Antidepressants and mass murder

A commenter at The Thinking Housewife quotes an article showing the many mass killers in recent years who were on antidepressant drugs.

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December 19

Simon F. writes:

As I wrote to Laura, we need to remember that correlation does not equal causation. The murderers who were given the drugs were likely given them because they were already nuts. We also don’t know if perhaps there are teens who are prevented from going off by support including proper medication .

A reader writes:

(1) Regarding antidepressants I have never tried them myself, but friends who have confirm that they work by simply making you stop caring so much about the world, for good and bad.

(2) Regarding videogames, it might be useful (although distasteful) for your non-game playing readers to take a look at what the favorite game series of Adam Lanza (also the world-wide best selling game series, well over 100 million copies sold) actually looks like:

The Call of Duty series is reported to have been a favorite of Lanza (as it was for Breivik, the game was one of his two favorite video games listed on Facebook).

December 19

MG writes:

I’ve taken an SSRI antidepressant (specifically fluoxetine), and I can testify that that is exactly how it made me feel. Things didn’t seem to matter as much, and this made me a lot happier.

I’ve also played that video game, Modern Warfare 2. My favorite part was the controversial “No Russian” level shown in that video, where the player machine-guns unarmed people in an airport, then fights off the responding police. That sounds terrible, but it really didn’t seem too bad to me. The people look pretty good, but they’re still recognizably made up of polygons, and their movements are not very convincing. More importantly, the player is just interacting with a TV screen through a controller. It makes dramatic and shocking video, but I didn’t find it all that disturbing or immersive to play. It wasn’t much worse than playing as a genocidal, H-bomb-flinging tyrant in Civilization, another game I enjoy, and which gets practically zero bad press.

Neither experience pushed me any closer to running amok (if anything, I feel the antidepressant made me less likely to commit evil or destructive acts), but I can’t say how they might effect a seriously insane or evil person.

LA replies:

I’m sure MG realizes the statistical irrelevance of one person’s experience.

Rick Darby writes:

I have been taking antidepressants for the past 25 years. I am not a mass murderer.

LA replies:

Of course that’s irrelevant to the issue, as I’m sure you realize.

You don’t think there’s something seriously wrong with a society in which millions of young boys are on antidepressant drugs?

Rick Darby replies:

Are you saying young boys can’t be depressed? [LA replies: I am amazed that Mr. Darby would commit such a non sequitur. ]

Antidepressants are almost surely overprescribed. Plain old unhappiness, especially when it’s temporary, shouldn’t be medicated. Nevertheless, clinical depression is real, it at least partly involves something wrong with the physical organism, and antidepressants—while far from a sure cure—do help many people. Antidepressant therapy is a medical tool, like chemotherapy. There is an art as well as a science to prescribing antidepressants, but I can testify that they do not make you unable to think or feel.

M. Jose writes:

I once took a low dose of Prozac for a short time due to depression my second semester of college (likely related to my obsessive-compulsive disorder). It did not stop me from caring. I actually felt sunnier and better, although some of that might have been due to the effect of spring coming. I stopped needing it after a few months, though.

Also, I would reject too much of a comparison between Lanza and Breivik. Lanza appears to have been completely unhinged. Breivik on the other hand had a discernible motive, and was simply ruthless in carrying it out. He saw the kids as budding enemies of his civilization and took action to “fight back.” His actions are much more comparable to the World Trade Center attacks, in my opinion, or for that matter to racist black mass murderers like Colin Ferguson.

LA replies:

Based on e-mails I’ve received, people who have used antidepressant drugs are personally defensive about criticisms of antidepressants, even if the criticisms do not go to antidepressants per se, but to their gross overuse in our society. Another blogger/commenter, who is normally affable and friendly, accused me of arguing in bad faith and not caring about truth, simply because I linked the article at The Thinking Housewife at the top of this entry and stated what it was about; in fact I didn’t state any opinion of my own. I pointed out to him that if I was wrong or uninformed on the issue he should correct me, not accuse me of bad faith simply because my position (though I actually hadn’t stated a position) was different from his own. In response he continued in the ad hominem manner. No discussion is possible on those terms.

Kristor writes:

To point out that there is a correlation between antidepressants and murder is not to contradict the assertion that they have helped many patients. But to disregard the correlation is at least short-sighted. At the site, “SSRI Stories: Antidepressant Nightmares,” 4,800 cases of medicated murder are noted, including 66 school shootings(!). I challenge anyone to spend twenty minutes perusing the site, and come away with the settled conviction that SSRIs have nothing to do with the plague of insane murders that began more or less as SSRIs began to be widely used, and that we therefore simply don’t need to consider changing the prescription protocols for such drugs.

My bet is that if one or two psychiatrists were sued (even unsuccessfully) for prescribing SSRIs to folks who then committed murder, their use would greatly change.

Buck writes:

I watched the first hour of The Marketing of Madness, a three hour documentary about psychotropic drugs that is highly relevant to this discussion. The first 5:20 states the premise. It’s a blanket indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, and psychiatry. The video is either produced by or for, or is highly touted by, Scientology. It’s well done and it seems legitimate. It offers a ton of fact claims, though I haven’t yet sought to verify any of it.

Buck writes:

I watched the rest of the video. It makes a powerful case. It’s very informative and it got me interested in learning more. Wikipedia reveals that CCHR, who produced the video, is a Scientology front group.

The video is well done. It goes through the history of psychotropic drug development and use, and explains the phenomenal growth of the giant and powerful pharmaceutical companies. Much of that is demonstrably true. It’s hard to discount the general thrust of the video’s claim (in spite of the fact that it is the work of the bizarre cult of Scientology): the overwhelming, unnecessary doping of much of our population, especially children, and what that means to our society.

It matches up well with the article linked by Kristor

Daniel S. writes:

I have suffered from bouts of depression of an existential sort since I was a teenager (which explains my attraction to Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Schopenhauer). I have even at times in the past struggled with strong suicidal impulses, though thank God I never succumbed to leaping into the Abyss. I have been prescribed antidepressants, but have never once used them. I believe the struggle with despair and nihilism to be an essential one to the modern man, and, speaking for myself, I felt that either I would overcome my despair and depression or it would overcome me. I cannot settle for any sort of truce or temporary peace. (I am not suggesting people not use antidepressants, I am merely describing my personal attitude for my personal struggle.) I use my despair and depression as a motivation to seek out answers about God, the world, and myself.

Perhaps some of this is too personal for a public forum, but I think it important to note that there is a way to transcend, by the grace of God, both depression and the antidepressants, a way which I find in the image of the crucified Christ, suffering and forsaken upon that cross. Of course, the Man of Sorrows, who entered into our suffering and despair, and took part in it, gives us eternal hope:

You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 18, 2012 10:00 PM | Send

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