There weren’t any school shootings when I went to elementary, middle school and high school. Nobody’s kid shot up their school. And school suicide rates were a lot lower then. I was thinking about that and I remembered that when I went to school, kids weren’t medicated like they are being medicated now. A lot of today’s kids are now put on ritalin and antidepressants. Can these drugs cause some kids to become violent? Can they encourage suicide in some?
An article that I pulled from the internet over the weekend, “New Study Confirms What CCHR Has Said for Decades–Antidepressants Cause Violence,” cited several sources that make the claim “that antidepressants can cause violent behavior.”(1) PLOS Medicine found that “young adults between the ages of 15-24, were nearly fifty percent more likely to be convicted of a homicide, assault, robbery, arson, kidnapping, sexual offense, or other violent crime when taking the antidepressant than when they weren’t taking the psychiatric drug.” I mention this age group because my community recently had a school shooting that resulted in a fatality. It happened just a few weeks ago. Many people were eager to blame the shooter, but what if he brought those guns to school because he was under the influence of a psychoactive drug? What if it wasn’t his fault? What if the fault for this mishap doesn’t belong to him at all?
According to a Wikipedia article (2) that I read over the weekend, “Development and Discovery of SSRI Drugs,” SSRI’s “are recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a first-line treatment of depression.” and yet Kirstie Alley, the actress famed for her role on “Cheers,” tweeted on Oct 2nd, 2017, that one additional common denominator of “shooters” is psychiatric drugs that have side effects including violence and suicide. And I think that she meant that those side effects would be found among many age groups, not just among people between 15-24 years of age. She was, of course, referring to the recent shooting in Las Vegas on the first of October (3).
Many pointless questions and comments are being made about mass shootings and many of them refer either to the guilty mind of the perpetrator or gun rights that American citizens enjoy. I think that exploring these topics will not help us to stop the problem of mass shootings in America no matter how much we talk about them. Instead we should focus on pharmaceuticals, their side effects and the profits that pharmaceutical companies are making from psychoactive drugs. We should notice that mass shootings might be the consequence to society of trying to medicate America into a better state of mind.
We can already see how the profit motive has affected the sale of opiates in the United States. Many Americans are now dying of opiate addiction and overdose. But opiates aren’t the only drug that’s being sold for profit instead of to benefit the people for whom it is prescribed. Antidepressants may be a similar example where large profits have led to a reckless number of unnecessary and harmful prescriptions. And we should realize further (in the case of antidepressants) that we are observing the externalization of risk to all of us (by exposing us to shooters that are obsessed with violence because of antidepressants) for the sake of making huge amounts of money in the sale of antidepressants by pharmaceutical companies. According to an article, “Mother’s Little Anti-Psychotic Is Worth $6.9 Billion A Year,” (4) Abilify made almost $6.9 billion dollars for Otsuka America between 2013-2014. That’s only one of the many drugs that are available from a variety of drug manufacturers.
According to an article titled, “Antidepressants Are A Prescription For Mass Shootings,” there’s now a FDA black box warning for all antidepressants that states “there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior by taking the drug.” Does this warning go far enough? What if mass shooters are being medicated into violence? The warning doesn’t say that an antidepressant can make you buy 27 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. It doesn’t say that you might kill a lot of people who you know or don’t know. According to Dr Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, “depression rarely leads to violence and it’s only since the SSRI’s came on the market that… mass shootings have taken place.” (5) The article lists some famous mass shooters and links them with antidepressants.
Regulatory capture happens when perverse incentives encourage regulatory companies to ignore the risk and harm that they are supposed to prevent by stopping the sale of something that can cause harm. Regulatory capture is happening when NICE makes risky drugs the first line of defense against depression. Joseph Stieglitz said that “neoliberalism privatizes the profits and socializes the losses,” by externalizing consequences to the public. Here the terrible consequences are to both young and old Americans that are caught up in pointless violence that has likely been caused by a prescription. Instead of blaming perpetrators, who take these drugs on the advice of their psychiatrist, it’s time to look at where the money went when the risk was externalized to all of us.
Isn’t it time to pull back on the number of new antidepressant prescriptions? And isn’t it time for a moratorium on SSRI prescription to people between the age of 15-24? According to the Wikipedia article mentioned above, withdrawal from anti-depressants has to be gradual and careful, but weaning Big Pharma off the flow of money may be even harder than tapering some patients off antidepressants.
If you would like to learn more about neoliberalism, its political goals and effects on society, read Political Catsup with Economy Fries; copies available on Amazon.com.
(1) Patricia O’Meara, “New Study Confirms What CCHR Has Said for Decades–Antidepressants Cause Violence,” September 22, 2015, http://www.cchrint.org/2015/09/22/new-study-confirs-cchr-antidepressants-cause-violence/, accessed 7, Oct 2017.
(2) “Development and Discovery of SSRI Drugs,” http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_and_discovery_of_SSRI_drugs, accessed 7, Oct 2017.
(3) “Las Vegas Strip Shooter Prescribed Anti-Anxiety Drug in June”, https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/the-strip/las-vegas-strip-shooter-prescribed-anti-anxiety-drug-in-june, accessed 7, Oct 2017.
(4) Jay Michaelson, “Mother’s Little Anti-Psychotic Is Worth $6.9 Billion A Year,” http://www.thedailybeast.com/mother’s-little-anti-psychotic-is-worth-dollar69-billion-a-year, 9, Nov 2014, accessed 7, Oct 2017.
(5) “Antidepressants Are a Prescription for Mass Shootings,” http://www.cchrflorida.org/antidepressants-are-a-prescription-for-mass-shootings/, accessed 7,Oct 2017.
(6) Ali Le Vere, GreenMedInfo.com, “Mass Shootings: The New Manifestation of an Ancient Phenomenon and their Link to Psychiatric Drugs,” http://Kellybroganmd.com/Author/Ali-Le-Vere-Greenmedinfo-Com/, accessed 10, Oct 2017.