In the wake of the latest terrifying school shooting in Newtown Connecticut, The Washington Post reported that 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza, killer of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut was on pharmaceutical drugs.
This has yet to be confirmed. However, it's important to note that almost every incidence of violence in schools in the past 25 years has been connected to pharmaceutical drugs.
In Arianna Huffington’s syndicated newspaper column dated July 9, 1998, Dr. Peter Breggin, psychiatrist and author (Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications) states, “I have no doubt that Prozac can cause or contribute to violence and suicide. I’ve seen many cases. In a recent clinical trial, 6% of the children became psychotic on Prozac. And manic psychosis can lead to violence.”
Are Pharmaceutical Drugs Responsible for the Dramatic Rise in Mental Illness?
It's true, correlation does not imply causation. However, there are some experts making the case that prescription drugs are actually making people sicker.
After the tragedy on Friday, I decided to reread Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by award-winning science and history writer, Robert Whitaker.
Whitaker asks: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades?
Whitaker points out that Prozac and other SSRIs, Ritalin and other stimulants, and bipolar and antipsychotic medications like Lithium are relatively new on the market. They were only introduced to the US around the 1950s. He asks the question, “Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them?”
If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. He tells shocking stories about preschoolers being prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, about people who, on medication for decades, have lost their families and their lives.
I'll be doing a book review in the near future so check back.
School Shootings Linked to Pharmaceutical Drugs
Now, let's take a look at 55 cases of school violence in the past 25 years that were caused by patients being prescribed pscyhotropic drugs.
Note: This is not a comprehensive list. It's just the ones I found when I Googled it.
May 20, 1988
30-year-old Laurie Dann walked into a second grade Hubbard Woods School classroom carrying three pistols and began shooting children, killing an eight-year-old boy, Nicholas Corwin, and wounding five others before fleeing. Dann was taking the powerful serotonergic antidepressant Anafranil (Clomipramine) for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
September 26, 1988
Greenwood, South Carolina
James Wilson, 19, went on a shooting spree in an elementary schoolyard, killing two 8 year olds, and wounding 7 other children and 2 teachers. He was taking Xanax and for the eight months prior to the shooting had been taking several psychiatric drugs.
September 17, 1992
Calvin Charles Bell entered Piney Point Elementary School and opened fire. Two officers suffered gun shot injuries. Bell was on antidepressants.
December 17, 1993
Chelsea High School in teacher Steven Lieth walked out of a staff meeting and returned with a gun killing one and wounding another. Leith had been taking antidepressants prescribed by a psychiatrist.
October 12, 1995
Blackville, South Carolina
Toby Sincino walked into Blackville-Hilda High School, killed two teachers and then killed himself. He was taking the SSRI Zoloft.
February 2, 1996
Moses Lake, Washington
Two students and one teacher killed, one other wounded when 14-year-old Barry Loukaitis opened fire on his algebra class. Loukaitis suffered from hyperactivity, and was taking Ritalin at the time of the shooting.
October 1, 1997
Luke Woodham, 16, student at Pearl High School, killed 2 and wounded 7. Woodham was taking Prozac.
December 1, 1997
West Paducah, Kentucky
14-year-old Michael Carneal started firing a gun during a prayer meeting at a high school, killing 3 teens aged 14 to 17, and wounding 5 other students, including one who is paralyzed. Carneal was on Ritalin.
March 24, 1998
Andrew Golden, 11, and cousin Mitchell Johnson, 13, went on a shooting spree at Westside Middle School in Arkansas, killing four students and one teacher. Nine students and a teacher were also wounded. Both boys were taking Ritalin.
April 9, 1998
Student Mitchell Gushwa walked into ocatello School with a gun and held several staff and students hostage. He was on Zoloft.
May 1, 1998
Buffalo, New York
Thirty-seven-year-old Erie County deputy sheriff, Juan Roman pursued his estranged wife into their children's elementary school in Buffalo and shot her dead. He also shot an aide, but no children were hurt. He was taking antidepressants and seeing a psychiatrist.
May 21, 1998
Two students killed, 22 others wounded in the cafeteria at Thurston High School by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel. Kinkel had been arrested and released a day earlier for bringing a gun to school. His parents were later found dead at home. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac and amphetamine. Kinkel had been attending “anger control classes” and was under the care of a psychologist.
April 16, 1999
15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a mix of SSRI antidepressants and Ritalin.
April 20, 1999
Fourteen students (including killers) and one teacher killed, 23 others wounded at Columbine High School. This was the fourth-deadliest school killing in United States History (the second and third are directly related to antidepressants as well). Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, had plotted for a year to kill at least 500 and blow up their school. At the end of their hour-long rampage, they turned their guns on themselves. Harris was on the antidepressants Luvox and Zoloft, and had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting. Both shooters had been in anger-management classes and had undergone counseling. The autopsy results for Dylan Klebold were not disclosed but it is thought he was sharing the medications with Harris.
April 28, 1999
Taber, Alberta, Canada
14-year-old student at W.R. Myers High School, Todd Cameron Smith, walked into his school and randomly shot at three students, killing one and injuring another. He had taken Dexadrine.
May 20, 1999
Six students injured at Heritage High School by Thomas Solomon, age 15. Solomon was being treated with the stimulant Ritalin.
Dec. 6, 1999
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
Four students at Fort Gibson Middle School wounded as Seth Trickey, 13, opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. He was taking two psychotropic drugs.
January 10, 2001
17-year-old Richard Lopez fires shot before taking another student hostage. He is later shot and killed by police. Lopez was prescribed Prozac and Paxil.
February 2, 2001
William Michael Stankewicz was taking four different medications to “stabilize” acute depression and anxiety and was treated for those problems two weeks before going to the North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School with a machete leaving three adults and 11 children injured.
March 7, 2001
Elizabeth Catherine Bush, 14, wounded student Kimberly Marchese in the cafeteria of Bishop Neumann High School. She was on Paxil.
March 22, 2001
Granite Hills, California
One teacher and three students wounded by Jason Hoffman, 18, at Granite Hills High School. A policeman shot and wounded Hoffman. Jason Hoffman was taking the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor. He had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting.
April 15, 2001
Sixteen-year-old Cory Baadsgaard, student at Wahluke High School, took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. According to a student, “Cory was yelling and then he just stopped, looked down at the gun in his hand and woke up.” Fortunately, no one was hurt. Cory had no memory of the incident. 21 days before the event, he had been taken off Paxil and prescribed a high dose of the drug Effexor. Cory's father said “They always talk about how the kids who do these things are the ones who get picked on by the jocks and stuff, but Cory was a jock. He was on the varsity basketball team, played football and golf, and was very popular in school. “Cory sat in jail for 14 months before finally being released based on expert testimony by psychiatrists that his behavior was an adverse reaction to the drugs he was prescribed.”
June 9, 2001
Thirty-seven-year-old Mamoru Takuma stabbed to death 8 Ikeda Elementary School students and injured 13 others. Takuma had taken 10 times his normal dosage of an antidepressant.
January 16, 2002
Peter Odighizuwa may have been having withdrawals from his medication for depression when he killed 3 including the Dean, a professor and a student at the Appalachian School of Law.
Elliot City, Maryland
Ryan T. Furlough, 19, killed a Centennial High School classmate by spiking his soda with cyanide. He was being treated with Effexor.
February 9, 2004
East Greenbush, New York
16-year-old Jon Romano opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano was on Paxil and had previously seen a psychiatrist.
Gloucester Township, NJ
A teenager at Highland High School carried loaded handguns to school. His thoughts of violence were linked to over-medication.
February 9, 2005
Red Lion, Pennsylvania
John Meisky, 16-year-old student at Red Lion Area Senior High School, attacked another student in class, inflicting a small cut on his neck. John was taking two prescription antidepressant medications.
March 21, 2005
Red Lake, Minnesota
Jeff Weise, 16, killed grandfather and companion, then arrived at school where he killed a teacher, a security guard, 5 students, and finally himself, leaving a total of 10 dead. Weise had previously spent about a year and a half in a residential juvenile treatment program and was on Prozac.
January 24, 2006
Cave City, Arkansas
A 15-year-old student at Cave City School attempted to commit suicide at school. He took 4 different antidepressants and slit his left wrist.
Fifteen year-old Ladarious Guy, student at Memphis City High School, had just recently started taking Zoloft when he punched a teacher in the mouth. His mother says just one day before the incident happened she learned her son voiced concern about his medicine. “One of the teachers called Thursday to let me know he expressed to her that he believes his medication is making him angry and wants to fight.”
April 24, 2006
A student at East Chapel High School with a shotgun took a teacher and a fellow student hostage. At a hearing, teens father testified his son had stopped taking antidepressants and antipsychotic medication without telling his parents. Antidepressant withdrawal can cause mania and psychosis.
August 30, 2006
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Alvaro Castillo, 19, killed his father, then opened fire at Orange High School, wounding two students before surrendering to police. Celexa and other medications were found in his personal effects.
September 13, 2006
Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon at Dawson College. He killed one and injured 19 before killing himself. He was depressed and he was treated at a local health clinic where he likely received antidepressants.
September 27, 2006
Duane Morrison, Platte Canyon High School student, took 6 female students hostage, sexually assaulted them, then shot 16-year- old Emily Keyes in the back of the head before turning a gun on himself. Antidepressant medication was recovered from Morrison's Jeep.
September 29, 2006
Eric Hainstock, a student at Weston High School, killed one person. One of the items brought up in court was his ADHD diagnosis. It was never revealed but he was thought to be on Ritalin.
October 10, 2006
Charleston, South Carolina
Tyrell Glover, 19, took an air rifle to Burke High School where he planned to hold students hostage and be gunned down by police. He had been taking an antidepressant for several years but his mother took him off the drug when she saw the listed side effects in ads. However, Tyrell began taking Prozac again for approximately six months. Whether he was taking a psychiatric drug or withdrawing from it at the time of this hostage/suicide plan is yet to be confirmed.
December 4, 2006
Sixteen-year-old Travis Roberson attempted murder by slitting a classmate's throat at Jennings County High School. Teen missed doses of his antidepressant before the knife attack.
January 3, 2007
Douglas Chanthabouly, 18, shot fellow student Samnang Kok, 17, in the hallway of Henry Foss High School. Chanthabouly was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. He had been on anti-psychotic medication.
April 16, 2007
A 23-year-old Virginia Tech student, Cho Seung-Hui, killed two in a dorm, then killed 30 more 2 hours later in a classroom building. His suicide brought the death toll to 33, making the shooting rampage the most deadly in U.S. history. Fifteen others were wounded. He was on prescription medications.
October 10, 2007
A 14-year-old student at a Cleveland high school, Asa H. Coon, shot and injured two students and two teachers before he shot and killed himself. Court records show Coon had been placed on the antidepressant Trazodone.
November 7, 2007
Seventeen-year-old Felicia McMillan stabbed a male student at Robert E. Lee High School and also injured the principal while on medication for depression.
November 7, 2007
Eighteen-year-old student at Jokela School in southern Finland, Pekka-Eric Auvinen, shot and killed five boys, two girls, and the female principal at Jokela High School. At least 10 others were injured. The gunman shot himself and died from his wounds in the hospital. He was in possession of Cipralex, Zoloft, Luvox and Prozac.
January 8, 2008
Fifteen-year-old student at Spring Hill High School brought a semi-automatic gun to school. In addition to the gun, the student was carrying several pills in his backpack, some of which were the antidepressant Zoloft.
January 23, 2008
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Brian Gilmore was arrested in the high school parking lot of Lake City High School with 3 stolen high powered rifles and ammunition. His mother stated that the medicine “drastically” changed the teenager’s behavior, and the doctor had recently switched him to Prozac.
February 14, 2008
Gunman killed five students and then himself, and wounded 17 more when he opened fire on a classroom at Northern Illinois University. The gunman, Stephen P. Kazmierczak, was identified as a former graduate student at the university in 2007. Kazmierczak had been seeing a psychiatrist and had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien.
February 15, 2008
Sixteen-year-old Curtis Kofoed took a handgun to Snake River High School. Nearly 8 hours later, he killed himself. Koefed had depression problems in the past and sought both therapy and medication for it.
March 13, 2009
Fifteen people were shot and killed at Albertville Technical High School in southwestern Germany by 17-year-old student, Tim Kretschmer. Kretschmer had been suffering from depression, attended a clinic and took medication for the condition.
August 28, 2008
18-year-old, Allen Doelitsch was jailed for asking a 14-year-old friend to join him in a “Columbine-style” attack. He said that he had been depressed and that his mother had taken him off his bipolar medication because of the side effects.
September 23, 2008
Twenty-two-year-old Matti Saari shot and killed ten students at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality before killing himself. Matti Saari was taking an SSRI medicinal product and also a benzodiazepine.
November 10, 2009
Pine Plains, New York
Christopher Craft Sr., 43, a graduate of Stissing High School, allegedly walked into the school around 7:45 a.m., with a shotgun. He took Middle School Principal Robert Hess as a hostage. “Craft said where he needed to be was a psychiatric ward, mentioning he had previously been on Cymbalta for depression.”
December 15, 2010
Twenty pre-school children and their teacher were held hostage by a 17-year-old with two swords for 4 1/2 hours at Charles Fourier Preschool in Planoise, France. The teen was on medication for depression.
October 25, 2011
Fifteen-year-old student at Snohomish High School armed herself with two kitchen knives before school one day and brutally stabbed two schoolmates. Prior to the attack, the girl had been taking medication and seeing a mental health professional. Court documents say the girl is being treated for depression.”
February 5, 2012
15-year-old Hammad Memon shot and killed Discover Middle School student, Todd Brown. Memon had a history for being treated for ADHD and depression. He was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.” He had been seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist.
December 14, 2012
Adam Lanza, 24, from Hoboken, N.J., armed with a .223-caliber rifle and other weapons killed 20 children and six others at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza was also killed. His mother, a teacher at the school, was also one of the victims. According to the Washington Post, Lanza was on medication.
Videos About School Shootings Linked to Pharmaceutical Drugs
Here are a couple of short videos that address the issue of school violence and pharmaceutical drugs.
Movies About Kids and Pharmaceutical Drugs
Watch the film, Drugging Our Children — it's free to watch on YouTube:
Books About The Rise of Mental Illness and Pharmaceutical Drugs
As I said, I am currently rereading Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America and highly recommend it.
I have not read these other books but I'm putting them on my reading list:Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Revised Edition: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications
What Do You Think?
Has Big Pharma gone too far? Should we be rushing to medicate our kids? Do you think prescription drugs play a role in school violence?
Please share your thoughts below in the comments.