Psychiatrist: Columbine and Aurora Theater Shooters Were Driven By Psychiatric Drugs

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A psychiatrist involved in the legal actions related to the shootings at Columbine High School and the Aurora Century theater has concluded that psychiatric drugs were the main contributing factor in both mass murders.

Peter Breggin, M.D., a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, has been involved in criminal and civil cases related to a number of mass murders.  He recently reported his conclusions concerning the role of psychiatric drugs in five mass murders, including the two worst in Colorado history.

We previously reported that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes experienced his first episode of mania after taking the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline) prescribed by his psychiatrist, at which time he wrote in his journal that his hatred was unleashed.  Weeks later, Holmes went on the shooting rampage in which he killed 12 moviegoers and injured 70 others in July 2012.

We also previously reported that Eric Harris became obsessed with homicidal and suicidal thoughts within weeks of starting on the antidepressant Zoloft.  He was then switched to another violence-linked antidepressant, Luvox, which he was taking at the time he and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in April 1998.

Zoloft and Luvox are in the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  To date, 26 warnings by international drug regulatory authorities and 34 studies have warned that the adverse effects of SSRIs include mania, aggression, suicide and violence.  Both Zoloft and Luvox are on a list of prescription drugs with the most incidents of violence reported to the FDA, according to a 2010 study published by the Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS One).

Without the SSRI antidepressant, Holmes “probably would not have committed mass murder”

In his recent report, Breggin makes this observation about the psychiatric treatment James Holmes received: “Given the [psychiatrist’s] concerns about [James Holmes’] psychotic thinking and his obviously violent tendencies, exposing Holmes to Zoloft was like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

Breggin says Holmes was on Zoloft for about 94 days before abruptly stopping around June 30, just 20 days before his deadly rampage.  But it was not the sudden withdrawal that brought on the violence, according to Breggin.

“An abrupt withdrawal might have worsened his condition, but the main contributing factor to the violence was his lengthy exposure to a drug that worsened his condition and drove him into psychosis,” he writes.  “He had a manic-like psychosis while taking the Zoloft and this would not have abated for some time after stopping the medication.”

Breggin’s conclusion: “I have no doubt that Zoloft contributed to Holmes’ escalating violence and that without it he probably would not have committed mass murder.”

Lengthy exposure to SSRI antidepressants brought on Eric Harris’ violence

Concerning Eric Harris, Breggin noted in his recent report that the Columbine shooter did not begin planning his violent assault until he had been on antidepressants for months.

Harris was switched to the SSRI antidepressant Luvox in April 1998, a year before the attack on Columbine High School, and the autopsy toxicology report confirmed it was still in his system at the time of the shooting.

Again, it was the lengthy exposure to Luvox that brought on Harris’ violence, according to Breggin, who noted that the writings in Harris’ journal “grew increasingly bizarre and violent over the period in which he continued to take increasing amounts of Luvox.”

Breggin states that psychiatrists not only failed to detect or prevent the violence perpetrated by Holmes and Harris, but “gave drugs that caused violence or amplified any pre-existing violent tendencies.”

Why are these drugs on the market?

Breggin points out that “careful scrutiny of the FDA testing for drug approval shows that antidepressants do not work any better than placebo, but that they do make many people very mentally disturbed and increase the rate of suicide and violence.”

“Why are these drugs on the market?” he asks.

Breggin concludes: “Curtailing or stopping the use of SSRIs and other antidepressants would vastly diminish an infinite number of aggressive and violent acts committed by individuals taking these drugs….”

If you or someone you know has experienced violent outcomes from taking SSRI antidepressants or any other psychiatric drug, please report it to the FDA by clicking here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Aurora Theater Shooter Felt Mania and Hatred After Taking Psychiatric Drugs Linked To Violence

The first time they met, the psychiatrist who treated Aurora theater shooter James Holmes prescribed him psychiatric drugs linked to violence and homicide, even though Holmes openly admitted he was obsessively having thoughts of killing people.

In fact, Holmes told the psychiatrist that his homicidal thoughts “were the worst they had been.”

Some time after taking the psychiatric drugs, Holmes writes in a notebook that the “first appearance of mania” occurs, that he has “no fear of consequences,” and that his “hatred [is] unchecked.”

Holmes is currently standing trial on charges related to his killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in an attack on the Aurora Century 16 movie theater during a packed, midnight screening of the film “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 19, 2012.

Holmes was a graduate student in the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado when he contacted the Student Mental Health Center for help with his obsessive thoughts of killing people and his anxiety in social situations.  He was referred to psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for treatment.  He met with Fenton five times in the final months before he dropped out of school.  He went on his deadly rampage a few weeks later.

In a notebook where Holmes recorded his thoughts during the time he was meeting with Fenton, he noted that at their first meeting, Fenton “immediately prescribed antidepressants.”  The notebook entry went on to report that the drugs were ineffective: “No effect when needed.”

This is followed by a chilling series of statements:  “First appearance of mania occurs, not good mania.  Anxiety and fear disappears.  No more fear….  No fear of consequences…  No more fear, hatred unchecked.”

Meds psychiatrist prescribed are on list of drugs most associated with violence

According to Fenton’s court testimony, Holmes told her at their first meeting about his obsessive thoughts about killing people.  He used the psychiatric term “OCD” (obsessive compulsive disorder) to describe the recurring thoughts.

Fenton testified about Holmes having these homicidal thoughts (“ideation”): “He said that his OCD symptoms – and that was referring to his thoughts of homicidal ideation – were the worst they had been.”

Fenton prescribed the psychiatric drugs sertraline and clonazepam to Holmes for his anxiety at that first meeting.

Both drugs are on the list of prescription drugs most associated with incidents of violence reported to the FDA, according to a 2010 study in the Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS One).  After reviewing data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s adverse event reporting system, the authors of the study concluded that 31 drugs were disproportionately associated with violent thoughts and actions – including homicide.  These 31 drugs accounted for 79% of all the reports of violence the FDA received from 2004 through September 2009.

Sertraline, marketed under various names including Zoloft, is a drug in the newer class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake reinhibitors).  To date, 34 studies and 26 warnings issued by international drug regulatory authorities have warned about the dangers of sertraline and other SSRI antidepressants.  The very long list of dangerous side effects include abnormal behavior, emotional changes, suicide, anxiety, agitation, aggression and violence.

Clonazepam, marketed as Klonopin, is a DEA schedule IV controlled substance in the class of addictive drugs known as benzodiazepines, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns can cause hostility.  The Canadian national public health department, Health Canada, warns that clonazepam can cause hallucinations and delusional thinking.

The next two meetings between Fenton and Holmes were short “meds checks.”  Fenton discontinued the clonazepam when Holmes reported it was ineffective.  She recommended another antipsychotic drug, quetiapine, marketed as Seroquel.

Quetiapine (Seroquel) is also on the PLoS One’s list of the 31drugs most associated with violence.

Holmes declined to take Seroquel.

Psychiatrist testifies: “No indication of any threat from him”

In her meetings with Holmes, Fenton asked him to tell her more about his obsessive thoughts of killing people, according to her testimony in court, but he withheld any further information, saying he “won’t give details” or refusing to give any answer at all.

He did admit to her that he hated people.  Fenton testified that in one meeting, Holmes emphasized he wouldn’t hurt himself, but she said that he left her with the impression he could hurt others.

Holmes told her that he “had read Nietzsche, Kaczynski, and the Tylenol terrorist.”  Nietzsche was a German philosopher whose rejection of any universal moral law was summarized in his statement “God is dead.”  Ted Kaczynski is the serial killer known as the Unabomber.  The so-called Tylenol terrorist caused deaths through drug tampering.

Still, Fenton apparently believed him when he said he had no specific plans for killing and no specific targets in mind.  She testified that there was “no indication of any threat from him.”  She saw no change in his demeanor during the months she met with him, testifying that there was “no difference in presentment” between their first and last meetings.

Meanwhile, Holmes’s notebook shows that during the time he was meeting with Fenton, he was actively formulating elaborate plans for mass murder.  He acquired weapons, explosives, and other equipment to carry it out.  He practiced shooting at a target range.

Fenton testified that at her final meeting with Holmes on June 11, she “still had significant concerns about his homicidal thoughts and dangerousness.”  But she also testified that she “thought he was functioning well” and that his plans for his life after dropping out of graduate school “made sense.”

After their final meeting, Fenton never called or followed up with Holmes.

Five weeks later on July 19, Holmes suited up in body armor, armed himself with weapons, a gas canister and gas mask, and set out to commit mass murder.  He also left his apartment booby-trapped with explosives in an attempt to cause even more fatalities.

Holmes sent his notebook to psychiatrist to educate her

Entries in his notebook show contempt for Fenton and another psychiatrist, Robert Feinstein, whom Fenton brought into two of the five meetings she had with Holmes.  He referred to the psychiatrists as “mind rapists.”

After writing that he intended to “deflect incriminating questions” from the psychiatrists about his thoughts of killing, he indicated they made that easy, noting: “Oddly, they don’t pursue or delve farther into harmful omissions.”

He challenged Fenton in one meeting, asking her “Are you just a pill pusher?”

Holmes mailed his notebook to Fenton just hours before his deadly attack on the theater.  In an interview two years later, Holmes said he mailed the notebook to Fenton to educate her so that “something like this wouldn’t happen again.”

CSU Student With Bizarre Behavior Had An Unprescribed Psychostimulant – A Growing Trend On College Campuses

A Fort Collins teen accused of stealing an ambulance on November 2, fleeing in it to Loveland and then crashing the vehicle was reportedly in possession of Adderall, a psych drug with the known side effects of delusions, mania and aggression.

According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Stefan Sortland, 18, would not follow police commands as he was being apprehended, causing police to subdue him with a stun gun.  He reportedly told police officers that he was “following the bright lights” and rambled on about things not related to his situation.

By Patrick Mallahan III (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Patrick Mallahan III (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A search of “Adderall” on CCHR International’s psych drug side effects search engine reveals 10 warnings by international drug regulatory authorities and 4 studies linking the drug to dangerous side effects that include hallucinations, psychosis, sensory disturbances, anger, aggression, heart problems, stroke, and sudden death.

Even more disturbing, a major study has revealed that psychostimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin have never been proven safe or effective.  Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, the Department of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and several other institutions concluded that the clinical trials for drugs approved as “treatment” for ADHD were not designed to assess adverse events or long-term safety and effectiveness.

Adderall is an amphetamine/dextroamphetamine drug.  It is a schedule II controlled substance in the same class as cocaine, morphine and opium because of its high risk of addiction.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the drug to carry a black-box warning that the drug has a high potential for abuse.

Individual responses to amphetamines vary widely, and harmful effects can be experienced even at low doses.  According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, taking stimulants like Adderall at usual doses can cause psychotic or manic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusional thinking, or mania, in children and adolescents who have no prior history of psychosis or mania.

Image by George Hodan
Image by George Hodan

Psychostimulants like Adderall and Ritalin have become popular among college students, many of whom do not have a prescription for it.  They believe the drugs will help them study, even though there have been no studies that show any correlation between using unprescribed stimulants and an increase in academic performance.

A National College Health Assessment last spring, which surveyed more than 66,000 students from 140 institutions around the country, found that about 9% admitted to taking stimulants not prescribed to them within the past 12 months.

Sortland, a student at Colorado State University, reportedly did not have a prescription for the Adderall and has been charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Meanwhile, medical emergencies related to this drug use is soaring.  The number of young adults ages 18 to 34 who end up in the emergency room after taking Adderall, Ritalin or other such stimulants has quadrupled in recent years, increasing from 5,600 in 2005 to 23,000 in 2011, according to national data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Peter J. Delany, the director of the office that oversees statistics for the administration, said the rise was particularly pronounced among 18- to 25-year-olds.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue psychiatric drugs is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know has been damaged by a psychostimulant or other psych drug, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.

 

 

Suspect in Douglas County Murders Was On Drugs for PTSD

Part of the ongoing series: Killers On Psych Drugs –
Psych-Drugged Accused Or Convicted Killers
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A  murder suspect who admitted slashing and shooting two people to death in Douglas County was taking psychiatric drugs at the time of the murders, according to a report in the Denver Post.

Josiah Sher, 27, had served tours of duty in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq between 2005 and 2009.  After returning, he reportedly was institutionalized for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was treated with psychiatric drugs – most likely antipsychotics, which have been linked to mania and psychosis, especially during withdrawal from them or when the dosage is lowered.

A research study that searched several key databases for studies on withdrawal symptoms concluded that psychotic episodes can be brought on when antipsychotics are stopped or the dosage reduced after long-term use.  (Source: J. Moncrieff, “Does antipsychotic withdrawal provoke psychosis? Review of the literature on rapid onset psychosis (supersensitivity psychosis) and withdrawal-related relapse,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, June 2006.)

(Another recent study found that antipsychotic drugs widely prescribed for PTSD are no more effective than placebos (sugar pills) in treating it.  See “Urgent Message for Colorado and Wyoming Veterans: Antipsychotics Are Ineffective Against PTSD.”)

Less than three weeks before the February 23 murders, Sher was apparently also suicidal and had called a suicide hotline.  Whether he was prescribed antidepressants as part of his treatment before or after that incident is not known.  Antidepressants have been linked to violence.

Research studies, warnings from international regulatory authorities, and reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the harmful side effects of antipsychotics and other psych drugs can be accessed through CCHR International’s psychiatric drug side effects search engine.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue antipsychotics (or other psychiatric drugs) is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor.

If you or someone you know has experienced harmful side effects from an antipsychotic drug, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article below.