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Psychiatric Drugs And Mass Murder: Exploring The Connection

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As the country reels from news of yet another senseless mass killing in suburban Milwaukee, coming on the heels of the even more deadly massacre in Aurora, Colorado, Americans are left to wonder what could possibly be responsible for this outbreak of bloody insanity and murder. But as terrible as these two incidents were, they have an undeniable ring of familiarity about them – since the year 2000, there have been twenty-six cases of mass murder (four or more victims) in the United States, as opposed to twenty combined during the 1980s and 1990s. And before the 1980s, mass killing sprees were actually quite rare in this country, usually averaging no more than one or two per decade. So it appears we are looking at a trend of madness that began approximately thirty years ago and has been picking up steam every since.

While the anti-gun forces came out in legion following the killings at the movie theater in Colorado, the data connected with this disturbing pattern of atrocity destroys the theory that these horrible cases of mass murder have anything to do with the easy availability of weapons and the absence of laws mandating gun control. There is simply no correlation between the rise of mass murder and changes in gun laws, and anyone who is looking for a connection here is clearly barking up the wrong tree.

Those who are looking for a cause-and-effect relationship between violence in society and violence in the media and in video games are standing on somewhat firmer ground. There has been plenty of research to show that constant exposure to violent images will lead to desensitization toward real-life violence, and it is hardly a stretch to think that young people in particular who spend many hours a day wallowing in the muck of movies, television shows, and video games that glorify and celebrate homicide, rape, war, and vigilantism might occasionally end up striking out at the world in terrible and tragic ways. There has been a plethora of ghastly crimes carried out by young people under the age of eighteen over the past twenty years, and the proliferation of violent media images over that period of time could very well be presented as evidence in favor of the mass murder/media violence thesis.

But while violent imagery in the media might explain violent behavior in youth to a certain extent, the bizarre and twisted nature of crimes such as the Joker massacre and the homicidal attack on peaceful Sikh worshipers would seem to suggest that something more is going on here. These singularly evil acts appear to be the work of completely deranged minds under the control of something that can only be seen as demonic, and this requires an explanation that goes deeper than what can be provided by normal sociological analysis.

For those who believe in such things, demonic possession could be seen as one possible answer, but there is another explanation that fits the evidence quite well and does not require speculation about the intervention of supernatural forces. In a shockingly high number of the most infamous cases of mass atrocity that have been committed on U.S. soil in recent years, the perpetrators were people who had been in treatment for psychiatric disorders and had been under the influence of powerful, mind-altering psychiatric drugs in the weeks and months leading up to their deadly violent outbursts.

Manufacturing Illness And Harvesting The Profits

The profit margins of pharmaceutical companies will inevitably rise as the health of the American people gets worse. Therefore, it is clearly in the best interests of the drug industry to have us all diagnosed with as many health maladies and chronic conditions as possible, so physicians and psychiatrists will have a good excuse for giving us the prescriptions that make the legal drug business so lucrative. Whether or not those maladies actually exist and whether or not we actually suffer from them is essentially irrelevant; the important thing is that we be diagnosed with them so that we can be given the medicines that the pharmaceutical giants want us to have.

In recent years, depression and anxiety disorders have proven to be especially profitable for the drug industry here in the U.S. On the depression index, France has now moved into the number-one position with 21 percent of its population estimated to suffer from this condition, but the United States is still holding strong in second place at a competitive 19.2 percent. Meanwhile, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, up to 25.8 percent of the adult population, or almost 58 million people, are suffering from one kind of anxiety disorder or another. Many of the folks suffering from these ailments are double dippers, meaning that they have been diagnosed with both depression and anxiety disorder. These individuals in particular often end up being doused with pharmaceutical wonder drugs by psychiatrists who are convinced that changing brain chemistry is the only sensible way to cure psychological disorders. Overall, approximately 11 percent of all Americans are currently taking prescription medications for depression and anxiety disorder, and this is a number that is continuing to rise all the time.

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But are “illnesses” like depression and anxiety disorder actually illnesses at all?  By putting labels like “disease” and “disorder” on troubling mental states, medical science has been basically conjuring up biological explanations for what were once considered psychological conditions. This approach has fattened the pocketbooks of the drug companies and has been a boon to the psychiatric profession, but whether it has really benefited those suffering from chronic sadness, frustration, and despair is open to long and heated debate.

Depression and anxiety disorder most definitely do exist, but they are problems that arise when people’s most fundamental needs are not being met – i.e., the need for love, friendship, personal and financial security, meaningful work, interesting hobbies and pastimes, and so on. When viewed from this perspective, it seems clear that depression and anxiety are not so much diseases as they are coping mechanisms of minds frustrated by the trying and difficult circumstances of their lives. In such instances, changing those circumstances would seem much more likely to produce good results than simply taking some kind of drug, which will not do anything to alter the basic life realities of someone struggling to overcome depression or anxiety.

But rather than focusing on the importance of changing our relationship with the world and with our fellow human beings as the best way for restoring sound psychological health, psychiatry has decided to take the easy (and profitable) way out instead by labeling depression and anxiety as “diseases” that can only be cured by taking drugs that alter brain chemistry in profound and troubling ways.

SSRIs And Other Antidepressants: A Closer Look

The types of antidepressants most often prescribed for adults, and increasingly for adolescents and children, are from a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Another class of drugs known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, are also starting to catch on, as most of the focus of medical professionals attempting to treat depression with drugs has been on finding ways to regulate levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which appears to be lacking in the brains of those suffering from this mental health disorder and in the brains of those diagnosed with anxiety conditions as well. Drugs like these inhibit the natural process through which serotonin is re-absorbed by brain cells after use in message transmission, and the result is that the brain is suddenly flooded with new supplies of a chemical that has been proven to have an affect on mood and behavior.

Given the total reliance of psychiatry these days on altering serotonin levels to create desirable changes in brain chemistry, it is surprising to discover that the connection between serotonin and depression is far from established. In fact, many researchers have concluded that this idea is completely lacking in merit, and non-biased research carried out on the effectiveness of SSRIs would seem to validate their point. In one important study that took place back in 1997 at Harvard Medical School, it was found that 82 percent of the supposed effectiveness of SSRIs in treating depression could be dismissed as placebo effect – in other words, these drugs basically didn’t work at all except in a small percentage of cases, and even there the possibility that lifestyle changes or behavioral therapy used in conjunction with antidepressants was making the decisive difference could not be ruled out.

Prescribing drugs for medical disorders that really may not be disorders at all is bad enough. When those drugs probably don’t even work in the majority of cases, however, giving these brain-altering chemicals to millions of adults – and millions more below the age of eighteen whose brains are still in the process of developing – falls into the realm of outrageous scandal. But believe it or not, the situation with serotonin-inhibiting drugs actually gets even worse, because while they may not really be assisting the brain in overcoming depression and anxiety, they can affect the brain in other ways that are scary, grotesque, and incredibly dangerous.

The Proven Side Effects Of SSRIs

Of course, not everyone accepts the research that has called the effectiveness of antidepressants into question. There is too much money and power involved in the equation for either the drug industry or the psychiatric profession to go down without a fight, and both insist that the majority of the studies carried out support the utility of drugs that alter serotonin levels in the brains of the depressed and the stressed. But because these medicines have been around for awhile now (the first SSRI, Prozac, came on the market in 1988), there has been plenty of time for their toxic side effects to be observed in actual patients taking these drugs in clinical settings, and there is no way for any of the actors involved to suppress the truth about what has been discovered. They can minimize it, but they can’t completely suppress it.

According to the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which is referred to as “the most trusted and commonly used drug information reference,” the entire class of drugs known as SSRIs, including Prozac, Luvox, and Paxil, has been shown to cause the following adverse reactions in a statistically notable percentage of those who take them:

  • Manic reaction (kleptomania, pyromania, dipsomania, nymphomania)
  • Hypomania (poor judgment, over spending, impulsivity, etc.)
  • Abnormal thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Personality disorder
  • Amnesia
  • Agitation
  • Psychosis
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Alcohol abuse and/or craving
  • Hostility
  • Paranoid reactions
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Sleep disorders
  • Akathisia (severe internal restlessness that can lead to suicide)
  • Withdrawal syndrome
  • Impulsivity

This list of side effects is disturbing in any circumstances. But when we discover that many of those who have been involved in mass killings (the Columbine shooters, the Virginia Tech gunman who murdered thirty-two people in an on-campus rampage, a Louisville man who shot and killed nine people at the Standard Gravure Company, a sixteen-year-old Native-American boy who gunned down nine on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, just to name a few) had been taking SSRIs during the time of their killing sprees, everyone’s alarm bells should be ringing loudly. Again, it must be emphasized that we are not just talking about a few isolated incidents here – most of the perpetrators of mass murder over the past fifteen to twenty years had been taking prescription medicines at the time of their killings, and the drugs they had been taking were usually SSRIs or other medications commonly used to treat depression and/or anxiety disorders.

And this relationship is not just confined to mass murder. Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, who authored a book called “Prozac, Panacea or Pandora?”, studied thirty-two murder-suicides involving mothers and their children, and she found that in twenty-four of those cases the women had been taking Prozac at the time of the homicides.

Of course, defenders of psychiatric drugs have an obvious out here. Since those who are prescribed these medicines are being treated for mental illness, it can always be claimed that their psychological problems were the real cause of their crimes. But this idea has now been refuted, thanks to a study performed by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, an independent organization not affiliated with any government agencies or drug companies. ISMP researchers used information from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System to compile a list of the ten medicines most frequently implicated in violent behavior, carefully adjusting the statistics to account for any other factors that might possibly have explained violent outbursts in psychiatric patients taking these drugs.

By this time, no one should be surprised to read that antidepressants dominated this list, locking down five of the top ten spots on the “most violent drug” list. And it is highly enlightening that all five of these drugs came from the two classes of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors that have become the antidepressants of choice for psychiatrists everywhere. The fatal five include the SNRIs Pristiq and Effexor and the SSRIs Luvox, Paxil, and Prozac, the latter of which came in at number two on the list, causing violent reactions in those ingesting it at a frequency almost eleven times greater than the average pharmaceutical drug.

Living In The Age Of Chemical Madness 

The documented side effects of antidepressants are frightening and, at least in some cases, apparently lethal. The human mind is the most finely tuned instrument found anywhere on the planet, and putting people on drugs that can disrupt its carefully crafted balance is a risky and unpredictable enterprise at best. While it can hardly be said that the connection between extreme violence and antidepressant consumption has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt, the fact that so many bizarre and horrific crimes have been committed by those under the influence of serotonin inhibitors in particular certainly should be enough to stimulate investigations by Congress, the White House, the FDA, the mainstream media, and any private health organizations truly concerned about the welfare of the American people. That this is not happening is a testament to how powerful the pharmaceutical companies have become, and how influential their pro-drug propaganda continues to be.

As for the two most recent incidents of mass murder to take place on U.S. soil, all of the early evidence suggests that the deceased shooter in the attack against the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Wade Michael Page, was a fanatical white supremacist who was filled with rage and hatred for people of different races and religions. Page does not seem the type who would have ever visited a psychiatrist, so it is unlikely that he was taking any sort of prescription medication at the time of his rampage.

But the story with James Holmes, the madman responsible for the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, appears to be quite different. It is now confirmed that Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist over the past several months, and that his doctor had been so concerned by what she heard in their sessions that she broke the rules of doctor-patient confidentiality and warned officials at the University of Colorado that Holmes might be a threat to himself or to others. At this point, it is not known what if any medicines this psychiatrist had prescribed for Holmes during their time together. But if it is eventually revealed that Holmes was in fact on antidepressants at the time of his attack, no one who has been paying attention to what has been happening in our society over the past fifteen to twenty years will be the least bit surprised.

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