Associations have been reported between aggression and psychoactive substance use, and a link with violence has been demonstrated in community samples. This study aimed to assess the prevalence and nature of aggressive incidents and to examine the factors associated with violence in a specialist substance misuse treatment unit. Data were collected about assaults, aggressive patients and the object of their aggression during a 12-month period.
Eighteen of 165 patients admitted during this period were involved in aggressive incidents. Patients dependent on more than one substance were significantly more aggressive than other categories of drug users. Past history of assaultive behaviour, younger age group and shorter duration of use were also significantly associated with incidents of aggression. Socio-demographic variables such as gender, marital and employment status were poor predictors of aggression.
The incidence of serious violence in this substance misuse treatment unit was low when compared with other psychiatric units. The findings suggest that there are differences in levels of aggression among the various types of drug users. The study reinforces the need for an accurate drug history in order to improve the quality of risk assessment.
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