Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Researchers, eh. What are they like?

Pharmaceuticals are often behind the mass horror killings in schools and public places, a new study has confirmed. But it’s not the antidepressants that are likely to make you a killer, as everyone suspected: the real culprits are painkillers and the benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia.

TL;DR version: At no point do the researchers claim, still less “confirm”, that drugs, of any kind, are “behind” any violent crimes at all.

What they actually say is that people with a history of violent crime should be carefully assessed when prescribing painkillers, because there is an increase (of between zero and two-thirds) in their chances of committing a subsequent violent crime while taking painkillers.

Not dramatic enough, so WDDTY decided to make some shit up. As ever.

First, some perspective. In the UK in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available) there were 8,416 deaths due to a single drug, 2,955 deaths due to all other drugs combined. The larger figure is, of course, for alcohol. The drug that killed Charles Kennedy is still legally on sale in every high street.

But this is not about deaths due to drugs directly, it’s about homicides and spree killings – A tiny number in comparison, at least in civilised countries. Mind, Lynne McTaggart (aka Chief Shitting Bull) is American by birth and has never really seemed to understand the differences between the US and the UK.

This study covers the period 2003-2011 in Finland, during which time there were 1,091 homicides (and 3,549 road traffic fatalities, an undocumented proportion of which involved drug use of some kind).

So what did the new study “confirm”?

Most of the available studies are case reports that only suggest a coincidental link between violence or homicide and antidepressants  or benzodiazepines, while very little is known about the association between antipsychotics and homicide. Two recent ecological studies found no support for a significant role of antidepressant use in lethal violence in the Netherlands or the U.S., although data on individual offenders were not available.

In fact it was a specific and detailed investigation of psychotropic drugs, and the conclusion is:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

This is science not pseudoscience, so the investigators published the finding despite it contradicting their original hypothesis. Yes, the researchers actually did not confirm anything, they disconfirmed their original hypothesis.

Did WDDTY lead with “antidepressants not linked to violent behaviour”? Don’t be silly.

The highest risk was among people who were aged 26 or younger and who were taking an opiate painkiller; they were four times more likely to become a killer, and the risk almost doubled if they were taking a benzodiazepine.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The median age of offenders and controls was 36.3 years (range 13.3-88.0 years). A total of 849 (88.5%) offenders were males, and 42 (4.4%) had more than one victim, 761 (79.4%) were intoxicated by alcohol and 51 (5.3%) by illicit drugs during the offence (as confirmed by the police).

So when we read that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

What we are actually seeing is a combination of these drugs with alcohol. And in some cases illicit drugs as well.

So does that mean there’s a causal link, as WDDTY imply? No, it does not. But “Being off your tree on alcohol and drugs, plus painkillers, is behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers” is not quite so on-message. Get with the programme: it’s always the DRUGS.

Sorry that should be DRUGS!!!!!

But the risk was almost as great in any age group if they were taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller, some of which are available without a prescription; the drugs quadrupled the risk of someone becoming a killer.

That word risk. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Correlation does not imply causation.

 

Researchers from the University of East Finland made the connection between the drugs and homicidal activity after they analysed the drug-taking history of 959 people who had been convicted of murder. They looked at their drug-taking before they had committed a crime and again afterwards.

They did indeed, and they found that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

Which is interesting but doe not prove causation and absolutely cannot be extrapolated to the population of normal people, rather than those recently released from prison for violent offences.

Surprisingly, the expected suspects—the antipsychotics and antidepressants—seemed to have only a minimal effect. Of the real culprits, the benzodiazepines seemed to have been prescribed in high doses for long periods, and they can weaken our ability to control impulses. Painkillers affect emotional processing, say the researchers

Really?  Search the full text of the article, see if you can find the claim that painkillers affect emotional processing.

What it does say is this:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

See the qualifications? ” deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history”

So: no need to stop taking the painkillers unless you have a history of violent crime. The headline should in fact read:

Most pissed-up violent offenders who commit subsequent violent crimes, are also on painkillers, say researchers.

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