovery can create an individualized treatment plan that will perfectly fit your unique needs and goals.

In addition to our high-quality treatment services, Dream Center Recovery offers treatment programs that will also fit your specific needs. We offer intensive residential inpatient treatment programs as well as outpatient treatment programs for those with family and work obligations, No matter the severity of your addiction, our committed and experienced staff works with all of our clients all the way through the treatment process and can tailor an individualized plan of recovery that fits each person’s specific needs.

Start on the road recovery today with the help of Dream Center for Recovery.