Reducing impulsivity in repeat violent offenders using a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (ReINVEST)

Currently recruiting: 
The challenge: 

Violence accounts for approximately 14% of deaths amongst men and 7% among women. For every person killed by violence, an estimated 20 to 40 receive injuries requiring hospitalisation. Domestic violence is one of the few crimes which is increasing across Australia, despite attracting significant political interest.

The ReINVEST study aims to reduce impulsive violence by using a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication (an SSRI). If we can reduce recidivism in this population, then there will be a significant benefit to both society and the individual from reduced incarceration, deaths and injuries.

The project: 

The ReINVEST study is a world first trial examining whether treatment with an antidepressant is effective in reducing offending behavior. This study is being conducted in a community sample of men with histories of violent offending. Participants are followed up over 12 months.

The ReINVEST study has close relationships with Corrective Services, health and the judiciary with the common aim of reducing the impact of violence and reducing recidivism.

The method: 

The ReINVEST study is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with half of the participants prescribed sertraline (an antidepressant) and half a placebo. Both the participant and the clinical team are blinded as to what the participants have been allocated.

Data is collected across several measures using tools which measure impulsivity, aggression and mental health. Study data will then be linked with offending data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to determine if the intervention has reduced recidivism among the sample.

The results: 

We are hoping for a 10% reduction in violent offending by participants prescribed the medication. We also expect a significant reduction in impulsivity as measured against the study tools.

The impact: 

It is hoped the study will prove to be an effective treatment for impulsivity which can be offered to those in the criminal justice system.

Project contact: 
Professor and Program Head
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