Psychiatrists have come forward to assert that certain psychiatric medications, such as those known as SSRIs, are almost certainly the chemical cause of a large number of instances of random violence and suicide in which SSRIs have been present.
The research challenges the pharmaceutical industry's defense that the high correlation between random violence and the presence of these medications is due to the mental illness, not the drugs being prescribed for the illness. Other critics of the industry claim that drugs tend to be too aggressively marketed and over-prescribed.
The media has reported that the suspected shooter in the Sandy Hook multiple killings, Adam Lanza, was on some form of psychiatric medication, possibly related to a reported diagnosis of a form of autism. Authorities have yet to make a statement on what, if any, psychiatric medications Lanza was on, or had been on in the past. The SSRI with the brand name Prozac is sometimes prescribed for autism.
Answering the pharmaceutical industry's defense, in testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs in February of 2010, Dr. Peter Breggin, founder of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, told the committee that the causative links between violent incidents and the drugs in question had already been established by the FDA. Dr. Breggin told the committee:
"The pharmaceutical industry has attempted to discredit case reports as evidence for causation. However, case reports have led to most FDA changes in labels and to most withdrawals of psychiatric drugs from the market, and are a mainstay in the FDA for evaluating adverse drug reactions."
Dr. Breggin said unequivocally:"There is overwhelming evidence that the SSRIs and other stimulating antidepressants cause suicidality and aggression in children and adults of all ages."
Dr. Breggin made the news in 1987 when a group calling itself NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, filed a complaint with Maryland's Commission on Medical Discipline for comments he made in on the Oprah Winfrey show. Both the New York Times and Mother Jones Magazine subsequently found that NAMI received up to 66% of its funding from the pharmaceutical industry. In 2009, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley opened an investigation of NAMI which confirmed that most of its funding came from pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Breggin drew the wrath of the pharmaceutical industry on the Oprah Winfrey Show when he said:
"Find the little part in you that loves yourself and see if you're being loved by your therapist. See if that person cares for you, supports you. If that person offers a drug, don't even say, 'No, thank you.' You can take the prescription and go. Don't fight about it, don't get in trouble, but go. Don't take the drugs. And relate to people who care for you as a person."
The Maryland Commission cleared Dr. Breggin, and then thanked him for his contribution to mental health in Maryland.
Adding to the controversy over the links between SSRIs and violence and suicide, Dr. David Healy, a British psychiatrist and author of "Pharmageddon," (University of California Press, 2012) said in November of 2012:
“Violence and other potentially criminal behavior caused by prescription drugs are medicine’s best kept secret,”
The psychiatric profession and pharmaceutical industry have come under fire for the practice of giving doctors significant financial incentives for prescribing certain medications.
Dr. Gary G. Kohls, in an article entitled "Batman Shooter and His Psyche Drugs" published in Evergreene Digest, lists at least 40 cases violent crimes or suicides committed by mostly young people whose psychiatric history revealed the presence of psychiatric drugs, mostly SSRIs. The list of cases is as follows.
Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Colombine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado), killed 12 students and 1 teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves. Klebold’s medical records have never been made available to the public.
Jeff Weise, age 16, had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults!) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. 10 dead, 12 wounded.
Cory Baadsgaard, age 16, Wahluke (Washington state) High School, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.
Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.
Chris Fetters, age 13, killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.
Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.
Jarred Viktor, age 15, stabbed his grandmother 61 times after 5 days on Paxil.
Kip Kinkel, age 15, (on Prozac and Ritalin) shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.
A boy in Pocatello, ID (Zoloft) in 1998 had a Zoloft-induced seizure that caused an armed stand off at his school.
Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.
Michael Carneal (Ritalin), age 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, five others were wounded.
Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.
A young man in Huntsville, Alabama (Ritalin) went psychotic chopping up his parents with an ax and also killing one sibling and almost murdering another.
TJ Solomon, age 15, (Ritalin) high school student in Conyers, Georgia opened fire on and wounded six of his class mates.
Rod Mathews, age 14, (Ritalin) beat a classmate to death with a bat.
James Wilson, age 19, (various psychiatric drugs) from Breenwood, South Carolina, took a .22 caliber revolver into an elementary school killing two young girls, and wounding seven other children and two teachers.
Elizabeth Bush, age 13, (Paxil) was responsible for a school shooting in Pennsylvania
Jarred Viktor, age 15, (Paxil), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.
Jason Hoffman (Effexor and Celexa) - school shooting in El Cajon, California
Chris Shanahan, age 15 (Paxil) in Rigby, ID who out of the blue killed a woman.
Jeff Franklin (Prozac and Ritalin), Huntsville, AL, killed his parents as they came home from work using a sledge hammer, hatchet, butcher knife and mechanic's file, then attacked his younger brothers and sister.
Neal Furrow (Prozac) in LA Jewish school shooting reported to have been court-ordered to be on Prozac along with several other medications.
Kevin Rider, age 14, was withdrawing from Prozac when he died from a gunshot wound to his head. Initially it was ruled a suicide, but two years later, the investigation into his death was opened as a possible homicide. The prime suspect, also age 14, had been taking Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.
Diane Routhier was prescribed Welbutrin for gallstone problems. Six days later, after suffering many adverse effects of the drug, she shot herself.
Alex Kim, age 13, hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.
Billy Willkomm, an accomplished wrestler and a University of Florida student, was prescribed Prozac at the age of 17. His family found him dead of suicide – hanging from a tall ladder at the family's Gulf Shore Boulevard home in July 2002.
Kara Jaye Anne Fuller-Otter, age 12, was on Paxil when she hung herself from a hook in her closet. Kara’s parents said ".... the damn doctor wouldn't take her off it and I asked him to when we went in on the second visit. I told him I thought she was having some sort of reaction to Paxil…”)
Gareth Christian, Vancouver, age 18, was on Paxil when he committed suicide in 2002, (Gareth’s father could not accept his son’s death and killed himself.)
Julie Woodward, age 17, was on Zoloft when she hung herself in her family’s detached garage.
Matthew Miller was 13 when he saw a psychiatrist because he was having difficulty at school. The psychiatrist gave him samples of Zoloft. Seven days later his mother found him dead, hanging by a belt from a laundry hook in his closet.
Kurt Danysh, age 18, and on Prozac, killed his father with a shotgun. He is now behind prison bars, and writes letters, trying to warn the world that SSRI drugs can kill.
A boy from Houston, age 10, shot and killed his father after his Prozac dosage was increased.
Woody ____, age 37, committed suicide while in his 5th week of taking Zoloft. Shortly before his death his physician suggested doubling the dose of the drug. He had seen his physician only for insomnia. He had never been depressed, nor did he have any history of any mental illness symptoms.
Hammad Memon, age 15, shot and killed a fellow middle school student. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression and was taking Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”
Matti Saari, a 22-year-old culinary student, shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.
Steven Kazmierczak, age 27, shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amounts of Xanax in his system.
Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, age 18, had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School - then he committed suicide.
Asa Coon from Cleveland, age 14, shot and wounded four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon was on Trazodone.
Jon Romano, age 16, on medication for depression, fired a shotgun at a teacher in his New York high school.
Digital News, "Neighbor says Lanza was on meds, links between SSRIs and violence"
Time Magazine, January 2011, "Top Ten Legal Drugs Linked to Violence":