Someone far more learned and wise than me once noted, “If I supply you a thought you may remember it and you may not. But if I can make you think a thought for yourself, I have indeed added to your stature.”
How many more deaths have to result before allegedly smart people connect the dots and acknowledge there probably are significant dangerous consequences to the excessive distribution of “therapeutic,” psychotropic drugs?
The old joke tells of a patient visiting a physician:
Patient (moving his arm): “Doctor it hurts when I go like this.”
Doctor: “Don’t go like that! That will be $50.”
Why is it that in wake of every tragic mass shooting, the cacophony erupts over the tools used for the slaughter and not for the probable spark that ignited the fire? Whenever some deeply disturbed person uses guns to mow down innocent victims, a gaggle of draconian anti-gun bills gets dusted off and rushed into law.
What causes murderers to reach for the guns? Why aren’t the right questions getting asked?
For years I have increasingly come to believe that the excessive dissemination of psychotropic drugs are a contributing factor (if not the contributing factor) to the rash of school shootings.
According to a relatively recent report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of 2- to 4-year-old children in America taking behavior-modifying drugs has skyrocketed in the last decade.
In February of last year I spoke with Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness. Specializing in adverse reactions to these “serotonergic” medications — Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor, Serzone, Anafranil, Fen-Phen, Redux — Tracy has testified before the FDA and congressional subcommittee members on Prozac. Ann has been an expert witness in Prozac and similar court cases around the world, she is the author of “Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?”
In the wake of compelling evidence to suggest a connection between mind chemistry altering drugs and violence, a reasonable person might think that “someone” is seeking to reduce or mitigate so significant a threat. They would be wrong. Apparently it is better to demonize guns than offend drug manufacturers.
- Feb. 2, 1996. Moses Lake, Wash. Fourteen-year-old Barry Loukaitis opened fire in his algebra class killing two students and one teacher and wounding one other.
- Feb. 19, 1997, Bethel, Alaska. Sixteen-year-old Evan Ramsey shot and killed his school principal and one student and wounded two others.
- Oct. 1, 1997, Pearl, Miss. Two students were killed and seven wounded by a 16-year-old who was also accused of killing his mother. He and several friends thought to be in on the plot were said to be outcasts who worshipped Satan.
- Dec. 1, 1997, West Paducah, Ky. Three students killed, five wounded by a 14-year-old-boy as they participated in a prayer circle at Heath High School.
- Dec. 15, 1997, Stamps, Ark. Two students wounded. Colt Todd, 14, was hiding in the woods when he shot the students as they stood in the parking lot.
- March 24, 1998, Jonesboro, Ark. Four students and one teacher killed, 10 others wounded outside as Westside Middle School emptied during a false fire alarm. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shot at their classmates and teachers from the woods.
- April 24, 1998, Edinboro, Pa. One teacher killed, two students wounded at a dance at James W. Parker Middle School. A 14-year-old boy was charged.
- May 19, 1998, Fayetteville, Tenn. One student killed in the parking lot at Lincoln County High School three days before he was to graduate. The victim was dating the ex-girlfriend of his killer, 18-year-old honor student Jacob Davis.
- May 21, 1998, Springfield, Ore. Two students killed, 22 others wounded in the cafeteria at Thurston High School by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel. Kinkel had been arrested and released to his parents a day earlier after it was discovered that he had a gun at school. His parents were later found dead at home.
- June 15, 1998, Richmond, Va. One teacher and one guidance counselor wounded by a 14-year-old boy in the hallway of a Richmond high school.
- April 20, 1999, Littleton, Colo. Fourteen students (including the killers) and one teacher killed, 23 others wounded at Columbine High School in the nation’s deadliest school shooting. Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, had plotted for a year to kill at least 500 and blow up their school. At the end of their hour-long rampage, they turned their guns on themselves.
- April 28, 1999, Taber, Alberta, Canada. One student killed, one wounded at W. R. Myers High School in first fatal high school shooting in Canada in 20 years. The suspect, a 14-year-old boy, had been unhappy at Myers and dropped out in order to begin home schooling.
- May 20, 1999, Conyers, Ga. Six students injured at Heritage High School by 15-year-old T. J. Solomon, who was reportedly depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend.
- Nov. 19, 1999, Deming, N.M. One 7th-grader, Araceli Tena, fatally shot at Deming Middle School by Victor Cordova Jr., age 13. The boy, a dual citizen living in Mexico and commuting to the school, was struggling with depression after the death of his mother. His victim was apparently targeted at random.
- Dec. 6, 1999, Fort Gibson, Okla. Four students wounded and one severely bruised in the chaos as a 13-year-old boy opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at Fort Gibson Middle School.
- Feb. 29, 2000, Mount Morris Township, Mich. One 6-year-old girl, Kayla Rolland, fatally wounded at Buell Elementary School near Flint, Mich. Assailant identified as a 6-year-old boy who lived in a crack house. A 19-year-old man was charged with involuntary manslaughter for allowing the boy easy access to the .32-caliber handgun used in the shooting.
How many of those 15 incidents involved psychotropic drugs as well as guns? Why isn’t Congress or the FDA asking questions or trying to connect the dots?
Some readers/listeners think I am totally off-base. Gary in Hollister, Calif., wrote, “GET INFORMED, GEOFF. YOU SOUND LIKE A COMPLETE DOLT. …” In the wake of one my recent rants against the potential evils of excessive distribution of psychotropic drugs Gary wrote, “I am a right-wing conservative Republican, so don’t think this is being written by a liberal.
”I am on Zoloft, which like Prozac, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I went on it after combating clinical depression for several years. When I could no longer focus at work, I went to the doctor and he prescribed Zoloft. It worked.
”You really sound like a raging ignoramus every time you discuss Prozac, Ritalin or Zoloft, and you’re plainly do not know what you’re talking about.
”SSRIs like Prozac DO NOT make you high, create a false sense of euphoria, nor are they a ‘happy pill.’ ALL THEY DO IS MAKE YOU NORMAL. They banish demons; they do not create false angels. …
”Tell me Geoff, do you think that if a man with an infection takes penicillin, and then dies, do you conclude that the penicillin killed him? You could make a great case for this; I am sure you could accumulate many anecdotal stories of people who died after taking penicillin. Or aspirin, or Vitamin C for that matter. But PUTTING TWO AND TWO TOGETHER AND GETTING FIVE IS POOR LOGIC.
”Yes, some crazies who have been on SSRIs have gone nuts, like the Columbine kooks. That’s because such crazies are already being treated by psychiatrists, who prescribe these drugs in the HOPE that it will help. When the drugs don’t work, people like you make the wrong assumption that it was the drug that caused the behavior, a false conclusion. It was only a FAILED treatment, not the cause, in the same way that penicillin might fail
if given to someone with an advanced infection.
”GET INFORMED, GEOFF. YOU SOUND LIKE A COMPLETE DOLT, and it does little to help our movement.”
I am trying to get informed. I guess Gary just doesn’t like facts I may find that contradict his own beliefs. My concern is what if a medication intended to help someone stay on an even keel does the opposite? Well, that is exactly the argument being considered by the lawyer of software tester Michael McDermott, charged with killing seven of his co-workers recently in Wakefield, Mass. An insanity defense reportedly will claim that Prozac and other antidepressants Mr. McDermott was taking produced rare violence-inducing side effects. Basically McDermott’s lawyers are arguing the “medicine made him do it.”
Not a lot of criminal cases have used the Prozac defense at trial, and only one has won. But the McDermott case, because of its high profile, could become a test of Americans’ willingness to pin blame on mood-altering prescription drugs.
I’m not sure what McDermott’s exact diagnosis is, or the number of antidepressants he was taking. But one thing is certain: If his lawyer argues that “prescription drugs made him do it,” the case will renew concerns about the use of Prozac-type drugs in America.
Millions of people in this country use Prozac right now. It was introduced in 1987 to treat everything from depression to gambling to nail biting. Allegations have persisted for years that the drug can spark violent reactions in some patients. Not surprisingly, the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Co. deny there is any credible evidence to support such accusations.
Experts do agree that using the Prozac defense is loaded with difficulty and the odds of success may be slim to none.
What do you think?