Investigating Psychiatric Drug-Induced Violence

Despite millions of U.S. children being prescribed mind-altering drugs documented to cause mania, psychosis, hallucinations, worsening depression and violence, and a recent spate of school shooters under the influence of such drugs, the U.S. has once again fallen behind other countries in exposing the dangers of these drugs on our youth. While many in the U.S. await toxicology reports to determine whether Virginia Tech school shooter Seung Hui Cho was the 9th recent school shooter under the influence of psychiatric drugs, Australian officials have taken the lead in investigating the issue of psychiatric drug-induced youth violence, announcing plans today for a federal investigation.

According to The Daily Telegraph, New South Wales Judge Paul Conlon, who has seen many children accused of violent crimes in his court who have been under the influence of ADHD drugs, expressed outrage against doctors who have created a generation of violent children by widespread prescription of drugs, stating, “I think it’s an absolute disgrace and those doctors and psychiatrists really need to look much more closely at the child and consider other methods of treatment other than putting them on these drugs and chemicals.” Australian federal health official Nicola Roxon called for a national inquiry into the long-term effects of giving powerful psychiatric drugs to children, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard said, “The Government is taking action on a range of fronts to tackle the issue.”

This is not the first time the U.S. has failed to fully investigate the dangers of psychiatric drugs on children and teens—despite the fact that it is the leading nation prescribing them to millions of children and young adults. And despite evidence presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as far back as 1991 (see video ) that antidepressant drugs can cause not only suicide, but also violence and homicide, it was British drug regulators that took the lead in investigating the suicidal effects of antidepressants on under-18-year-olds. Only after British drug regulators issued warnings did the FDA finally acknowledge that the drugs can induce suicidality in children. Today, the FDA acknowledges an increased risk of suicidal ideation in up to 25-year-olds—but has failed for more than a decade to address the issue of violence and homicide, even though one drug manufacturer admits that its antidepressant drug can cause “homicidal ideation.”

A partial list of warnings on the violence-inducing side effects of psychiatric drugs includes:

August 21, 2006: The FDA ordered ADHD stimulant manufacturers to strengthen their warning labels to warn that the drugs cause psychosis and aggression.

November 2005: The FDA approved updated labeling for the antidepressant Effexor, which warned that the drug could cause homicidal ideation.

August 2005: The Commission of the European Communities, representing 25 European countries, issued a warning against child antidepressant use, saying the drugs cause suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, aggression, hostility and/or related behavior.

September 21, 2004: Following a BBC news report on newer antidepressants causing aggression and homicidal behavior, the British Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority advised that it had issued guidelines that children should not be given most Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, a newer type of antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft) because clinical trial data showed an increased rate of harmful outcomes, including hostility.

April 25, 2004: The European Medicines Agency’s scientific committee concluded that SSRI antidepressants were associated with increased suicide-related behavior and hostility in young people.

March 22, 2004: The FDA warned that SSRI antidepressants could cause “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia [severe restlessness], hypomania [abnormal excitement] and mania [psychosis characterized by exalted feelings, delusions of grandeur].”

Despite growing concern over the correlation between prescribed drugs and acts of violence, the Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office now states that Seung Hui Cho’s autopsy report and toxicology results would not be publicly released, a matter of great concern to the general public who are asking why the government has failed to demand an investigation to determine if more children are potential time bombs under the influence of these drugs. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, founder for the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, recently emphasized the importance of toxicology reports, further stating that even if Cho wasn’t taking psychiatric drugs the day of the shooting, “he might have been tipped over into violent madness weeks or months earlier by taking a drug like Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft.” Therefore, Cho’s toxicology tests must be thorough and must include tissue as well as blood tests.

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