A new study, published by researchers at the University of Chicago, links the disorder known as intermittent explosive disorder (IED) to a high risk of substance abuse problems.
As published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, people suffering from IED are five times more likely to abuse alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana than those who don’t exhibit constant episodes of physical or verbal aggressive behavior.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 9,200 subjects in the National Comorbidity Survey, a national survey of mental health in the United States, according to Science Life.
Researchers found that substance abuse on a daily or weekly basis was associated with the severity of aggressive behavior in people with IED.
Additionally, it was found that the relationship between frequent aggressive behavior and substance abuse and effective treatment for the condition could delay in young people.
More people are affected by IED – about 16 million Americans – than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined, based on recent numbers. IED is first diagnosed in adolescents, as young as 11 years old; the disorder develops some years before the presence of substance abuse.
According to Emil Coccaro, MD, IED is genetic and tends to run in families; however, people usually treat it as a social-behavioral issue rather than a neurobiological one.
“People don’t see this as a medical problem. They think of it as simply bad behavior they have developed over the course of their lives, but it isn’t. It has significant biology and neuroscience behind it,” said Coccaro.
IED might also be evidence of other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression, as previous research has suggested. However, the latest study by the University of Chicago dismisses this claim.
Instead, Coccaro and his team of researchers found that IED preceded substance abuse in over 92 percent of cases where patients had developed both disorders.
Early psychological intervention, medication, and cognitive therapy are essential treatments to prevent or delay the substance abuse problems that develop in adolescents suffering from IED.