Benzodiazepine use of community-based violent offenders: a preliminary investigation

Bonnie Albrecht, Petra K. Staiger, David Best, Kate Hall, Suzanne Nielsen, Dan I. Lubman, Peter Graeme Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To explore the relationship between benzodiazepine use and violent crime in a sample of community-based offenders. Methods: Participants were recruited via drug diversion and treatment programs in Melbourne, Australia. Data regarding benzodiazepine and other substance use, mental health, personality characteristics, and crime involvement were collected through semistructured interviews conducted in 2011. Participants (n = 82, 79.3% male) were 21–56 years old, predominantly Australian-born (89%), with 14.6% identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. Eligibility criteria were having been charged with a criminal offence in the previous six months and at least monthly benzodiazepine use. Group differences between violent (n = 11) and nonviolent offenders were assessed via independent samples t-tests (two-tailed) and nonparametric tests. Results: Individuals charged with violent index offences were significantly more likely to use higher average doses of alprazolam (p = 0.040) and exhibit benzodiazepine dependence (p = 0.037) as well as report high levels of sensation seeking, prior violence, and the diagnoses of depression and personality disorder than individuals charged with nonviolent index offences. Conclusions: The findings suggest the existence of a complex dynamic between mental health and violent offending that may be influenced by benzodiazepine use, in particular alprazolam. A core implication of these preliminary findings includes attending to the interpersonal skills and adaptive coping resources of violent offenders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-303
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Substance Use
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017


  • Alprazolam
  • benzodiazepines
  • impulsive behavior
  • mental health
  • violence

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