A Cure for Crime? Psycho-Pharmaceuticals and Crime Trends

45 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2009 Last revised: 29 Aug 2012

See all articles by Dave E. Marcotte

Dave E. Marcotte

University of Maryland Baltimore County; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Sara Markowitz

Emory University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2009

Abstract

In this paper we consider possible links between the advent and diffusion of a number of new psychiatric pharmaceutical therapies and crime rates. We describe recent trends in crime and review the evidence showing mental illness as a clear risk factor both for criminal behavior and victimization. We then briefly summarize the development of a number of new pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of mental illness which diffused during the "great American crime decline." We examine limited international data, as well as more detailed American data to assess the relationship between crime rates and rates of prescriptions of the main categories of psychotropic drugs, while controlling for other factors which may explain trends in crime rates. We find that increases in prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are associated with decreases in violent crime, with the largest impacts associated with new generation antidepressants and stimulants used to treat ADHD.

Suggested Citation

Marcotte, Dave E. and Markowitz, Sara, A Cure for Crime? Psycho-Pharmaceuticals and Crime Trends (September 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15354, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1475546

Dave E. Marcotte

University of Maryland Baltimore County ( email )

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Sara Markowitz (Contact Author)

Emory University ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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