The Putative Neurobiology of SSRIs and Aggression

Kermit Cole
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“It’s hap­pening,” said researchers at Northeastern University, “Kids are becoming irri­tated, aggres­sive, impul­sive, agi­tated, hos­tile. So you ask the ques­tion: Why?” They found (through study of the effect of fluoxetine on hamsters) that SSRIs may “take the brake off” of aggression by allowing another neurotransmitter – vasopressin – to kick the brain’s aggression system into overdrive. “There’s the like­li­hood,” said a lead researcher, “that by virtue of the fact that our clin­ical diag­nosis is not based in neu­ro­bi­ology, but rather in symp­to­mology, that we may be giving kids a sero­tonin drug inappropriately.”

Abstract →

Ricci, L., Melloni Jr., R; Repeated fluoxetine administration during adolescence stimulates aggressive behavior and alters serotonin and vasopressin neural development in hamsters. Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol 126(5), Oct 2012, 640-653. doi: 10.1037/a0029761

Of further interest:
A complicated link between aggression and antidepressant drugs

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

6 COMMENTS

  1. I consider this to be one of the more important news topics I’ve seen here. I have hoped for years that claims of violence associated with psychotropic drugs would find scientific validity. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before something is conclusive and we can all stop arguing about SSRI’s link to violence.

  2. I absolutely agree with Jeffrey. I see this happening all the time in my work with foster children, and yet it is rare that anyone in the mental health field connects the dots. It’s usually up to my volunteer advocates to sound the alarm, and they are then usually subjected to a level of condescension that is often quite discouraging. The only answer seems to be to get a second opinion from another psychiatrist that contradicts the first, but most psychs aren’t willing to criticize their peers. Meanwhile, these kids are being diagnosed “bipolar” in huge numbers and given antipsychotics, when the problem originated in an adverse reaction to an SSRI.

    “There’s the like­li­hood,” said a lead researcher, “that by virtue of the fact that our clin­ical diag­nosis is not based in neu­ro­bi­ology, but rather in symp­to­mology, that we may be giving kids a sero­tonin drug inappropriately.”

    This quote gets my vote for understatement of the year.

    —- Steve

  3. That introducing a surplus of serotonin into the brain creates a negative feedback loop of chemical imbalance makes logical sense to me. I know that I was markedly more irritable on SSRI’s than I had ever been in my life much to the chagrin of my loved ones.

    It’s tragic and more than a little disgusting that in an effort to support a human sacrificing model of revenue generation psychiatrists will readily slap a stigmatizing, self-esteem damaging, bogus psych label onto a young person based upon drug generated behaviors leading to more prescriptions (more $$$) and a cascade of mind and body damaging negative feedback loops. Quite the healing art.

  4. Please do forgive me – my comment here is not with Grace or Ease.

    I’m entirely certain that my adolescent mood, emotional and behavioral symptoms had nothing to do with Paxil or my brains or my chemistry – but everything to do with The World – terror, horror, violence, abuse, neglect, trauma and a world of dishonest, neglectful, ignorant, incompetent, dysfunctional, control-freak human beings. And I’m highly allergic to TV.

    I’m sure of it.

    Relentless study of human brains, mouse brains and hamster brains. This is getting ridiculous. Here’s the problem: Human Beings lack CARE. We LEARN more when our Heart is in it.

    I said before how I was able to CARE (effectively) for a person who by society’s standards is a “POS”, because she is a “drunk crack whore” (using SOCIETY’S language). It is because I did not see her as a worthless piece of trash, because I did not JUDGE her and because I did not “diagnose” her that I was able to “treat” her and DID achieve the desired outcome.

    Gee, how did I manage to succeed in handling a DRUNK person (um, TWICE! Two different people!) so effectively when I don’t know the first thing about science-brains? I don’t NEED to know but a “system” that wants to OWN and CONTROL people DOES need to.

    ““Kids are becoming irri­tated, aggres­sive, impul­sive, agi­tated, hos­tile. So you ask the ques­tion: Why?” They found” – STOP.

    They found nothing. They know nothing. They are obsessed brain maniacs and mad-scientists who need some serious adjustment.

    Okay.

    P.S. I managed to successfully respond to and treat aggressive, agitated and intoxicated people simply because I genuinely CARED about them and their suffering.

    I wish they’d stop tinkering with brains and chemistry in the name of Disease. WHAT are they doing?? Certainly are not producing Health!

  5. “SSRIs may “take the brake off” of aggression by allowing another neurotransmitter – vasopressin – to kick the brain’s aggression system into overdrive. “There’s the like­li­hood,” said a lead researcher, “that by virtue of the fact that our clin­ical diag­nosis is not based in neu­ro­bi­ology, but rather in symp­to­mology, that we may be giving kids a sero­tonin drug inappropriately.”

    THE BRAKE! Is perhaps better understood as the “vagal brake” of the heart, and its autonomic regulation by the central and peripheral nervous systems, which includes the use of multiple neurotransmitters and hormones released into the blood stream.

    “Ricci, L., Melloni Jr., R; Repeated fluoxetine administration during adolescence stimulates aggressive behavior and alters serotonin and vasopressin neural development in hamsters. Behavioral Neuroscience,”

    There are more holistic researchers seeking to understand “human development,” such as Stephen Porges and his paradigm shifting discovery of a third branch to our autonomic nervous system, regulated by the nerves & muscles of head, and particularly the face? This new discovery is increasingly becoming known as “the heart-face connection,” in the field of human development research and the origins of poor self-regulation which may lead to various so-called pathological states.

    Here is an excellent presentation of the developmental issues involved in the “experience dependent maturation of brain/nervous system regulation of the heart.” This new paradigm of understanding, increasingly recognizes the importance of the heart in creating “cerebral tone,” or the tone of our thoughts?

    “The Early Development of the Autonomic Nervous System Provides a Neural Platform for Social Behavior: A Polyvagal Perspective:
    “Vagal brake (neural mechanisms of self-soothing & calming)”
    http://ccf.nd.edu/assets/32275/porges.pdf

    “There’s the like­li­hood,” said a lead researcher,” that if we come up with an interesting study project, we’ll get funded and maintain our “livelihood” by intellectually assuming that we’re really interested in truly discovering, just why “kids are becoming irri­tated, aggres­sive, impul­sive, agi­tated, hos­tile.”

    Mental health research! In real-world terms, just how much is it about discovering whats really going on, and how much is it about the researchers own need to make a living?

    IMO Porges groundbreaking discovery lends real science validation to the kind of person-centered approaches we all know, work best in mental/emotional distress resolution. Yet such new knowledge is resisted intellectually because it challenges our typical assumptions about the mind & the brain? Yet in the area of trauma resolution, it is this new “polyvagal theory,” of the nervous system which is allowing traditionally, body oriented therapists to affirm what they have intuitively understood and practiced for many decades now.

  6. Someone who read my book “Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?” years ago posted this study on my Facebook page with one comment, “DUH!” And Jeffery that is because the science behind Prozac removing the brakes on aggression has been around for about 60 years now – all documented in my book.

    Add to that the fact that Prozac & its clones often test as amphetamine in blood. An ANTI-depressant, the opposite of a depressant is what? These are stimulants – strong stimulants. And the SSRIs are almost identical to PCP, Angel Dust, which is also serotonergic. These drugs clearly produce violence as you can see in our database of cases posted at http://www.SSRIstories.com. There are many cases of extreme violence by children.

    Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, Executive Director,
    International Coalition for Drug Awareness

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