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.

Users of Today’s More Potent Marijuana At Greater Risk Of Psychosis

Image by RAJESH misra
Image by RAJESH misra

A British study published recently in the medical journal The Lancet found that the risk of psychosis was more than five times higher for those who used high-potency marijuana daily than for those who had never tried marijuana.

The risk was three times higher for those who used high-potency marijuana less frequently.  The risk was also three times higher for those who used less potent marijuana, but on a daily basis.

Psychosis is a condition in which the individual becomes so mentally disordered that he loses contact with reality.  The symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

Marijuana (cannabis) is a hallucinogen that distorts how the mind perceives reality.  The main ingredient responsible for the mind-altering effect is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

The level of THC in marijuana has steadily increased over the past several decades, due to changes in growing techniques.  THC concentrations in cannabis averaged 1% in 1974 and 4% in 1994.

By 2012, THC levels averaged close to 15%,    according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  But a University of Mississippi laboratory that tests the marijuana potency of marijuana seized by federal law enforcement officers has found THC concentration as high as 37%.

Studies have consistently reported that the use of marijuana is linked to an increased risk of psychosis.  After a systematic review of the scientific literature on marijuana use, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) issued a report in 2014 that acknowledged there is “substantial evidence that THC intoxication can cause acute psychotic symptoms, which are worse with higher doses.”

A 2012 study by the British Schizophrenia Commission went even further, concluding that cannabis use is the single most preventable risk factor for psychosis.

Colorado statistics from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that for the two-year period 2012-2013, one out of every eight (12.7%) Colorado residents over the age of 12, or roughly half a million Coloradoans, were current marijuana users.  The Survey defines current users as having used marijuana during the prior month.  That figure does not include any data for the year 2014, when the number of current users almost certainly increased from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

A separate 2014 report on the demand for marijuana in Colorado, prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue, estimated that one out of every five (21.8%) current marijuana users in Colorado is a daily or near-daily user.

This suggests that more than 100,000 Coloradoans are at three times higher risk of psychosis than non-users, with the portion of them using high-potency marijuana at more than five times higher risk.

Not surprisingly, Colorado has experienced a rising trend in the number of hospitalizations and emergency room visits linked to marijuana use, which presumably include patients treated for marijuana-induced psychosis.  According to CDPHE’s 2014 report on marijuana, “there were large increases in poison center calls, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits observed after medical marijuana was commercialized in 2010 and additional increases after retail (recreational) marijuana was legalized in 2014.”

Parents are well-advised to speak with their children about the danger of psychosis resulting from the use of marijuana.  Episodes of psychosis requiring hospitalization have been known to occur with the very first use of the drug.  National statistics on children from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that one out of every seven (15.6%) children in 8th grade have used marijuana sometime in their lives, and nearly half (44.4%) have tried it by the 12th grade.  The most recent statistics on Colorado adolescents and young adults from CDPHE indicate that approximately one out of every five (20%) Colorado high school students has used marijuana in the past month, and 37% have tried it at some point.

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.