Revealing the Link: Use of SSRIs (antidepressants) causing Rampage Shootings


via http://www.the3report.com  February 26, 2010

An in depth look at school shootings, and the commonly known side effects of SSRIs, reveals the drugs to be a primary factor leading to violence.

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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, are commonly used to treat depression in children and adolescents.  In 2005, the Center for Disease Control reported that 118 million prescriptions had been written for anti-depressants, and that the number of people using anti-depressants had “almost tripled between the periods 1988-1994 and 1999-2000”. One popular SSRI drug called Prozac has been prescribed to more than 38 million people worldwide. 

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As more and more people are given SSRIs to combat depression, mounting evidence suggests that the side effects of SSRIs can lead to violent behavior and suicide. Many of the high fatality school shootings of the past 10 years have involved shooters who had been prescribed SSRIs.  An in depth look at school shootings, and the commonly known side effects of SSRIs, reveals the drugs to be a primary factor leading to violence.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors work by altering the patient’s brain chemistry. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is released by one neuron to make another neuron fire, and is linked to mood and behavior. Serotonin is released into the space between neurons, called the synapse. In the natural course of events, the serotonin is then reabsorbed into the neuron it originally came from. SSRIs block this reuptake of the serotonin into the neuron. The idea is that with more serotonin in the synapse, the activity of the neurons will increase, which theoretically leads to better moods for some patients.

Unfortunately SSRIs can cause many different side effects. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV is the most widely used source of diagnostic information for mental health by health professionals. It has “consistently confirmed that all anti-depressants can cause mania” which is a “potentially psychotic condition of intense mental and emotional excitement”.  Mania often involves feelings of invulnerability, extreme power, farfetched and elaborate plans, as well as the urge to commit violence. A recent controlled clinical trial of the SSRI Prozac showed that it caused mania in six percent of the test subjects.  Other side effects of Prozac include agitation, anxiety, instability, confusion, hallucinations, hostility and psychosis.  Studies have also repeatedly shown an increased risk of suicide for people taking an SSRI. 

Research has shown that Prozac and drugs like it could be causing people with no history of mental illness to become suicidal.  In 2004, a federal panel of drug experts said antidepressants “could cause children and teenagers to become suicidal.” The drug agency also warned that changes in dosage can increase the risk of suicide. SSRIs are particularly dangerous because they cause both suicidal and violent tendencies in some individuals.  It is likely that some of the school shooters may have already been suicidal before they decided to go on killing sprees. Not only does Prozac cause suicide, it often causes especially violent suicide, such as stabbing one’s self to death. 

A person who suffers from agitated depression is especially prone to violence. The individual is both depressed and stimulated. In many cases, agitated depression is often made worse by SSRIs, resulting in suicide, murder or both. Negative side effects often occur when starting the drug treatment or altering the dosage.  A condition called Akathisia is a common neurological disorder that affects people taking SSRI medications. Patients suffering from Akathisia complain of “unease, distress, dysphoria, and inner restlessness.” Patients may be unable to stand or sit still. This can manifest as repetitive movements of the legs and feet, and the patient may stand and sit repeatedly. Akathisia can develop into a chronic condition which may be irreversible.  Akathisia is described as “virtual inner torture of irritation and anguish” that can cause patients to act out in bizarre and sometimes violent ways. 

In 1999, British psychologist David Wilkinson gave a clinical presentation of a case in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. He revealed how a previously nonviolent fifteen year old male overturned store merchandise stands, smashed another student in the mouth, and committed a robbery while on Prozac. Wilkinson believed that “emotional blunting” caused by Prozac had driven the young man to commit violence.

Many doctors are misinformed about the effects of the SSRIs they prescribe patients. Scientific workshops attended by many doctors are often nothing more than drug company sponsored advertisement sessions. It is often times easier for a doctor to blame side effects on the patient’s “mental illness” instead of the drugs they have prescribed the patient. 

The Columbine High School massacre took place on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado. Eric Harris and Dylan Kybold shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives. They injured 21 other students. It was then reported that Eric Harris had been rejected from joining the military because he was being treated with an SSRI medication called Luvox. Harris had been taking Luvox for a year while developing his plans for mass murder. Toxicology reports released by the drug maker showed that Harris had therapeutic levels of Luvox in his system at the time of the shootings.  Jeff Wise, a teenager who killed nine people before committing suicide had been taking large dosages of Prozac. A relative of Mr. Weise said that his dosages had been increased in the weeks leading up to the shooting, a reoccurring factor in SSRI induced suicides. In 1989, Joseph Wesbecker shot and killed eight co-workers and himself. He had been taking Prozac.  Cho Seung Hui, a 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior killed thirty-two people and wounded many others before committing suicide. It was reported that investigators believed he may have been prescribed medication for depression.

The common factor connecting all of these shooters is the use of SSRIs prior to the shootings.  Could it be possible that the SSRI was the catalyzing factor in driving these school shooters over the edge?  Could an increase in dosage have triggered Jeff Wise’s shooting spree? Preexisting mental illness in combination with SSRI induced emotional blunting, mania, and suicidal desires could have been the perfect recipe for these high casualty school shootings.

Sources

Breggin, M.D., Peter R. The Anti-Depressant Fact Book. Da Capo Press, 2001. 30, 45-48, 56-59, 84, 100-104, 116. Print.

Cohen, Elizabeth. “CDC: Antidepressants most prescribed drugs in U.S..” CNN 9 July 2007: 1-2.  Web. 3 Dec 2009.http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/07/09/antidepressants/index.html

Hetrick, Sarah, Magenta Simmons, and Sally Merry. “SSRIs and depression in children and adolescents: the imperative for shared decision-making.” Australasian Psychiatry 16.5 (2008): 1-2. Web. 1 Dec 2009.

“Prozac ‘may encourage suicide’.” BBC News 22 May 2000: 1-3. Web. 9 Dec 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/758763.stm

Salvatore, Steve. “Columbine shooter was prescribed anti-depressant.” CNN 29 April 1999: 1-2. Web. 1 Dec 2009.http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9904/29/luvox.explainer

Haddad, Peter M., and Serdar M. Dursun. “Neurological complications of psychiatric drugs: clinical features and management.” Human Psychopharmacology 23.1 (2008): 16. Web. 10 Dec 2009.

Davey, Monica, and Garndiner Harris. “Family Wonders if Prozac Prompted School Shootings.” New York Times 26 March 2005: 1-2. Web. 1 Dec 2009.http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/26/national/26shoot.html

Huppke, Rex, Aamer Madhani, and Ea Torriero. “As campus grieves, ‘monster’ revealed.” Chicago Tribune 18 April 2007: 1-3. Web. 11 Dec 2009.http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-04-18/news/0704170925_1_worst-shooting-rampage-cho-seung-hui-engineering-building

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Revealing the Link: Use of SSRIs (antidepressants) causing Rampage Shootings

  1. Pingback: James Holmes framed in recent Aurora, CO shooting? | Heaven Earth & Man

  2. Pingback: John Noveske, American Badass, Killed By Indians | Heaven Earth & Man

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