Every time I read about another school shooting, or a mass killing like the Germanwings plane crash, my heart breaks because I know they might have been prevented if the public was better educated about the rare but potentially lethal side effects of the antidepressants that many mass killers were taking.
There is little doubt in my mind that many school shooters were in an antidepressant-induced state of psychosis, which is a loss of contact with reality that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not real.
That’s what happened to me.
My life before antidepressants was a good one. I had a beautiful family with two children, Gillian and Ian, and a fun-loving home in Toronto, Canada. Children from around the neighborhood would come to play at our house — we had a fitness studio in the basement and a half pipe, trampoline and climbing wall in the backyard. Ian, his friends and other neighborhood children would spend hours riding their BMX bikes on our half pipe.
Meanwhile, I had a successful career as a physical activity and sport consultant. Then, at 44 years of age, I started to worry about cash flow issues in July of 2003, toward the end of a recession. I had lost weight, started to shake in the shower and had difficulty sleeping, so I went to my family doctor who prescribed the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Paxil to me without explaining any side effects. When I first started taking Paxil, I had suicidal thoughts but they disappeared after about a week and I was able to secure several work contracts. By September, I was feeling mentally healthy again. After forgetting to take Paxil for a few days in February 2004, I weaned myself off the drug over several weeks.
In July of 2004 I started to experience the same symptoms that I had in July of 2003, but this time it was caused by sleep deprivation from juggling so many contracts. I was better able to manage the contracts while on Paxil, possibly because (looking back) I was probably manic for most of the 8 months that I was on the drug from July 2003 to February 2004.
On July 8, 2004, I put myself back on 40mg of Paxil daily, using the supply that I had when I started to wean myself off the drug in February.
A few days after I started taking Paxil again, I was having suicidal thoughts. I thought I could get rid of the thoughts and recover more quickly if I increased my dosage to what I read was the maximum therapeutic level in the Guide to Drugs in Canada, published by the Canadian Pharmacists Association. It would be like taking 2 aspirin instead of 1 to get rid of a headache.
On July 16, I started taking 60mg of Paxil a day. Three days later, I planned my suicide. Then I went from planning my suicide to planning a murder-suicide to planning a murder.
On July 31, I took the life of my 11-year-old son Ian in a London, Canada hotel room and was charged with first-degree murder. My motivation was based on a type of psychosis called delusions (fixed false beliefs) that I had at the time. I was convinced, in my delusional state, that out of love for my family, it would be best for me to take Ian’s life and to sacrifice my own life by spending the next 25 years in prison. I thought that:
- Ian had permanent brain damage because he had mild epilepsy, which I was never concerned about when I wasn’t delusional or I would not have encouraged him to try difficult tricks on his BMX. Autopsy results from the London police showed there was nothing wrong with Ian’s brain.
- Ian was in a living hell because he was teased every so often by other children because of a minor learning disability. This was never a concern of mine when I wasn’t delusional. He was a late-developing child born in December, which are the youngest children in their classrooms in Canadian schools.
- Ian was going to kill his sister Gillian because they were arguing. Gillian was 14 years old at the time and when I wasn’t delusional, I wasn’t concerned about what was simply normal sibling interactive behaviour.
- My wife was going to have a nervous breakdown caring for Ian because of what I thought, in my delusional state, was his permanent brain damage and being in a living hell.
- Ian was going to hurt other children because he had pushed a child into the swimming pool at a summer day camp in Toronto that I was directing, a few days before I took his life.
Although none of these delusions make any sense to me today, they were real toward the end of July 2004 and lasted until the middle of August 2004, when my delusional mind was returning to normal while I was on suicide watch in a London, Ontario jail.
The planning that you see in many of the school shootings, and the calmness of the shooters, is similar to my own behavior after being on Paxil for three weeks in July 2004, which I’ve described in this RxISK blog post. The mass killers were probably suffering from delusions and were functioning at high intellectual levels, like me.
Ten days after I took Ian’s life, while I was still psychotic, my criminal defence lawyer had a team of medical specialists assess me to help build the defence that I was not criminally responsible (NCR) for first-degree murder because I was suffering from major depression at the time, which was supported by anecdotal evidence that the London Police collected from my family, friends and colleagues.
None of the test results supported the argument that I was NCR so my criminal lawyer didn’t use them as part of my defence.
- I was not in a major depression according to my results from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).
- My concentration was high, which is contrary to one of the major indicators of major depression (diminished ability to think or concentrate). I completed the MMPI, which had more than 500 multiple choice questions, in about 45 minutes. Comparatively, when I was being assessed at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre in early November 2004 after not being properly treated for my major depression for 4 months at the London Middlesex Detention Centre and in the worst depressive state of my life, it took me about 3.5 hours over 2 days to complete the MMPI with the results indicating that I was in a major depression.
- I scored very high on an IQ test, probably much higher than normal, which is contrary to being in a major depression.
- A forensic psychiatrist could not report that I was psychotic at the time. My delusions were still strong for about 14 days after I took Ian’s life and stopped taking Paxil.
Although none of the test results made sense to my criminal lawyer or myself in 2004, they make sense now. The Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties, a prescription drug reference for doctors and other health professionals published by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, which contains drug monographs provided by pharmaceutical companies, listed delusions and psychosis as rare side effects of Paxil (1 in 1,000) at least as far back as 1996. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Paxil, would have provided this information.
Before my trial I was diagnosed by two forensic psychiatrists, one hired by my criminal lawyer and the other by the crown attorney, as being in a “major depression with psychotic episodes” when I took Ian’s life. This resulted in the judgment that I was “not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.”
Paxil was never built into my defence during the criminal trial. Even though there was some indication before my trial that Paxil might have caused my psychosis, my lawyer told me how difficult it would be to prove causation, and even if we were successful at proving that Paxil was the probable cause of my homicidal psychotic episode, the best I could expect was a manslaughter conviction since prescription drugs were in the same intoxication section of the Criminal Code of Canada as illicit drugs. Since we already had expert reports to support our NCR defence, we decided not to build Paxil into my defence.
There’s no doubt among the more than a dozen forensic psychiatrists I have seen that I was psychotic when I took Ian’s life in July 2004. What a jury in a civil lawsuit that I filed against GlaxoSmithKline in October 2011 will now have to determine is whether my psychosis was caused by a mental disorder or Paxil.
I never had a mental disorder before being prescribed Paxil for the first time in 2003 at 44 years of age, and I haven’t had a mental disorder while being off all medications since 2010.
The combination of the common side effect of emotional blunting and the rare side effect of delusions was the probable cause of my calm, organized, homicidal behaviour.
To help prevent school shootings and other mass killings, it’s time for GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical companies to publicly acknowledge that antidepressants can cause potentially lethal psychotic episodes in rare cases.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thanks, David. I sent this article (link) to my state governor! He has asked residents to send in our feedback on how to make schools safe. I sent him a detailed letter last night and today I sent him this link backing up my statements. You are lucky to survive such an ordeal and to tell the story so brilliantly.
I am very sorry for the loss of your son, that must be very difficult for you to deal with. I almost named my son Ian, it’s a name I’ve always liked. As to, “Even though there was some indication before my trial that Paxil might have caused my psychosis, my lawyer told me how difficult it would be to prove causation.” This may help. It is medically known that the antidepressants are known to cause psychosis via anticholinergic toxidrome.
I will point out that you may have only been suffering specifically from the central nervous system effects of antidepressant induced anticholinergic toxidrome which are, from drugs.com:
“memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”
Although you would know what your symptoms were, not I. I hope that helps.
I believe everything you’ve said in this article.
I had a series of suicidal hospitalisations in the early 1980s while on medication suitable for Severe Mental Illness and none since.
Strangely, “your delusions” under your circumstances do make a certain amount of sense to me.
I wish you luck with the Outcome.
Thank you for telling your story. Very brave of you. I wish you strength for finding peace in your life. Clearly, your son is guiding you from the other side. He now knows everything that is in your heart… When you will be united again, there will be much love. I know psychosis and thus I understand how very real your delusions were and how you truly thought you needed to do what you did. It is such a terrible misleading thing and to get out of psychosis and fathom the reality – oh my, how aweful what you had to go through and what feelings you had to bear. Have faith!
This is such a terrible tragedy… par for the course for psychiatry. The difficulty, of course, is that no one who has not experience psychotropic drugging first hand can really understand how these neurotoxic drugs alter the brain, and in turn distort thoughts and behaviors.
This tragic case of drug-induced murder has caused terrible harm to the perpetrator of the crime as well as the victim. Psychiatry destroys the lives of innocent people, and then in turn it blames the victims. While murder is never justified, and while the insanity plea is another psychiatric lie, it must be acknowledged that there are very real cases of drug induced violence.
Although the perpetrator of the crime has to live with the awful consequences of the actions, as in this case, he or she is completely innocent. There is a difference between the psychiatric insanity plea that seeks to exculpate the guilty and cases such as this. I am convinced that David, as well as many other victims of psychotropic drugging, including school shooters and Andrea Lubitz of Germanwings infamy, are innocent. Psychiatry and Big Pharma are directly responsible for these horrendous crimes. Psychiatry and Big Pharma try to hide their nefarious deeds, but truth eventually prevail, and justice will eventually be served.
However, victims of such awful tragedies need to educate themselves on the truth about psychiatry. Victims of psychiatry should not use the jargon of psychiatry to explain their suffering. These neurotoxic drugs are not “antidepressants.” The drug-induced violence is not “psychosis.” There is no such thing as “mental health” or “mental illness.” Drug-induced violence and murder does not constitute a “mental disorder.” These drugs are not “medications.” GSK is just one of the many putrid parts of the dragon of psychiatry.
I hope that you will make these facts clear to Dr. Oz who seems to have had trouble understanding Dr. Breggin’s eloquent explanations.
Slayer, you make a good point that many who are victims of the drugs resort to using psych’s terminology instead of properly identifying the drug’s effect. Misplaced blame is common in tragedy as it is. We default to what is easier or more comfortable to admit, even if it means fooling ourselves at first. Grieving is not easy, and I know so, so many that delay it for decades.
Slayer, I am thinking specifically of when I was harmed, though temporarily, by ECT in 1996, I did not admit it, even to myself, for over a decade. I assumed it was mental illness but I never agreed with their BPD claim. When I published my memoir in 2009 I still thought it was “illness” but I left it as undefined. It took a while. Then, I figured it out. That is a very long time.
Yes, it takes a long time to educate oneself on the truth about psychiatry. Even most of the people who post articles on MIA are still in the process of discovering the truth about psychiatry. Most authors know that there is something terribly wrong with psychiatry, but they haven’t quite grasped why psychiatry ought to be abolished.
I think for every “public SSRI tragedy” theres probably many near misses, and longterm private tragedies.
Dr Kelly Brogan uses the term “Intoxication” and I think this is a very suitable way to describe the effects of these drugs.
Excellent point. Most tragedies are not so visible. Most tragedies will not be reported. But these tragedies are many and terrible.
In the USA if 10% of the population takes SSRIs, and 1% develop potentially Fatal Reactions – this translates into *320,000 People …
…with the majority of these Fatalities miscategorised as Suicide.
*(320 million people × 10% × 1%)
I am so very, very sad to hear your tragic story! I appreciate you sharing it so the public can keep hearing that people can and do develop suicidal and homicidal feelings from taking SSRI antidepressants, sometimes even people who have zero such feelings beforehand. I can’t imagine how you would feel about this, but it is clear that the action of promoting these drugs without sharing these rare but incredibly serious side effects is criminal.
Steve I agree, it IS criminal. I have heard “patients” insist that they do not want to know the side effects and they are perfectly happy with the limited information given to them by their doctors, even knowing that information is only a “partial list” of effects. I have challenged this over and over, asked why they do not want to know, why they insist on being blinded like that. They say to me, “Oh my god, YOU are not a doctor! How dare you!” But why NOT know? Why should a patient not be informed, and doesn’t a patient have a right to all information and to transparency and to the real risks, so he/she can make an informed choice? It’s like they don’t want to know because they know if they were informed, they would make the RESPONSIBLE choice not to take the drugs, but they want to absolve themselves of adult responsibility and instead, keep the doctor as babysitter. I think deep down some realize this and want to stay dependent children. And this is why they get so accusatory at me. However, by all means, David would not even have had a clue, never having taken these drugs before, and having had no prior exposure.
I support the forensic mental health law and rulings but due to your age, demographics and no prior mental health challenges I can’t believe you released so soon. The young people who had adolescent onset of mental health issues often stay well beyond five years.
Onset at young age is often troubling and difficult. That stinks many individuals stuck there now.
Lord! This is a #FAKESCIENCE nightmare! Anyone who’s consumed this garbage can vouch for its “side effects” of aggression, which is often exacerbated by guilt over feeling so much anger. That seems to be what happened with Mr. Carmichael. Quacks poisoned him with narcotics that were KNOWN to cause homicidal ideation. And they did that without Mr. Carmichael’s knowledge or consent. So, when the shit hit the fan, he blamed himself instead of his quacks – yet another manipulation that was SOLELY a consequence of medical malpractice. Only, this one sealed horrible fates for Mr. Carmichael and his son. Man, I’m incredibly sorry for your loss and I’m thrilled that you’re uncaged and speaking out against psychiatry’s crimes. You’re a good man and you deserve a safe, happy, and loving future. Best of luck to you, sir.
So sorry for your loss David! The guilt must be overwhelming.
In your right (undrugged) mind you would not have done this.
Heartbreaking piece to read. And while I agree there is plenty of room to question the links between antidepressants and violent acts, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate. There is a reason people are prescribed these medications, even if they are over-prescribed and other medical issues aren’t first ruled out to explain a person’s condition. That said, there is no way to prove how many people would have committed acts of violence were they NOT on an antidepressant. I know too many people who were unable to function until they were prescribed the right antidepressant and then they became functional.
I would ask you to consider this: are depressed people generally know for violent acts when they are NOT taking antidepressants? Depressed people in general are known for NOT taking action, for withdrawing and feeling like there is no point in doing anything. This does not describe a person who is contemplating violence in general (though of course, there are exceptions).
I’d also ask you to consider the poster’s story. Does this sound like a person who would be violent if not intoxicated with a psychoactive drug?
Remember that the fact that some or even many people feel better with antidepressants does NOT mean that a small or even fairly large number don’t feel awful or do awful things. The idea that all “depressed” people are the same and need the same thing is the central fallacy of the psychiatric system. Different people are different and respond differently to the same intervention. True in general medicine, why would it not be true for psychiatry?
I’m not necessarily questioning what you write but trying to say that we also can’t prove that antidepressants haven’t helped many, and perhaps prevented violent acts. I’m not speaking to the particulars of this author’s story but in general. Of course people who suffer depression are not known for violence, but perhaps a tiny fraction would commit violent acts were it not for the drugs. No way to ever know and millions of people suffer from depression and each case is unique. And I never said all depressed people are the same and sadly general medicine also follows a “one-size-fits-all” rule for the most part. An antibiotic, which might save a person from a deadly infection, may be toxic to another person–and I know this personally. I am no fan of how psychiatry is practiced in Western Medicine. For the most part psychiatrists try to “diagnose a person” based on a few minutes of discussion and then prescribe a pill with the hopes it might help. Almost never do they look at the entire body, as if the brain were disconnected from the rest of a person. Sometimes viral or bacterial infections trigger psychosis, depression and other disorders and when treated the mental issues disappear. But with rare exception psychiatrists never look at that. It would be like a GI doctor assuming someone has Crohn’s without a single diagnostic test.
There is no known biological cause of depression/bipolar/schizophrenia. They assume one exists because even the best medical scientists are ignorant of our complex brains–therefore it can’t be DISPROVED.
Because of this there are no physical tests to prove anyone has said conditions. Just a questionnaire of behaviors/thoughts/feelings that are criminal or obnoxious behaviors, poor lifestyle choices, painful emotions, or things psychiatrists can’t stand. For a while they wanted to have cat lovers declared mentally ill.
I’ll just note that if only a tiny percentage of depressed people commit violent acts, then it should be obvious that being depressed doesn’t cause violence, nor is it even associated with violence, so giving drugs to prevent depressed people from committing violent acts is nonsense. A more intelligent approach would involved looking at VIOLENT people as a group and see if they have anything in common. When folks have done this, they’ve found a few commonalities: most violent people are males, most violent people are younger in age, many are taking drugs (legal or illegal) at the time of their violent acts. Many are perpetrators of domestic violence, child abuse and/or pet abuse. A certain subset are involved in or supported by violent philosophies that support their violent beliefs. Having or not having a “mental health issue” of any kind has not been correlated with violent acts, except for a very small subset of those suffering from “delusions” of some sort. We should NOT be trying to stop violent acts through “mental health treatment,” we should be working to figure out how to intervene with young men who have shown violent tendencies and who gravitate to drug/alcohol abuse, or better yet, figure out who these people are when they’re kids and find out how to intervene when they first start to show signs of violence.
I’d also add that even if there is a very small subset of people who become less violent on psych drugs, this and many other stories, not to mention the product label information, suggest that such small numbers are more than negated by the number of less violent people who become violent as a result of taking these drugs. In other words, as a violence prevention measure, the data suggest that psychiatric drugs are at best useless, and probably make violence more likely, just like intoxication with other mind-altering drugs will do.
I would like to know the violence rates of heart attack patients, cancer patients, diabetes patients, etc. If it turns out they are higher than those of “mental patients,” shouldn’t they also be given preemptive neurotoxins?
David, I remember reading your tragic story awhile back. Yes, I too became so psychotic and homicidal while going through c/t psychiatric drugs that I had to put myself into yet another God for saken psychiatric hospital so I wouldn’t kill anyone. It was like walking right back into the same nightmare I just walked out of. I don’t understand why no one listens to us when we’re screaming from rooftops telling the world how psychotic we become from either starting our drugs, but especially while coming off them. It outrages me. The men in white coats who call themselves Doctors’ are nothing more than drug dealers and murderers. Whereas, you may be long past being angry with the psychiatry field, you can tell that I am not. Every single person in my family is being prescribed one psychiatric drug or another believing they’re actually taking ‘medicine’. So I have to watch the qualities of their lives diminish by the day, watch them deteriorate, but they believe their Dr’s in white coats considering me the ‘crazy’ one. Thirty years ago after being prescribed heavy doses of Thorazine and becoming severely depressed, lethargic & psychotic I almost took the lives of my children too, my parental rights terminated. So I understand every word your saying. We are living in an upside-down world – The Twilight Zone where truth is suppressed and big pharma flourishes. Where in America it’s legal to murder for profit. Mr. David Carmichael, it’s so good to see you again! Thanks for posting your story.
If I was to take the same or similar drugs again, I could very easily attempt suicide again. My “good fortune” was that my reactions were acute, and that I knew exactly where they were coming from.
MY fear was so real that I sent a statement 28 years later to the University in Ireland that managed the “Unit” I was treated in. They were conducting a Study on the offending drugs:-
Fiachra, I hear you. After I endured the worst mental torture I could even imagine with my c/t Klonopin withdrawal, and just 6 months past that a Effexor, Trazodone & Lithium cold-turkey withdrawal that induced so much homicidal rage thus admitting myself into a psych unit so I wouldn’t kill anybody and it was there they once again, forced, then court ordered to take their poison one more time. The results devastating. Just weeks past that going through withdrawals again, I lost my home to fire. There is no way possible I could ever survive taking any psychiatric drugs ever again. Being drugged for thirty-five years alone almost did me in so many times over as it was with continuous suicide attempts, coma’s, ICU stays and a trip to the burn unit with massive 3rd degree burns that took a year to heal. Life on psychiatric drugs was pure hell. But we seem to be good little fighters and warriors, thank goodness. I will read the links you left. And God Bless you!!
First of all I refused drugs, because I thought the drug approach was ridiculous.
Then I bought into Mental Health Diagnosis because I couldn’t come off the drugs.
Then I learned how to deal with my head; and it became clear to me the drug approach was nonsense.
Thank you for sharing what must be the biggest tragedy of your life. I really hope families of others who have lost loved ones or maybe a family member of one of the, sadly far too many school shooters, reads your blog and recognizes the pattern. The more we can rise up and place the ‘blame’ where it belongs at the door of the producers of the drugs, rather than with the drug intoxicated person, the better. I could have been on the plane with the German wing pilot, I wasn’t and I am grateful for that but he, his family and many others were not so lucky.
Thank you your voice is so important
Yes, Olga R, blame on the companies that have produced the drugs and have been well aware of the risks and have understated them, and also, the doctors like David’s who fail, time and time again, to warn patients of the risks, or, like mine, outright deny or ignore when patients point out warning signs.
I did not generally get such strikingly terrible effects from these drugs. However, when my weight doubled, this was ignored. When I got ataxia, this was ignored. When my bones thinned, this was ignored. When my kidney levels were so low I nearly died, this was ignored. The only drug that caused me to feel like I was going to explode inside was a tricyclate antidepressant, imipramine. When I reported the effect, along with rapid heartbeat and raised blood pressure (up 30bpm higher and 30 points systolic and diastolic both) I was ignored. I told the doc I felt “racy” and “angry” like I had a “bass drum inside me all the time.” She told me this was “nothing” and to keep taking the drug. I couldn’t take it much longer so I asked an inpatient doc to take me off. She did. She did so in three days! That was some taper!!!
So now it was March 2012. That horrible bass drum beat never stopped and I was truly wondering what the heck was going on. June 2012 I made plans to kill myself. I flunked that one. Screwed up my plans and didn’t tell a soul.
When I ended up in the “hospital” due to something unrelated, I found the “staff” did not listen to me nor wanted to understand. They walked away from me in the middle of a sentence! They didn’t want to know. They didn’t care. They didn’t even want to help. I left, totally disgusted, and never told them about the little suicide plan I had just narrowly escaped. Weren’t they supposed to help with that stuff? How ironic! In fact, I never told a soul for another six months. By then, it was a moot point. No one gave a shit anyway.
Dr. Oz on April 10 — spread the word far & wide, folks!
My husband had been off psych drugs (geodon) for over 2 years when he became delusional. (Of course there were all kinds of things going on that precipitated what happened.) One night he was picked up by the police because he was in the street screaming that his son had been killed (at least, that is what they told me). The police banged on my door in the middle of the night (my husband was still in the police station) wanting to check up on our son, who was asleep. Afterwards, I have wondered many times if my husband thought he himself had killed him, or had intended to. I don’t want to ask him. I doubt I would get a truthful answer in any case. But this story has me really freaked out. I would like to know – how can you help a person who’s delusional? How do you help them not get there in the first place?
And, do people once on those poisons have a life-long sensitivity to tipping into delusions? He’s almost tipped over a few times since.
David, I am very grateful to you for continuing to describe the horrible events that Paxil caused. Given the terrible losses you have suffered, it would be easy for you to withdraw and just try to rebuild your own life. But you continue to speak out, Truth to Power. People need to hear your story, again and again. And I love that you have written this in the context of school shootings, as I agree that you have a connection. This connection is one that the public needs to hear; the media needs to pay more attention; and policy makers have to begin considering when they decide to throw still more money at conventional medication treatment of mental challenges.
Too True Bonny,
How many GPs would prescribe antidepressants if they knew the dangers?
Unfortunately, dangers like suicide are often masked.