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We conducted a systematic review that examined the link between individual drug categories and violent outcomes. We searched for primary case-control and cohort investigations that reported risk of violence against others among individuals diagnosed with drug use disorders using validated clinical criteria, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines. We identified 18 studies published during 1990-2019, reporting data from 591,411 individuals with drug use disorders. We reported odds ratios of the violence risk in different categories of drug use disorders compared with those without. We found odds ratios ranging from 0.8 to 25.0 for most individual drug categories, with generally higher odds ratios among individuals with polydrug use disorders. In addition, we explored sources of between-study heterogeneity by subgroup and meta-regression analyses. Cohort investigations reported a lower risk of violence than case-control reports (odds ratio =  2.7 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.1, 3.5) vs. 6.6 (95% CI: 5.1, 8.6)), and associations were stronger when the outcome was any violence rather than intimate partner violence (odds ratio = 5.7 (95% CI: 3.8, 8.6) vs. 1.7 (95% CI: 1.4, 2.1)), which was consistent with results from the meta-regression. Overall, these findings highlight the potential impact of preventing and treating drug use disorders on reducing violence risk and associated morbidities.

Original publication




Journal article


Epidemiol Rev

Publication Date





103 - 116


crime, meta-analysis, opioid, sedative, stimulant, substance misuse, substance use disorder, violence, Adolescent, Adult, Humans, Intimate Partner Violence, Middle Aged, Observational Studies as Topic, Odds Ratio, Pharmaceutical Preparations, Substance-Related Disorders, Young Adult