In a study from the University of Oxford and elsewhere, scientists found reductions in violence in people using Beta adrenergic-blocking agents (β-blockers) compared with periods that they are not taking the medication.
If the findings are confirmed by other studies, β-blockers could be considered as a way to manage aggression and hostility in people with psychiatric conditions.
β-blockers are used to treat hypertension, angina and acute cardiovascular events, heart failure and arrhythmias as well as, migraine, symptoms of hyperthyroidism and glaucoma.
They are often used for anxiety and have been suggested for clinical depression and aggression, but the evidence is conflicting.
In the study, researchers compared 1.4 million β-blocker users in Sweden to themselves during medicated and non-medicated periods over an eight-year period from 2006–2013.
The team found periods on β-blocker treatment were linked to a 13% lower risk of being charged with a violent crime by the police, which remained consistent across the analyses.
Additionally, an 8% lower risk of hospitalization due to a psychiatric disorder was reported as well as an 8% increased association of being treated for suicidal behavior.
However, these associations varied depending on psychiatric diagnosis, past psychiatric problems, as well as the severity and type of the cardiac condition the β-blockers were being used to treat.
Previous research has linked severe heart disease to an increased risk of depression and suicide, and these results might suggest that the psychological distress and other disabilities associated with serious cardiac problems, rather than the β-blocker treatment, increases the risk of serious psychiatric events.
The team also found associations with hospitalization were lower for major depressive but not for anxiety disorders.
They suggest that to understand the role of β-blockers in the management of aggression and violence, further studies are needed.
If these confirm the results of this study, β-blockers could be considered to manage aggression and violence in some people.
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The study was conducted by Seena Fazel et al and published in PLOS Medicine.
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