common thread amongst the most horrific school shootings of the past 25 years
is that the majority of the shooters were taking a psychiatric medication. With the media
fixated on guns and violent video games, Connecticut's chief medical examiner
says he's seeking genetic clues to help explain why a shooter killed twenty
children and six adults in a Newtown elementary school. 60 Minutes reported
that Adam Lanza was taking prescribed medication, but the mainstream media
failed to follow up on this.
Sure, guns are
rampant, too easy to get, and should clearly not fall into the hands of
mentally disordered people, and violent video games are priming the pump - -
all issues that I deem important to address, but I will leave that to all the
others who have done it justice to date.
psychiatrist who is all too familiar with this issue, I am dismayed at this
oversight, and believe that these tragedies should also contain some lessons
going forward - both for the public and for prescribing doctors.
drugs do not always cause violent behavior, of course, and in many cases, they
are used to treat it. However, certain medications, such as Prozac, have been
linked to increase risk for violent, and even homicidal behavior. Several of
the most tragic cases of violent murder by prescription takers should be noted.
Many legal cases,
with closed books due to settlement, document cases of suicides and homicides
in individuals who had not been violent prior to taking medication, and often
they were newly prescribed or on an increased dose.
are some of the mass-murderer statistics (thanks to Deborah Merlin and
her book, Victory Over ADHD ):
The Virginia Tech
shooter murdered thirty-two. Cho was prescribed the antidepressant drug Prozac
prior to his rampage.
Jeffrey Weiss went on
a shooting rampage on March 21, 2005, at Red Lake High School that left ten
dead, including him. Earlier that day, Weiss had killed his grandfather and his
grandfather's girlfriend. He was on Prozac and the dosage had recently been
Eric Harris, one of
the killers at Columbine High School, was on the antidepressant drug Luvox.
Court records show that the prescription for Harris had been filled ten times
between April 1998 and March 1999.Three and a half months before the shooting,
the dosage had been increased. The Physician's Desk Reference records show that
during controlled clinical trials of Luvox, manic reactions developed in 4
percent of the children given the drug.
In Houston, Texas,
Andrea Yates drowned her five children while taking Effexor and Remeron.
shot and killed his grandparents at age twelve. He claimed a voice inside his
head told him to kill his grandparents on November 28, 2001. Christopher had
recently started to take Zoloft to treat mild depression.
Is It the Illness or the Drug?
A recent study of reports to the FDA of drug-induced violence has demonstrated
that antidepressant users have an 840% increased rate of violence. See also
Robert Whitakers' article on the subject.
drug regulators warning that these drugs can cause mania, psychosis,
hallucinations, suicide and homicidal ideation, Congress has yet to investigate
the role of psychiatric drugs in the vast majority of school shootings. Could
this be due to the enormous influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the
media? Has there been a purposeful media black-out here?
2011 article in TIME magazine
notes that "when one particular drug in a class of non-addictive drugs
used to treat the same problem stands out, that suggests caution: unless the
drug is being used to treat radically different groups of people, that drug may
actually be the problem."
The article cites 10 drugs from a study by the
Institute for Safe Medication Practices which is derived from data from the
FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System which identified 31 drugs that are
disproportionately linked with reports of violent behavior towards others. Two
common ones are:
(Prozac) The first well-known SSRI antidepressant, Prozac is 10.9 times more
likely to be linked with violence in comparison with other medications.
This next one is particularly scary, since it's for smoking cessation-- a
seemingly good trade-off until you read the stats: The anti-smoking medication
Varenicline (Chantix), affects the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, which
helps reduce craving for smoking. Unfortunately, it's 18 times more likely to
be linked with violence compared to other drugs -- by comparison, that number
for Xyban is 3.9 and just 1.9 for nicotine replacement.
to From Here?
While I am trained and licensed to prescribe these medications, I prefer to
avoid them whenever possible, instead prescribing the natural precursors to the
brain chemicals needed to restore balance. Believe it or not, they can be as
effective as medication if not more so, and without the dire side effects.
Doesn't it make sense to put back what is needed rather than cover up symptoms
with strong chemicals that can cause harm? I have all too often seen that when
a patient complains of side effects, the doctor increases the dose, with
ensuing negative effects. There are excellent studies in peer-reviewed
journals, covering vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs for psychiatric
purposes. A good summary with 107 peer-reviewed citations can be found here .
one is going to be scientific about the use of these powerful drugs, there are
tests that can be performed to fine-tune the diagnosis and choice of
medication, and help determine if there is likely to be an adverse
effect: Electroencephalograms , SPECT scans , and genetic testing that all help
select the more appropriate drug for the individual.
My own bias is to test regardless, but then to treat as naturally as possible, working
with the body's own chemistry to optimize brain function. And for those either
considering medication or for prescribing physicians, I urge you to consider
the possibly tragic downsides first.
Never discontinue taking stimulants or antidepressants without first consulting
your health care professional. The withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than
the adverse reactions to these medications; therefore, the process must be
closely monitored by a physician or someone licensed to prescribe medications.
In my own practice, I have found the use of specific supplements in the process
can be especially useful in countering the withdrawal effects and shortening
the overall process.
also Dr. Peter Breggin's related post here .
Thanks to Deborah Merlin whose private FB post, excerpted from Victory Over ADHD prompted me to write this, and provided
some of the material.
Hyla Cass, M.D.
Nationally acclaimed innovator and
expert in the fields of integrative medicine, psychiatry, and addiction
recovery, Dr. Hyla Cass appears often as a guest on national radio and
television, including The Dr. Oz Show, E! Entertainment, and The View, and in
national print media. She has been quoted in many national magazines, blogs for
the Huffington Post, and is the author of several best-selling books including:
Natural Highs, 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health, Supplement your Prescription: What
Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutrition, and The Addicted Brain and How to
Break Free. She has created her own line of innovative nutritional supplements,
which along with information on natural ways to enhance mind, mood
and energy, are available on her website, www.cassmd.com