I’ve blogged about mass shootings and gun control before. This is post is not just about psychotropic drug use in mass shootings. Some say it’s a cause, others deny its impact. There are certainly many people who’ve used these drugs and never killed anyone including themselves. However, as I read more and more, I realized the problem is more wide-spread and not isolated to mass shootings. The president, in his gun control speech, mentioned gun suicide, alluding to gun control as a method to help prevent it. As a veteran, I’m saddened by the rate of military suicides. In reading on this topic, I’ve come across articles linking the increase in drug use in the military with the increase in the suicide rate. I found a huge correlation between military suicide and the prescription rate of these drugs. Correlation is not causation, but damn, it’s just there. I don’t know if it’s a great technique to write a blog by simply quoting a series of other articles and writers, but that’s what this has become. So, everything is referenced at the bottom of the post if you’re so inclined.
There are many factors related to these topics. However, we are being prescribed, and taking, drugs that alter our brain chemistry at alarming rates. For full disclosure, I’ve never taken any of these drugs, so I cannot comment on any positive impacts they may have had on people’s lives. But, after doing some research, I can’t imagine a situation in which I would take one.
The rise of antipsychotics
The use of second-generation antipsychotics nearly tripled from 1995 to 2008 in the United States, ballooning to more than 16 million prescriptions for drugs such as aripiprazole (Abilify), clozapinel (Clozaril) and quetiapine (Seroquel). More than half of those prescriptions in 2008 were for uses with uncertain scientific evidence, according to a study from Stanford University and the University of Chicago based on more than 1,700 physician surveys (Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, 2011).
I’ll say it again, their use has tripled. And more than half of those prescriptions were for “uses with uncertain scientific evidence.” So, let’s take a look at the warnings on the drugs themselves. I took these right off their sites. (I’ve linked the sites below). Here’s are a few, I added the bold to highlight the point:
Antidepressants have increased the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in some children, teenagers, and young adults. Patients of all ages starting treatment should be watched closely for worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts or actions, unusual changes in behavior, agitation, and irritability. Patients, families, and caregivers should pay close attention to any changes, especially sudden changes in mood, behaviors, thoughts, or feelings. This is very important when an antidepressant medicine is started or when the dose is changed. These symptoms should be reported immediately to the doctor. SEROQUEL XR is not approved for children under the age of 10 years.
WARNING Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs Use in Treating Psychiatric Disorders: Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of WELLBUTRIN XL or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need. Short-term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond age 24; there was a reduction in risk with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults aged 65 and older. Depression and certain other psychiatric disorders are themselves associated with increases in the risk of suicide. Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Families and caregivers should be advised of the need for close observation and communication with the prescriber. WELLBUTRIN XL is not approved for use in pediatric patients. (See WARNINGS: Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk in Treating Psychiatric Disorders, PRECAUTIONS: Information for Patients, and PRECAUTIONS: Pediatric Use.)
Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs
Antidepressant medicines may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children, teenagers, and young adults especially within the first few months of treatment. Depression and certain other serious mental illnesses are important causes of suicidal thoughts and actions. Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Anyone considering the use of ZOLOFT or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need. ZOLOFT is not approved for use in pediatric patients except for patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
As with many conditions that affect the way you think or feel, thoughts of suicide may occur. If you get these feelings, seek help immediately from your doctor, or local emergency room.
So, the warning is right on the product. I’m not sure that could be more clear. Is anyone reading these, or just not taking them seriously? We are seriously altering our brain chemistry in ways that doesn’t seem productive. They put it right on the drugs, for God’s sake. Doesn’t this freak you out a little bit, that we’re prescribing drugs at record levels that has that as their warning? It does me. Is it crazy to think there’s a connection between suicides and mass shootings when people are taking drugs with these warning labels?
So, we’re also drugging our children….
Almost 20,000 prescriptions for risperidone (commonly known as Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel) and other antipsychotic medications were written in 2014 for children 2 and younger, a 50 percent jump from 13,000 just one year before, according to the prescription data company IMS Health. Prescriptions for the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) rose 23 percent in one year for that age group, to about 83,000. (NYTimes)
The number of children taking powerful antipsychotic drugs has nearly tripled over the last 10 to 15 years, according to recent research. The increase comes not because of an epidemic of schizophrenia or other forms of serious mental illness in children, but because doctors are increasingly prescribing the drugs to treat behavior problems, a use not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And a disproportionate number of those prescriptions are written for poor and minority children, some as young as age 2. (Consumer Reports)
Of particular concern is the prescribing of antipsychotic drugs to vulnerable populations, including foster care children and elderly nursing home residents. Foster children are up to four-and-a-half times more likely to receive psychotropic drugs than other children covered by Medicaid, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. The investigation of foster care programs in five states found that hundreds of children were prescribed multiple psychotropic drugs, including antipsychotic drugs at excessive dosages. Infants also were prescribed psychotropic drugs despite no scientific evidence supporting that use. In response to those findings, the GAO recommended the development of federal best-practice guidelines on the use of psychotropic drugs by foster care programs. (APA)
Why would anyone prescribe any of these drugs to children under two? I can’t imagine. The number of children taking these drugs has tripled? Why? Because doctors are simply prescribing drugs instead of providing other treatment or referrals?
We’re drugging our military
Yet in 2011, a VA study found that 80 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD received psychiatric drugs. Of these, 89 percent were treated with antidepressants, and 34 percent were prescribed antipsychotic drugs. (CCHR)
Some 54,581 prescriptions for Seroquel were written for active duty service members in 2011 alone—the vast majority as a sleep aid, a condition for which is it not FDA approved to treat. (CCHR)
2005 – 2011: Military prescriptions for psychoactive drugs increases almost 700 percent. (CCHR)
From the Independent Business Times…
“Breggin, author of the 2008 book “Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatry Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime,” told IBTimes that the intensive use of prescription medications came about through the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the military and VA. Soon after the start of the second Gulf War, Breggin said, “we saw a sea change in the prescribing of these drugs to our troops. This cannot be accounted for by anything other than military decisions at the very top that were certainly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which markets from the top down, then the drugs flow to millions.”
Breggin, who has testified before Congress about what he describes as the over-drugging of troops and its consequences, said there is a “disturbingly rampant practice” of prescribing psychotropic prescription drugs to young soldiers both in combat and after they return home. The extent of the military’s use of prescription drugs was quantified in a 2012 analysis by the Austin American-Statesman of nearly every drug purchase made by Department of Defense during that period, which found that spending on drugs ballooned by more than 123 percent, from $3 billion in 2002 to $6.8 billion in 2011, which outpaced by nearly double the overall increase in reported pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. (IBTimes)
Here’s another excerpted personal story from the Independent Business Times.
When former U.S. Army Specialist Kyle Wesolowski returned from Iraq in December 2010 following a brutal yearlong deployment, psychiatrists at the Fort Hood army post in Texas gave him “a cocktail of seven different drugs” for his anxiety, depression and other war-related mental health issues.
More than three years later, Wesolowski has come to an uncomfortable conclusion about the unintended consequences of ingesting those medications: They made him homicidal.
While desperately struggling to taper off the drugs without an exit strategy from his military doctors, Wesolowski contemplated murdering a young woman he met in a bar near the base. “When she talked to me, I put on a fake smile and tried to be nice,” Wesolowski said, though in reality he recalled hating her for being happy and carefree, and now says that due to the side effects of his drug cocktail, he felt violent urges. “I began to fantasize about killing her,” he said.
Stories such as Wesolowski’s generally remain submerged unless they end in tragedy, as happened at Fort Hood on April 3 when Iraq war veteran Ivan Lopez shot and killed three people and wounded 16 others, then killed himself.
The violent tendencies of some mentally traumatized soldiers and veterans cannot be written off as an aberration, said Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist and author who’s written extensively about the potential dangers of the use of psychotropic drugs to treat mental illness among servicemen and servicewomen. Breggin contends such episodes are the result of what he describes as a “massive prescription drug epidemic” that encompasses the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in which tens of thousands of soldiers and veterans returning from traumatic tours of duty ingest drugs – in some cases multiple varieties – that can have significant side effects, including intensifying feelings of rage.
I just have to say this. I’m not a doctor, but prescribing drugs whose side-effects are suicidal thoughts to depressed and mentally disturbed people doesn’t make sense to me.
So, I’ve not even written about mass shootings. I’m not going to. There’s a Huffington post article linked below that argues why psychiatric drug use doesn’t have anything to do with mass shootings.
All you have to do is read the warning labels.