Psychiatric Drugs and Violence

What are psychiatric drugs?

Antidepressants rotate

Psychiatric drugs are prescribed to treat a wide variety of mental health conditions including, but not limited to,depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). These medications affect the chemical makeup of the brain, therefore altering brain process. Some drugs have been known to cause permanent mental damage and adverse effects on users such as suicidal thoughts, aggression, and paranoia. As more and more children and teens are being prescribed these medications as opposed to therapy and other alternatives, the number of life threatening incidents has been steadily increasing. Aggression and anger have caused many young patients to lash out on their parents, peers and random strangers. Research shows that majority of teens and children that commit acts of violence in schools such as shootings were prescribed these medications or having withdrawal at the time of attack.

In combination with drugs to fuel their fire, shooters have become obsessive over the media’s outlook on school shootings and the publicity they receive. Following Columbine, many shooters have followed in the steps of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold by documenting their troubles, doubts, motives and reasoning behind their actions. The media draws more attention to the killers which, on several occasions, was the reason alone for the attack – to become known. Several shooters claimed to have decided to kill to mimic the actions of the Columbine killers in an effort to become “household names” much like they have.

While there is no definitive answer as to why these students chose to kill, it is certain that psychiatric drugs have been linked with the tendency to do so.  Nearly 60 shootings over the last twenty years have been carried out by patients that were receiving psychiatric medication or suffering from withdrawal from these medications. Some were not even prescribed and illegally received these medications, which was discovered through toxicology reports.

School Shooters on Psychiatric Medications

Many prescription drugs have been linked to or suspected to have been the reason patients become aggressive and attack others. Depression is the most common mental illness affecting these killers and they have frequently been prescribed Zoloft, Prozac and Celexa. While it is most frequently current or previous students that attack schools, shootings have been committed by parents, teachers, administrators and strangers with ties to the school.

Laurie Wasserman Dann | Hubbard Woods School – Winnetka, Illinois (May 20, 1988)

  • Laurie was seeing a psychiatrist and was prescribed antidepressant Anafranil. She entered her classroom with several guns and shot at students, killing an eight year old boy and wounding five others. Dann fled the scene and enter a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20 year old man before killing herself.

Calvin Charles Bell | Piney Point Elementary School – Houston, Texas (September 18, 1992)

  • Calvin was taking antidepressants and after being unhappy with his child’s progress report entered the school with a gun and shot and wounded two officers before surrendering.

Stephen Leith | Chelsea High School – Chelsea, Michigan (December 17, 1993)

  • 39 year old teacher shot and killed the school’s superintendent, and after shot and wounded the principal and the journalism teacher. Leith was seeing a psychiatrist and taking Prozac at the time.

Toby R. Sincino | Blackville-Hilda High School – Blackville, South Carolina (October 12, 1995)

  • Toby, 15, snuck into the high school and shot two teachers – killing one. He then killed himself. His aunt stated that he had been undergoing counseling  at the Department of Mental Health and was taking Zoloft.

Kip Kinkel | Thurston High School – Springfield, Oregon (May 21, 1998)

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  • Kip killed his parents in their home, and then entered the school where he proceeded to open fire in the cafeteria killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel was seeing a psychologist and taking Prozac at the time.

Shawn Cooper | Notus Junior-Senior High School – Notus, Idaho (April 16, 1999)

  • Cooper, 15, was prescribed antidepressants and Ritalin when he entered his school and fired off two rounds, injuring none but barely missing students.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold | Columbine High School – Columbine Colorado (April 20, 1999)

  • Harris and Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before eventually killing themselves. While Klebold’s medical records remain sealed, it is confirmed that Harris was prescribed the antidepressant Luvox as well as regularly seeing a psychiatrist.

T.J. Solomon | Heritage High School – Conyers, Georgia (May 20, 1999)

  • Shooting and wounding six of his classmates, 15 year old T.J. was being treated with Ritalin at the time of the incident

Richard Lopez | Hueneme High School – Oxnard, California (January 2001)

  • Lopez went to school with a loaded gun and took a female classmate hostage. He was eventually killed by a SWAT officer. He was prescribed Prozac, Paxil and sleep medication.

Elizabeth Bush | Bishop-Neumann Junior-Senior High School- Williamsport, Pennsylvania (March 7, 2001)

  • Bush entered the high school with all intention of killing herself in from of her peers so they would be able to witness what it was like to be her. In an attempt to scare 13 year old classmate, she shot and wounded her. She was prescribed Prozac at the time.

Jason Hoffman | Granite Hills High School – El Cajon, California (March 22, 2001)

  • Hoffman, who was on Celexa and Effexor, shot and wounded three students and two teachers at his high school.

Cory Baadsgaard | Moses Lake High School – Wahluke, Washington (April 10, 2001)

  • Sixteen year old Baadsgaard was on Effexor when he entered his school with a rifle and took 23 students and teacher hostage.

Mamoru Takuma | Ikeda, Japan (June 8, 2001)

  • Using a knife, 37 year old Takuma entered an elementary school and stabbed and killed 8 first and second graders. After wounding another 15 students and teachers, he attempted to kill himself but was unsuccessful and only suffered minor wounds. He admitted to taking ten times his regular dosage of antidepressants before the incident.

Jon Romano | Columbia High School – East Greenbush, New York (February 9, 2004)

  • After opening fire with a shotgun, Romano hit and wounded the special education teacher Michael Bennett in the leg. He was on antidepressants at the time and had previously been seeing a psychiatrist.

Jeff Weise | Red Lake Senior High School – Red Lake, Minnesota (March 21, 2005)

 

  • Weise shot and killed his grandparents and then entered his high school with a shotgun, killing 5 students, a security guard and a teacher before killing himself.

Travis Roberson | Jennings County High School – North Vernon, Indiana (December 4, 2006)

  • Roberson was suffering from withdrawal when he stabbed another student in the neck at school, nearly severing an artery. He was prescribed Wellbutrin.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen | Jokela High School – Jokela, Finland (November 7, 2007)

  • Auvinen had been prescribed antidepressants when he killed eight people and wounded twelve more at his high school in Finland.

Jesus “Jesse” Carrizales | Roosevelt High School – Fresno, California (April 24, 2008)

  • After attacking a school security officer with a baseball bat, Carrizales was shot dead in self-defense. He had been prescribed Lexapro and Geodon and his autopsy showed high levels of antidepressants in his blood.

Hammad Memon | Discover Middle School – Huntsville, Alabama (February 5, 2010)

  • While he was being treated for ADHD and depression with Zoloft and other drugs, Memon shot and killed Todd Brown, a fellow student at the middle school. He was also under psychologist and psychiatrist supervision.

Christian Helms | Socastee High School – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (September 21, 2011)

  • With two pipe bombs in his bag, Helms entered his school and shot and wounded the school’s police officer. The officer was able to stop Helms from hurting anyone else. He was taking medication for ADHD and depression.

Sean Johnson | Stevens Institute of Business & Arts – St. Louis, Missouri (January 15, 2013)

  • Johnson entered the institute’s financial aid office and shot the school’s financial aid officer then proceeded to shoot himself. He had been taking drugs for undisclosed mental illnesses.

Elliot Rodger | University of California Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, California (May 23, 2014)

  • Rodger stabbed his two roommates and their friend in their apartment then proceeded towards an on campus sorority house with intentions of killing all the girls living in the house. He shot three women killing two of them as well as a bicyclist. In his manifesto, he explained that he had been taking psychiatric drugs. He fired on many other people, wounding many and eventually killed himself.

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Statistics

  • Nearly 60 shootings over the last twenty years have been carried out by patients that were receiving psychiatric medication or suffering from withdrawal from these medications
  • 22 drug regulatory agencies warned against side effects of psychiatric drugs including psychosis, hostility, aggression and homicidal ideation
  • In 2004, the US FDA warned that “Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorders and other psychiatric disorders.”
  • A study by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices published an article in 2010 identifying no less than 31 commonly prescribed drugs that are disproportionately associated with cases of violent acts.
  • More than 1,500 violent acts were reported to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) as being linked to any given drug.
  • 5 out of 10 most violence- inducing drugs were found to be antidepressants. Those include, Prozac, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor and Pristiq.
  • A study by the Drug Safety Research Unit in Southampton showed that in a group of 25,000 people taking Prozac or Paxil, about 31 assaults and one homicide occurred.
  • In 2011, 14 million prescriptions for Paxil were written and 25.5 million prescriptions for Prozac were written. With the two drugs alone, the drug induced incidents of violence could equate to 158,000 instances.
  • In 2001, a Wyoming jury determined Paxil caused a man to kill his wife, daughter and granddaughter before killing himself.

Moving Forward

As events such as these continue to occur across the country and around the world, alternatives measures can be taken in order to prevent them. Safer alternatives to prescription medications such as intensive therapy and counseling should be incorporated into a patients treatment regimen in order to prevent deadly side effects of antidepressants and the like.

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