. Scientific Frontline: Common heart medicine is linked to a reduced risk of committing violent crimes

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Common heart medicine is linked to a reduced risk of committing violent crimes

Yasmina Molero.
Photo Credit: Niklas Faye-Wevle Samuelson

Beta blockers, commonly used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure, can be linked to a reduced risk of committing violent crimes. It shows a new registry study from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Oxford published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Beta blockers lower blood pressure by blocking the effect of hormones like adrenaline. The medicine is used to treat a variety of conditions including high blood pressure, cardiovascular events, heart failure and anxiety. It has also been suggested to work for clinical depression and aggression, but some studies have found a link to increased suicidal tendencies and the results are contradictory.

In the current study, the researchers investigated the relationship between beta blockers and hospitalization for mental illness, suicidal tendencies, suicide and reports of violent crime. They studied 1.4 million individuals in Sweden and compared periods with and without beta blockers in the same individual over an eight-year period (2006-2013). In this way, the researchers were able to control factors that can affect relationships, such as genetics or disease history.

Periods of medication were associated with a 13 percent lower risk of being charged with violent crime. Since it is an observational study, conclusions about causation should be interpreted with caution.

One way to deal with aggression

- If the results are confirmed in other studies, including randomized controlled trials, beta blocks may be considered as a way to manage aggression in individuals with psychiatric diagnoses, say Yasmina Molero, researchers at Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet.

Use of beta-blockers was also linked to eight percent lower risk of hospitalization due to mental illness and eight percent increased risk of being treated for suicidal tendencies or dying in suicide. However, these relationships were inconsistent.

- The risk of hospitalization and suicidal tendencies varied depending on psychiatric diagnosis and previous mental health problems, but also on the severity and type of heart problems that the beta blockers were used to treat. This indicates that there are no links between beta blockers and these outcomes, says Yasmina Molero.

Heart problems are associated with depression

Previous research has linked serious heart events to an increased risk of depression and suicide. This may indicate that the mental disorders and other disabilities associated with serious heart problems, rather than the treatment with beta blockers, increase the risk of serious mental illness, according to the researchers.

Funding: The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Forte, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Karolinska Institutet's funds. Co-author Henrik Larsson has received grants from Shire Pharmaceuticals, Medice Speaker Fees, Shire / Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Evolan Pharma as well as sponsorship for a conference on adhd from Shire / Takeda Pharmaceuticals, all outside the current study.

Published in journalPLOS Medicine

Source/CreditKarolinska Institutet

Reference Number: ns013123_02

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