On the Link Between Psychiatric Drugs and Violence

Philip Hickey, PhD
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One of psychiatry’s most obvious vulnerabilities is the fact that various so-called antidepressant drugs induce homicidal and suicidal feelings and actions in some people, especially late adolescents and young adults.  This fact is not in dispute, but psychiatry routinely downplays the risk, and insists that the benefits of these drugs outweigh any risks of actual violence that might exist.

There are two research studies that indicate a link between SSRIs and violence, but both studies have limitations that make it difficult to draw firm conclusions.  The studies are:

Moore, TJ, Glenmullen, J, and Furberg, CD (2010) Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others.  This study, which was published in December 2010 in PLOS One, concluded:

“Acts of violence towards others are a genuine and serious adverse drug event associated with a relatively small group of drugs. Varenicline [a quit-smoking aid], which increases the availability of dopamine, and antidepressants with serotonergic effects were the most strongly and consistently implicated drugs. Prospective studies to evaluate systematically this side effect are needed to establish the incidence, confirm differences among drugs and identify additional common features.” [Emphasis added]

Molero, Y, Lichtenstein, P, Zetterqvist, J, Hellner Gumpert, C, Fazel, S, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Violent Crime: A Cohort Study ( 2015).  This study was published in September 2015 in PLOS One, and found:

“…there was a significant association between SSRIs and violent crime convictions for individuals aged 15 to 24 y (HR = 1.43, 95% CI 1.19–1.73, p < 0.001, absolute risk = 3.0%).”


In addition, there is also an enormous and growing body of anecdotal evidence (e.g. AntiDepAware) that these drugs are implicated in a great many acts of violence and suicide, particularly those in which individuals kill strangers and then take their own lives.

. . . . . 

Amazingly, psychiatry has consistently failed to conduct a comprehensive, prospective, formal research study on this matter, even though the need for such a study has been glaringly evident for almost 20 years.  It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that psychiatry’s refusal to engage this question is motivated by a desire to suppress information, and to avoid the anti-psychiatry publicity that such a study will almost surely entail.

In this regard, it is noteworthy that in December 2012, shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, a petition to order such a study was removed, with no explanation, from the White House petition site “We the People,” even though it was well on the way to obtaining the requisite number of signatures in the allotted timeframe.

Not only has pharma-psychiatry failed to conduct a formal study on this matter, they have also shamelessly and callously used these tragic incidents to further their own drug-pushing ends.  With each fresh incident, there are cries from  eminent psychiatrists and from various psychiatric bodies for more screenings, more “mental health treatment,” including enforced “treatment.”  These calls are heard even in cases where it is open knowledge that the perpetrator had been receiving psychiatric “treatment,” and had been taking psychiatric drugs.

Psychiatry’s self-serving exploitation of these incidents is not random or incidental, but is part of a tawdry marketing campaign outlined at a 1999 NAMI conference by DJ Jaffe, founder of Mental Illness Policy.org, and a founding member of the Treatment Advocacy Center.  Here are some quotes from his address as reported by MadNation:

“Laws change for a single reason, in reaction to highly publicized incidents of violence.”

“The media is gonna report on violence no matter what we want, and we have to… turn it to our advantage.”

And another quote from DJ Jaffe’s article “How to reduce both violence and stigma,” Newsletter of Staten Island AMI (SIAMI), December 1994:

“In addition, from a marketing perspective, it may be necessary to capitalize on the fear of violence to get the law [outpatient commitment legislation] passed.”

That psychiatry would pick up this theme and persistently seek to exculpate themselves, by stigmatizing their clients in this way, is a sad though unsurprising reflection.

. . . . . 

It is obvious that when this particular domino falls, it will be a major blow to psychiatry’s credibility, which is why they and their pharma allies have invested so much energy and resources into trying to keep the facts of this matter well under wraps.  And in this endeavor, their tentacles are spread far and wide.  Remember what Connecticut Assistant Attorney General, Patrick B. Kwanashie, said on August 22, 2013, during a freedom of information hearing on the Sandy Hook shooting.  In response to AbleChild’s request, he stated that releasing this information [about the psychiatric treatment of the shooter, Adam Lanza] could “… cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”  Why is the state of Connecticut so invested in young people continuing to take psychiatric drugs in the face of such strong indications of their implication in these horrendous incidents?  Why should the promotion of pharma-psychiatry’s deceptions become a part of a state government’s agenda?  Of course, the question is rhetorical.  Pharma distributes a great deal of largesse to politicians, and pharma always gets value for money spent.

. . . . . 

But the good news is that the petition to investigate the psychiatric drugs-violence link is back on We the People.  It went up on October 6, 2015, and has garnered 610 signatures as of today.  The goal is 100,000 signatures by November 5, 2015.  I strongly encourage all my American readers to add their signatures to this petition today.  And – if you feel comfortable doing so – please ask your friends/family/acquaintances to do the same.

Also, please consider writing to your political representatives, asking them to support this initiative.

There is an urgent need to investigate this matter thoroughly and transparently.  The one thing that venality and corruption cannot survive is the spotlight of truth.

 

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36 COMMENTS

  1. The first few times I tried getting off Zoloft I did the standard, relatively fast taper and each time I would have a couple of days of really intense anger. Every time I hear about one of these shootings I remember that and can very easily imagine how someone more troubled and less regulated than me, and less supported, might move into a violent state.

  2. I signed the White House petition and encourage others to do so.

    I still fail to understand how these studies are clear evidence that psych drugs are causing violence. I agree there is a correlation. But what if the real reason that people more frequently commit violent acts when on psych drugs than off is some 3rd factor, like…

    – that proportionally more of the people in the studies who are taking drugs are undergoing severe psychosocial stresses, compared to those people/themselves (at other times) who are not taking the drugs (I can’t tell if this is controlled for in some way in the studies), i.e. oer perhaps the people in these studies taking the drugs are more depressed/angry ab initio than those not taking them, since people in more trouble are more likely to go to the emergency room or psychiatrist and get drugged.
    – that the drugs make people feel unconsciously enraged and discouraged at being treated like labels needing a pill to fix (this would in fact be another reason to curtail drug use, but would not be a direct effect of the drugs in a biological sense).
    – In other words I’m just wondering how well other factors are controlled for in these studies. I agree another more rigorous study attempting to clearly isolate how psych drugs are affecting people’s propensity to violence would be good.

    I actually hope it is correct that psych drugs are linked to violence in some causal way, not because I want people to commit violence but rather because this could be another weapon to use against Big Pharma and psychiatrists to press for the curtailing or stopping of drug use.

    • Direct effect of the drugs in a biological sense:

      Search the term “homicidal akathisia” Akathisia is a medical term describing a condition of motor restlessness, marked by anxiety, agitation, jitteriness, or the sensation of “jumping out of one’s skin” and the inability to sit quietly or sleep caused by the drugs. The chronic sleeplessness itself can lead to nasty physical and emotional symptoms.

      Combine that akathisia with all the other ‘side’ effects of psychiatric drugs on the thinking part of the mind.

      I went into a destructive rage after getting all screwed up by these “meds” pissed off can’t sleep or relax with withdrawals all mixed up with the effects of new pills… Resulting in police, felony charges and further “treatment” in the hospital. Only property was damaged but still I was out of my mind in a bad way that NEVER would have happened if I never went to that effing doctor complaining of insomnia, that is what got the whole years long label and drug nightmare started.

      And people used to kill themselves quietly in the night when they got suicidal , now after the drugs many are deciding to kill other people wile they are at at it.

      This really isn’t about proving the psychotropic drug violence link anymore its about pointing to the “elephant in the room” they know is there and refuse to acknowledge .

    • “I still fail to understand how these studies are clear evidence that psych drugs are causing violence.”

      There is more than enough evidence (black box warnings and the studies/stats underlying these warnings, a number of trial outcomes concluding that, but for, the psych medication, the violent crime would not have occurred) to warrant a thorough investigation. Given the limitations involved in these types of studies (research studies or observation studies), we may not get the degree of certainty that one could obtain from a controlled experiment. Obviously, controlled experiments (loading up people with drugs to see if they become violent) are not in the cards, so the next best things is to do the studies that are feasible.

      But the main thing here is to start the public, societal discussion about what psychiatric drugs (i.e., the “treatment”) actually do or can do. The point is not that everyone who ingests these drugs goes on a murder spree, but that enough people do to warrant warnings. The public discussion needs to happen. The knee-jerk reaction to these mass atrocities is for many to call for more “treatment;” without a focused discussion of what exactly is involved in “treatment” and that more “treatment” might mean more risk.

      Beyond investigating the link to violence, we need to have a public discussion of whether drug treatments are effective/safe and whether the drugs are addictive and leading to increasing rates of mental disability. The petition’s mandate (“We the people of the United States demand a formal and public investigation into the relationship between the FDA, the Pharmaceutical industry, psychiatric drugs and treatment”.) is broader than examining the link between drugs and violence and that’s good.

      To me, the main value of this endeavor is the process; the debate. The opportunity of experts like Breggin, Glenmullen, Healy to have their say. Right now, the only people having this say are the Liebermans, Torreys and Jaffees of this world, and their say is tantamount to settled science. The more public airing of these issues, the more likely it is that at least some people will think twice about embarking on meds and that, too, is a good thing.

      I am disappointed that the petition is not gathering more steam. Also, our entire household signed, but I had difficulty finding my own signature. I am not trying to be paranoid about this, but I would urge everyone who signed (and I am asking everyone to please sign) to double-check and verify your signature and participation.

      • Ok I agree, increasing dialogue so that more of the public sheep will stop blindly taking pills without awareness of the possible consquences is good.

        I also want the point to be made over and over that psych drugs treat no reliable nor valid mental illness. The lie in the media that schizophrenia and depression are valid, reliable, separable categories continues unabated. If this lie is undermined via awareness and the ability of more of the public to actually think, then it becomes clearer that all psych drugs do is depress the central nervous system, rather than treating any mythical mental illness.

    • What I have heard from many users, and this is verified by studies looking at side effects, is that many people using these drugs experience a degree of emotional numbing, a sort of “I don’t care” or “WTF” attitude toward things that they previously might have cared about. A friend of mine who had used SSRIs called this condition of her mind “Zolofting.”

      Now for some people who were worried a lot about their mom’s approval or whether they’re socially accepted, this might be a good thing, for them to start feeling like “who cares what my mom thinks, I’m going to do what’s right for me!” And these folks would report a positive effect. But what if the thing that’s keeping someone from committing suicide is the knowledge that their mom will be devastated? The result of “who cares what my mom thinks?” could be that an actual suicide attempt is made. Or perhaps the person is repressing the urge to kill people because it’s socially frowned upon and jail might result. A change to a “WTF” attitude may mean carrying out on ideas that might have remained fantasies.

      I don’t think the drugs by themselves necessarily cause violent outbursts – I would guess that other factors need to be present as well. But I absolutely believe there is evidence that they may catalyze a latent thought or fantasy into an active plan. There are just too many of these shooters taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs for it to be a coincidence, especially when increased hostility, agitation, or suicidal thinking are known side effects. Increased hostility plus decreased inhibition probably won’t cause murder in 99.9% of people, though it may cause a host of other problems. The mass murderers are a tiny percentage of users, but they should be seen as canaries in a very dangerous coal mine, indicating that disinhibition of negative or dangerous behaviors is a very real risk with SSRIs, which should be carefully considered both before and after any person is allowed to take these drugs.

      —– Steve

      • I agree. That is not necessarily to say that people who commit acts of violence on these drugs were necessarily latent killers anyway – one has to consider akathesia which from what I’ve heard is enough to turn Ghandi into a serial killer. Also these drugs diminish empathy. I don’t think I know one person who has never expressed an urge to murder their boss but almost no one seriously thinks about it. Killing another human being is a hard thing to do save for a small minority of people with psychopathic personalities who usually don’t need encouragement anyway. If the drug takes the empathy away, takes impulse control away and on top of that causes suffering then it’s a “perfect mix”. For people who got on these drugs because they already had some relational problems it’s the end.
        People often say about mass shooters that they are psychopaths. Leaving aside the appropriateness of using labels a psychopath (someone naturally lacking empathy and ability to form attachments combined with a fetish for murder but otherwise “normal”) will not commit mass murder and then suicide. A person like that may become a serial killer or join the military or do something where one can realize these urges without suffering the consequences. The mass shooters don’t fit this profile, not in my mind. These actions scream desperation for me, not cold blooded murder even if they appear so.

        • • Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Columbine 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.

          • Chris Fetters, age 13, killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.

          • Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.

          • Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.

          • 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.

          • Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.

          • A boy in Pocatello, ID (Zoloft) in 1998 had a Zoloft-induced seizure that caused an armed stand off at his school.

          • 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..

          • 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.

          • Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.

          • 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

          • Jason Hoffman (Effexor and Celexa) – school shooting in El Cajon, California

          • Jarred Viktor, age 15, (Paxil), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.

          • 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.

          • Alex Kim, age 13, hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.

          • Diane Routhier was prescribed Welbutrin for gallstone problems. Six days later, after suffering many adverse effects of the drug, she shot herself.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • A boy from Houston, age 10, shot and killed his father after his Prozac dosage was increased.

          • 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.

          Missing from list… 3 of 4 known to have taken these same meds….

          • What drugs was Jared Lee Loughner on, age 21…… killed 6 people and injuring 14 others in Tuscon, Az?

          • What drugs was James Eagan Holmes on, age 24….. killed 12 people and injuring 59 others in Aurora Colorado?

          • What drugs was Jacob Tyler Roberts on, age 22, killed 2 injured 1, Clackamas Or?

          • What drugs was Adam Peter Lanza on, age 20, Killed 26 and wounded 2 in Newtown Ct?

          Every mass shooting over last 20 years has one thing in common… and it’s not guns: http://www.naturalnews.com/039752_mass_shootings_psychiatric_drugs_antidepressants.html

    • bpdtransformation,

      You’re correct. The studies don’t prove a causal connection – just a link. The two studies in question utilized existing databases to explore the link, and found that it existed. In order to establish a causal link, the study probably would have to be prospective, and probably a randomized controlled double-blinded trial.

  3. Just signed the petition , still awaiting email to arrive. Obviously psychiatry wants more violence to occur as it will generate more power and profits and remove more civil rights from the people and maybe even eventually install one of there very own as a Nero like Caesar in toga and crown to fiddle while aggressively with abandon zombafying the people to fulfill the eugenic daydreams of the power elite who fear most of all the people will awaken and see them and what they’ve done and then act accordingly.
    Phillip, can we copy your articles and put them up on bulletin boards in shopping malls, grocery stores ,etc. in the real world . Wouldn’t that be helpful toward waking more people to the truth about the hoax of psychiatry and especially this petition now . Thank you for letting us read your vitally accurate and important analysis here at MIA .
    In solidarity , Fred

  4. The first Democratic debate is tonight , 10/13/2015 , and I am very sure the psychiatric drug violence link will be omitted like it is from everything “mainstream” if the subject of mass shootings or the mental health system comes up.

    It should be fun to watch, I know they know about the psychiatric drug violence link and its funny to watch all these politicians use their almost super human slimy ability to dodge the issue.

  5. Hi Philip, I think this is a very pertinent Article.

    I acted out (suicidally) a number of times on “antipsychotic” medication; and this can be tied in with the medication. I have never acted out off the medication because I have never experienced the same internal state.

    I think in general no matter how I might feel, that I would have some control over my behavior – but at the time I had none whatsoever, because the episodes were chemically induced. This is why I’m a lot safer off medication than on medication.

    My behavior had nothing to do with ‘sanity’ and I probably appeared quite normal. It had more to do with the impossible way I felt at the time.

  6. Hi Dr Hickey,

    I get the feeling that the link between psychiatric drugs and violence is muddy water. How violence is defined etc make it ground that is easy to run people in to circular arguments.

    Perosnally I don’t give much credibility to a profession which would declare Jeff Dahmer as sane, when knowing the details of what he did, and yet the people who he was eating were classed as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual preference? But others seem to trust their products lol

    Keep at them Doc 🙂

    • Police data on violence.

      Act 1: Person attempts to plunge a large carving knife into another chest whilst they lay on the couch. Person raises foot in defense and knife slices shoe. No act of violence and not worthy of note even with confirmation from knife weilder.
      Act 2: Person places benzodiazepines into anothers drink without their knowledge. Conceal fact from stupefied person and detain in mental institution under MHA. Formal complaints to police (a) Civil matter (b) paranoid delusional, loose documents and detain under mental health act.
      Act 3 person says to drink spiker “might be best I make my own coffee from now on”. Act of extreme violence warranting Police Order eviction from home and possible arrest.

      Don’t know that I’d be relying on the data from police to draw conclusions about ‘violence’

      Muslims are being written up for being “under the influence” in my country lol

  7. There was an excellent article today by Benedict Carey in the New York Times …reporting on a new study showing that people with schizophrenia did way better with talk therapy and support to them and their families than they did on psychiatric drugs.

    Kudos to Carey – a friend to those of us who believe that mental health doesn’t reside in a pill.

  8. I don’t even know how to respond to this because no matter what I say, to anyone, they don’t seem to hear me. Especially the mental health workers who were treating me at the time.

    When I went through a ‘cold turkey’ benzo withdrawal that put me in a world of psychosis I’ve never seen before I became so suicidal from the horror world I found myself in I would have shot myself if I would have had a gun in my house at that time. Now, it’s OK if I want to take my own life while enduring a Klonopin withdrawal but when I went off the rest of my psychiatric drugs there were going to be other lives on the line as the mentally torturous SSRI withdrawals pushed me over the edge. My goal, and it was my only goal, a daily goal, was to find and take a shot gun to where I wanted and begin shooting. And I not only knew I would die in the process, it was expected. So don’t anyone ever try and tell me that psychiatric drug withdrawals do NOT push people into doing things they never in a million years would ever do. But who’s listening? No one….