Violent and acute behavioural disturbance more common during full moon

13/12/2009

Violent and acute behavioural disturbances are more common during the full moon, according to the results of an observational study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Ms Leonie Calver, a clinical research nurse in toxicology at the Calvary Mater Newcastle, and her co-authors conducted a study of hospital patients at Calvary Mater Newcastle between August 2008 and July 2009. The researchers examined the cases of 91 patients with violent and acute behavioural disturbance who presented to the emergency department and required sedation and physical restraint to protect themselves and others.

“Of the 91 patients, 21 (23 per cent) presented during the full moon – double the number for other lunar phases. Sixty (66 per cent) were under the influence of alcohol and/or recreational drugs and five attacked staff,” Ms Calver said.

“Some of these patients attacked the staff like animals – biting, spitting and scratching. One might compare them with the werewolves of the past, who are said to have also appeared during the full moon.

“It has been reported that the practice of rubbing magic ointment on the skin or inhaling vapour from a magic potion by an alleged werewolf induces metamorphosis. Not surprisingly, the main ingredients of these ointments and potions were belladonna and nightshade - both of which can produce delirium, hallucinations and delusion of bodily metamorphosis.

“The modern day werewolf appears to prefer alcohol, but the metamorphosis is no less dynamic.

“Individuals with violent and acute behavioural disturbance seem more likely to use alcohol or drugs in the light of the full moon. We don’t know if it’s more fun to use drugs and alcohol under a full moon, or if their behavioural disturbance is directly influenced by the moon.”

The researchers also examined the cases of patients in other parts of the hospital with less severe behavioural problems who were the subject of calls from staff to security requesting assistance. These cases were evenly distributed throughout the lunar cycle.

“Our findings support the premise that individuals with violent and acute behavioural disturbance are more likely to present to the emergency department during the phases of the full moon,” Ms Calver said.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

The statements or opinions that are expressed in the MJA reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA unless that is so stated.

CONTACT: 

Ms Leonie Calver 02 4921 1 312 / 0416 104 733