On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother in
her home in Newtown,Connecticut.
Armed with an assault rifle and two handguns, he then burst into the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Tragic, heartbreaking, shocking, horrendous, unthinkable, inexplicable: All are apt descriptions of this act of murderous mayhem—except for inexplicable. Although the details on this specific incident are yet to be confirmed, I can say with near certainty that Adam Lanza was taking psychiatric medication.
First, it was reported that he underwent psychiatric evaluation and had been medicated as early as age 10. Second, this is by no means the first time these drugs have been associated with murder and suicide. Between 2004 and 2011, the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System for drug side effects logged 12,755 reports of psychiatric medications relating to violence. Among them were 359 homicides, 7,250 incidences of aggression, and 2,795 epi- sodes of mania. There were also 9,310 suicides. Actually, the damage is far greater. According to the FDA, fewer than 10 percent of adverse reactions are reported. To get a truer picture of the horrors of these medications, multiply these numbers by 10!
This isn’t even the first school shooting linked with psychiatric drugs. The 14 school shootings and the 10 murders and murder-suicides listed below—which left a total of 102 dead and 131 wounded—were all committed by individuals who have been positively identified as having been taking or withdrawing from antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs.
dangers in plain sight
If you want confirmation of psychiatric drugs’ propensity for promoting violence and suicide, you don’t have to look very far—it’s printed on the product labels and patient information sheets. Law requires that all antidepressants carry “black box” label warnings (the most serious type of warnings) stating they increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults. Imagine people who are depressed being prescribed drugs that clearly state right on the bottle that they could make them worse and more likely to commit suicide.
• Pittsburgh, PA, March 8, 2012: John Shick, age 30, shot and killed one employee at the University of Pitts- burgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Institute and injured six other people before he was killed by the police. Forty-three prescription medications, including nine antidepressants, were found in his apartment.
• Seal Beach, CA, October 12, 2011: Scott Dekraai, 41, killed eight people, including his ex-wife, and wounded one at the hair salon where she worked. He had been prescribed Trazodone, an antidepres- sant, and Topamax, a mood stabilizer.
• Huntsville, AL, February 5, 2010: Hammad Memon, 14, shot and killed a fellow student at their middle school. He had been treated for depres- sion and ADHD and was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and other drugs.
• Lakeland, FL, May 3, 2009: Troy Bellar, 34, killed his wife and their 5-month- and 8-yearold sons, and then shot himself. He was taking Tegretol for bipolar disorder. • Granberry Crossroads, AL, April 26, 2009: Fred B. Davis, 53, killed a policeman and wounded a deputy sheriff after threatening a neighbor with a gun. He had been prescribed Geodon, an antipsychotic drug.
• Middletown, MD, April 17, 2009: Christopher Wood, 34, cut and shot his wife and three children, ages 5, 4, and 2, and then committed suicide. He had been on the antidepressants Cymbalta and Paxil and the anti-anxiety medications BuSpar and Xanax. • Concord, CA, January 11, 2009: Jason Montes, 33, killed his 25-year-old wife and shot himself to death in their home. He had started taking Prozac.
• Kauhajoki, Finland, September 23, 2008: Matti Saari, 22, shot and killed 9 other students, wounded another, and killed a teacher before killing himself. He was tak- ing an antidepressant and a benzodiazepine.
• Little Rock, AR, August 13, 2008: Timothy John- son, 50, shot and killed Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney at the party’s headquarters; he was then pursued and killed by police. A police report confirmed that he was taking an antidepres- sant and “…the drug may have played a part in his ‘irrational and violent behavior.’”
• Dekalb, IL, February 14, 2008: Steven Kazmierc- zak, 27, shot and killed five people and wounded 21, then killed himself in an auditorium at Northern Illinois University, where he had been a student. He had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax, and Ambien, a sleeping aid.
• Omaha, NE, December 5, 2007: Robert Hawkins, 19, killed eight people and wounded five before committing suicide in an Omaha mall. Autopsy results confirmed he was under the influence of the anti-anxiety drug Valium. • Jokela, Finland, November 7, 2007: Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, killed five boys, one girl, the principal, and the school nurse and wounded a dozen others at his high school before killing himself. He had been taking antidepressants.
• Cleveland, OH, October 10, 2007: Asa Coon, 14, shot two students and two teachers at his high school and then committed suicide. He had been prescribed Trazodone.
• Red Lake, MN, March 21, 2005: Jeff Weise, 16, killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girl- friend, and drove to the high school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he opened fire, kill- ing seven people and wounding five. He then shot himself to death. He was on Prozac.
• East Greenbush, NY, February 9, 2004: Jon Ro- mano, 16, took a shotgun to school and wounded a teacher. He had been on medication for depression.
• North Meridian, FL, July 8, 2003: Doug Williams, 48, shot 14 of his co-workers at Lockheed Martin with a shotgun, killing six of them, before turning the gun on himself. He was reported to have been on two antidepressants, Zoloft and Celexa.
• Wahluke, WA, April 10, 2001: Cory Baadsgaard, 16, held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage using a rifle he had taken to school. He had been taking the antidepressant Effexor.
• El Cajon, CA, March 22, 2001: Jason Hoffman, 18, opened fire at his high school, injuring three stu- dents and two teachers. He committed suicide while in jail later that year. He was on two antidepressants, Celexa and Effexor.
• Williamsport, PA, March 7, 2001: Elizabeth Bush, 14, took a revolver to school and shot another stu- dent in the shoulder. She was taking Prozac. • Wakefield, MA, December 26, 2000: Michael Mc- Dermott, 42, shot and killed seven fellow employees at Edgewater Technology. He was taking three antidepres- sants.
• Conyers, GA, May 20, 1999: T.J. Solomon, 15, wounded six of his high school classmates with a gun he had taken to school. He was taking Ritalin, a stimulant often prescribed for ADHD.
• Columbine, CO, April 20, 1999: Eric Harris, 18, and, Dylan Klebold, 17, shot and killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others at their high school before killing themselves. Harris was taking an antide- pressant, Luvox; Klebold’s medical records are sealed.
• Notus, ID, April 16, 1999: Shawn Cooper, 15, took a shotgun to school and shot two rounds; no one was in- jured. He was taking Ritalin and an SSRI antidepressant.
• Springfield, OR, May 21, 1998: Kip Kinkel, 15, shot his parents to death with a rifle. The next day, armed with five weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, he went to school and opened fire in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. He had been taking Prozac.