Grandmother Murders old Friend: Court Accepts SSRI as a Cause

Kermit Cole
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Based on a psychiatrist’s recommendation that the effects of citalopram (Celexa) had contributed to a 61 year-old grandmother’s lethal bludgeoning of her friend of over 20 years as they had tea, the High Court in Edinburgh accepted a reduced plea of ‘culpable homicide.’ The psychiatrist indicated that she had been prescribed a dosage “far in excess of what she should have been prescribed.”

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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]

9 COMMENTS

  1. Amazing that they could try to blame this on “depression” rather than the drug. This sounds like very uncharacteristic behavior on the part of this woman, and her description seems to suggest she was dissociated at the time of the event. This kind of dissociation seems very common in SSRI users I have spoken with and read about in stories of similar situations. It seems clear that the drug has to be extremely suspect, rather than “her depression.” She seems VERY unlikely to have done such a thing under normal circumstances.

    Another psychiatric success story…

    —- Steve

    • I thought the article was quite confused about the causes: was it the depression or the drug? And the idea that “Depression,” causes anything instead of being a series of attitudes centred around self blame is a bit worrying too.

      But the article did point out that these drugs have withdrawal effects and that the woman has been withdrawn and has “insight” into what she did. So that points to some critical view of the drug.

      Personally I often find people annoy me to distraction, espcailly if I’m having a bad day and they are saying things that remind me of painful things in my own life. So I guess these drugs lower the conscince and stop people thinking through the consequences of thier desires.

      • That’s what I’ve heard from those directly experiencing. A former colleague called it “Zolofting” when she just didn’t give a crap what anyone thought about what she was doing. For a person who is chronically over-worried about others’ opinions, I can imagine this is quite a relief. But for those who are suppressing the urge to be violent because they’re worried how others would view it, creating this “Zolofting” experience could be quite dangerous!

        —- Steve

        • “A former colleague called it “Zolofting” when she just didn’t give a crap what anyone thought about what she was doing.”

          Steve,

          This hearkens back to the “Zoloft Defense” — which I find highly objectionable.

          Here’s a link to my comment, wherein I offered my view of the “Zoloft Defense”:

          https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/06/calif-jury-rejects-zoloft-defense/#comment-12166

          If I understand correctly, commenter -Anonymous, has taken leave from commenting on this website (at least, for now).

          I think that’s too bad — because I greatly appreciate his passion — especially, on the issue of what he calls, “drug blaming.”

          For one example of an exceedingly brief comment, of his, on this matter, see:

          https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/06/jury-rejects-zoloft-defense/#comment-12841

          His lengthier comments have regarded what I feel is a very legitimate concern — that being the truly mindless reductionism of many who claim psychopharmaceuticals have been ‘the cause’ of unspeakably horrible crimes and/or acts of self-destruction.

          Personally, I am sympathetic to many who feel that psychopharmaceuticals have driven a loved one to suicide.

          But, I am *much* more circumspect when it comes to personal stories of crimes against others that were supposedly caused by psychopharmaceuticals.

          Hence, this case of the grandmother murdering her old friend may seem to be “drug blaming” — which I believe can *often* reflect extremely indefensible/foolish reductive theorizing (and is, thus, a serious problem, insofar as it has come to ‘excuse’ some really *horrible* crimes, in the eyes of many); nonetheless, I do believe, as well, that “patients” who are “following a doctor’s orders” are, thus, subjects of potentially ‘undue influence’ of ‘bad medicine’ — which could, indeed, poorly influence their behaviors.

          As I’ve mentioned previously, in comments, on this site, I’m wholly opposed to “insanity defense” (the proposition that one was suffering a ‘mental disorder’ which rendered him/her incapable of knowing ‘right’ from ‘wrong’); and, yet, arguing for ‘diminished capacity’ may be warranted, at times. (That’s what this case amounts to, basically…)

          The sentencing is (ostensibly) more *merciful* when the ultimate ruling, of a court, affirms ‘diminished capacity’; however, the perpetrator stands convicted of a crime — and is typically sentenced to prison time (far better, imo, than letting such people get away with murder).

          Respectfully,

          ~Jonah

          • I want to be clear that I don’t consider any drug likely to be 100% to blame for acts of aggression, just as I don’t blame alcohol for domestic abuse incidents, for example. The reduction of inhibitions tends to reveal what was being inhibited, and that’s different from person to person.

            But the HUGE difference in these scenarios is that in the domestic abuser’s case, the abuser knows very well that alcohol will reduce his inhibitions and that he has a tendency to violence. Some will even drink specifically so they’ll have a justification for what they’re already planning.

            In contrast, in this grandmother’s case, I doubt she had the slightest idea that this drug could cause her to become so detached from her friend’s experience and emotions that she could somehow feel OK about carrying out something that under normal circumstances might have only been the most remote of fantasies in her subconscious mind.

            I think it is vitally important that this information be gotten out to people, not so criminal thinkers can use it to avoid responsibility for their crimes, but so that people who are taking these drugs can be honestly informed of the true effects they might experience. If this grandmother and her doctor (most doctors don’t know or deny this possible effect) knew to watch out for this, there may well have been early signs that she was reacting badly to the drug and she could have been discontinued.

            I hope you will agree with me that by the description of this woman and how she lived her life, it seems extremely unlikely that she would have committed this act without the presence of the SSRI drug in her system. Her description of her disoriented state of mind at the time fully supports this contention, and the judge’s ruling confirms that s/he saw it the same way. So whether or not Celexa can be held 100% responsible for this murder, it appears clear to me that this woman’s friend would almost certainly be alive and she would almost certainly not be in jail if she had not been taking this prescription.

            I know you don’t want to let the perpetrators off the hook. But I don’t want to let the SSRIs off the hook, either. At a minimum, they are guilty of being accessories to the crime.

            —- Steve

          • Jonah,

            Initially I was horrified about the Zoloft being used as a defense in that rape case. But after listening to either the wife or the mom of the guy convicted of rape state that when he was put back on 150mg of Zoloft after being off of it for a month, I changed my mind. Any quick drug change can definitely cause horrific behaviors.

            I do agree with Steve that the drug can’t be totally blamed. But in light of how this guy was reinstated at 150mg of Zoloft after being off of it for a month, I definitely don’t think the drug can be discounted as a factor.

            I totally agree with Steve about that the Grandma would most likely have not committed murder if she hadn’t been on this med.

            Finally, Johah, I am curious about something. If you can accept that meds can cause someone to want to commit suicide, why is hard to accept they can cause someone to commit homicide since they are both violent acts although obviously the targets are different?

          • Jonah, thankyou for such a truthful and accurate description. Like you I am very much against the insaniety defence or any defence. I find it more so when one considers that forced treatment laws are wrong. People argue against forced treatment and in the same sentence question why they were ever committed of a crime as they were insane at the time. If one is so insane as to not know what they were doing, then I would figure that they are very good grounds for forced treatment.

            It is also the conditions it happens for. As someone who dissocaited with excessively high levels, to the point of being diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, the one thing that is seen as central in the therapy of such people is them accepting full responsiblity for ALL aspects of themselves. It is not considered acceptable from most of those in that section to allow someone to say, but another part of me did it. One cannot move on and heal if they continue to not take responsiblity for there actions. We had to always be responsible for what every bit of us did.

            And of course where is the PROOF that one was insane. Where is the proof that one was simply hearing a voice telling them to do something. Where is the proof that the drug made them do it. Where is the proof that an underlying brain disaes made them do it.

            I would never say there is never a case of dimished capacity, but its abuse is beyond me. We now have a situation in Australia were 98% of people bought before courts are on the finding of guilt, immediatley given psychiatric evaluations, and then they discover they have depression!! Gees if I had just found out that I was going to spend time in prision I think I might be a bit sad too!! But no it is always used as a way to get a lighter sentence. We even have people who have murdered people after searching them out, claim they were provocated into doing it, as they really just wanted to talk, even though a order was in place preventing them from being within 500 metres of them, but there defence is accepted, and naturally with the woman being dead, she can’t argue anything.

  2. Such is the power and strength of psychiatric drugs, to alter brain chemicals and to cause mood changes, much more severe, I contend, than ordinary life stuff. And here lies the problem.

    Each one of us is different and will respond differently to psych drugs, being on them and coming off them. It’s a minefield of psychiatry’s making. I know that when I was on them after a psychosis that the drugs were far worse than the psychosis, and getting off them took great resilience and strength, and most of all resisting the power and control of psychiatry.

    And I’m still resisting because the fact that I didn’t believe it, took charge of my own mental health and recovered, then came back to confront them with it is very annoying I should think. It makes nonsense of the diagnosis/label and the prevailing biomedical model of mental illness. For how could someone with this completely recover?

    In Scotland there is a different outcome for the ‘severe and enduring’. For they are siphoned off into a dead-end cul-de-sac where only drugs are available and recovery isn’t an option. The only way to recover is to not believe them, not accept their lifelong disabling prognosis and prove them wrong by recovering. But what about all the others who believed them, remained on the drugs, have physical health issues because of it and tardive dyskinesia? They are a daily reminder to us all, most definitely to psychiatry, that their system has failed and is in need of a complete recovery.