Substance use and violence among psychiatric inpatients



D. Stewart, L. Bowers

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

25 MAR 2014

DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12144


Accessible summary



Nursing staff on psychiatric wards often attribute patient violence and aggression to substance use. This study examined incidents of alcohol and illicit drug use among acute psychiatric inpatients and associations between substance use and violence or other forms of aggression. A sample of 522 adult psychiatric inpatients was recruited from 84 acute psychiatric wards in England. Data were collected from nursing and medical records for the first 2 weeks of admission. Only a small proportion of the sample was reported to have used or been under the influence of alcohol (5%) or drugs (3%). There was no physical violence during a shift when a patient had used alcohol or drugs. Substance using patients were also no more likely than others to behave violently at any point during the study period. However, incidents of substance use were sometimes followed by verbal aggression. Beliefs that substance using patients are likely to be violent were not supported by this study, and could impact negatively on therapeutic relationships between nurses and this patient group. Future studies are needed to examine how staff intervene and interact with intoxicated patients.