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‘The dope made me do it’

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:

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.

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?