Shooters

1/18/2013 11:32:10 AM

Tags: violent crime, pharmaceuticals, mass shootings, Reality Sandwhich

Photo by Carsten Schertzer, Creative Commons 

This article originally appeared at Reality Sandwich.

Several writers of my acquaintance, such as Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders, developed the habit of keeping extensive files of press clippings on stories of personal interest. Noam Chomsky, we're told, does the same thing. An individual news report may mention something in passing that may seem secondary to the main narrative, but when multiple stories collected over time repeat the same seemingly secondary data, important patterns can become apparent.

For example, for many years Ginsberg clipped New York Times articles having to do with the international traffic in narcotics. This collection eventually served as one of the sources for historian Alfred W. McCoy's definitive study linking the heroin trade to U. S. government agencies, The Politics of Heroin.  

Now, amid the sickening media parade endlessly looping, one aspect of the mass shooter phenomenon is continually skipped, but a survey of press reports on the spate of bizarre violence that has arisen since the 1990s reveals a pattern.

In the past few days, following the Newtown murders, various experts have weighed in on the difficulty of profiling the mass shooter type. (An accurate psychological profile, presumably -- and hideously problematically -- could enable parents, teachers, doctors, and law enforcers to predict which individual is headed toward being the next shooter.)

Despite the difficulty of such profiles and predictions, there are two things that such characters have in common. First, they are mostly young white males. Second, many of the perpetrators are reported to have been taking psychoactive prescription medication.

The website "SSRI Stories: Antidepressant Nightmares" offers a sortable database of more than 4,800 newspaper articles, scientific journal reports, and TV news items linking antidepressant use to cases of extreme violence.

It is important to note that this site is not peddling some conspiracy theory. It is not speculative at all. The website is an index to reputable sources reporting on actual criminal cases, and in all cases reported, prescription meds are implicated.

The articles show that these violent acts were perpetrated by consumers in the 50 billion dollar a year selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) industry. This is a class of drugs whose warning labels and pharmaceutical literature note that a small percentage of SSRI consumers fantasize about and/or exhibit extreme violence.

I was originally tipped to this in July of 2012 in an article by RS regular Jonathan Zap, which he wrote in the wake of the so-called Batman shootings of that summer. 

Zap notes as follows.   

"Mass shootings, like the one that just happened in Aurora [Colorado], have become a recurrent nightmare that haunts the collective psyche. As the nightmare repeats, we see patterns emerging. One, which we don't have confirmation on yet in this case, is that the shooter will almost always turn out to be on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor).  For example, Colorado's other most famous mass shooting, Columbine, was masterminded by 18-year-old Eric Harris who was on the SSRI medication Luvox. Here's an index of shootings and the SSRI connection someone put together." 

The website Jonathan links us to, "SSRI Stories: Antidepressant Nightmares," concentrates on reports implicating Prozac (the FDA's number 2 drug for violence), Zoloft, Paxil (number 3 for violence), Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Remeron, Anafranil, Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, and Wellbutrin.

Here are a few samples of reports from the site, with comments.

"Tim Kretschmer . . . walked into Albertville Secondary in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, at 9.30am on Wednesday armed with a 9mm Beretta he had stolen from his gun enthusiast father and wearing a K4-Schutz bulletproof vest and the black fatigues of Germany's elite forces, the Kommando Spezialkräfte. . . .  He killed nine pupils at Albertville, all but one a girl, and three teachers, all women, in less than 10 minutes. He then shot and killed three bystanders as he tried to escape, before taking his own life after a shootout with police. . . .  It emerged that Kretschmer had been suffering from depression . . . and receiving medication for the condition." --Scotland On Sunday, Edinburgh, March 14 2009. 

"Hours before he walked into a Northern Illinois University lecture hall and inexplicably started a shooting rampage that ended five lives and his own, Steve Kazmierczak called one of the people he was closest to and said what would be a final goodbye. . . . [According to his girlfriend] 'he was anything but a monster. He was probably the nicest, most caring person ever'. . . . [She said] he saw a psychiatrist monthly but stopped taking Prozac a few weeks ago. She said the medicine 'made him feel like a zombie'." --Chicago Sun Times, February 8, 2008.

What we might call the "zombie effect" seems to come up in many of these cases. Also common is that the violent behavior tends to occur when the patient is either having the dosage adjusted, or has just stopped taking the pills.

The "SSRI Stories" site notes the following.

"The danger of withdrawal from antidepressants and antipsychotics is well documented. The brain tries to compensate for the blockage of the serotonin and dopamine receptors by growing additional receptors for these neurotransmitters.  When the medications are discontinued, these additional receptors contribute to an 'overload' of serotonin and dopamine flooding the receptor. This is known as 'supersensitivity psychosis' and 'antidepressant discontinuation syndrome'." 

"BEMIDJI, MINN. -- Jeffrey Weise had ‘a good relationship' with the grandfather he shot and killed on Monday as prelude to his deadly assault on students and others at Red Lake High School, according to relatives who are struggling to understand what might have pushed the teenager from sometimes bizarre behavior to mass murder and suicide. . . .  They wondered, too, about medication he was supposedly taking for depression, and a recent increase in his prescribed dosage. . . . 60 milligrams a day of Prozac." --Star Tribune (Minnesota), March 24, 2005.

Read the rest of this story at Reality Sandwich.

Image by Carsten Achertzer, licensed under Creative Commons



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Lance Eaton
1/23/2013 2:39:00 PM
You're right that there's a trend between those on medication and the violence, but I think that's another symptom and not necessarily a cause. As I wrote about here (http://byanyothernerd.blogspot.com/2012/12/shootings-troubled-boys-and-system.html), there's a lot more complex things going on than just mental state.



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