COLUMN: Gun violence uproar fails to consider effects of antidepressants
Medication Violence Timeline:
November, 1991- Barbara Mortenson cannibalizes her 87-year-old grandmother while on the drug Prozac.
April, 1999- Eric Harris killed 12 classmates at Columbine High School while on the drug Luvox
December, 1999- Oklahoman student Seth Trickey fired on his class while taking several medications. He was 13 years old
March, 2001- While taking Prozac. 14 year old Elizabeth Bush shot and wounded another student in Williamsport, Penn.
March, 2005- 16-year-old Jeffrey Weisse killed nine people in Red Lake, Minnesota under the influence of Prozac.
It is nearly certain that most of you are aware of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 children and six adults lost their lives. Since then, there has been a renewed and passionate national debate about gun control as well as the broad topic of mental health management. One thing that has been auspiciously missing from the national discourse and press coverage of this tragedy, is the connection between antidepressant drugs and incidents of murder, mass-murder and suicides.
While it is unknown whether or not these drugs played a part in the Sandy Hook shootings, the connection between medication and violence in the Sandy Hook case needs to be examined. Police have already issued warrants for the shooter’s medical and psychiatric records. It is high time for the launching of a full-on federal investigation and for the press to do its job addressing the connection between antidepressants and violence or suicidal behavior.
The questions surrounding the Sandy Hook shootings recall the Columbine massacre, where one of the shooters was taking the anti-depressant Luvox. In fact, over a 10-year period, 90 percent of school shootings were connected to antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, according to a British psychiatrist and researcher Dr. David Healy.
Another study performed in 2010, found that a small number of drugs were directly linked to violent behavior. SSRIs were one of the two drug categories that were the most closely related to violent behavior.
The known side effects associated with SSRI antidepressants through regulatory warnings, studies and documentation include; abnormal thoughts, agitation, anxiety, confusion, depression, emotional numbing, hallucinations or delusional thinking, homicidal ideation, mania/psychosis, restlessness, self-harm, suicide/risk/attempts and violence among many others.
Common brand name antidepressants include Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Luvox, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Elavil, Remeron, Sarafem, Trazodone.
SSRIs are now some of the most widely prescribed medicines in the U.S.
It is astounding that, in spite of this laundry list of rather undesirable side effects and potential for violence in those taking SSRIs, more attention is not paid to the issue. The public is in an uproar about everything but the drugs that were, at the very least, a plausible contributing factor to the murderous behavior.
We have heard much about the easy access to semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity ammunition drums, violent movies and video games, the lack of school prayer or the supposed removal of God from the public square but hardly a whisper about the possible or probable connection between mass murders or suicidal behavior and antidepressants.
Reasons for the near silence on this topic can possibly be attributed to three major factors: first, the privacy or HIPAA laws about disclosing the medical history of suspects, secondly, that pharmaceutical companies are a major advertiser and thus indispensible to the corporate media and lastly, the conflict of interests created by the FDA’s dependence on their money.
The American public deserves to be informed about the risks posed by these drugs and their meteoric rise in usage and better protected by the FDA or their government. Click here to sign a petition: "Calling for a Federal Investigation of Psychiatric Drugs, School Shootings & Senseless Violence."
If you or someone you care about is taking any of these drugs and there has been any hint of these side effects listed above, tell someone and then consult your healthcare provider and insist on the close monitoring, which is called for with prescriptions of this kind. This could save the life of others or yourself.
Scott Starr is a Native American Studies Senior.