Link between drugs, school violence discounted

The Daily Miner, Arizona/January 22, 2007
By Terry Organ

Kingman -- A watchdog organization concerned with the rising number of school shooting incidents is pointing a finger at anti-depressant drugs for having dangerous side effects responsible for the violence.

An e-mail received Jan. 8 from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights details nine cases at schools and some homes across the country dating back to 1998 in which psychiatric drugs are linked to shooting incidents responsible for 40 deaths and 89 wounded individuals.

It begins by stating, "According to a report filed in court, 18-year-old Douglas Chanthabouly was under the influence of a powerful anti-psychotic drug when he killed a fellow classmate, 17-year-old Samnang Kok, with a shot to the face at their Tacoma Washington high school."

On April 20, 1999, at Columbine (Colo.) High School, 18-year-old Eric Harris was on the anti-depressant Luvox when he and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives in the bloodiest school massacre in history. The coroner confirmed the anti-depressant was in Harris' system through toxicology reports, while Klebold's autopsy was never made public, the e-mail states.

Prozac is cited in three shooting incidents and Effexor in two others.

The e-mail concludes by stating, "More than 21 warnings from the FDA on the lethal effects of psychiatric drugs over the last two years have covered such dangerous side effects as suicide, mania, psychosis and homicidal ideation. To learn more about the connection between school violence and psychiatric drugs, read this report by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International or visit"

CCHR's Web site states the organization was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

A check of the Food & Drug Administration Web site turned up no warning letters about Luvox.

There was a warning letter about Effexor dated May 8, 2006. It cites a number of drugs made by Wyeth Pharmaceutical Co., including Effexor, in which manufacture, processing, packing or holding violated the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations rendering the drugs as adulterated within the meaning of a section of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Webster's dictionary defines adulterated as made corrupt or impure by adding a poor or improper substance.

A warning letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dated March 1, 2005, was sent to USA Chemicals, Inc. and concerns labeling or promotional claims that are false and misleading in that company comparing one of its drugs to Prozac.

"Examples of some of the claims observed on the Web site include:

Welatonin - defeat depression "cold turkey" in a matter of days without mind altering drugs like Prozac."

A copy of the e-mail was forwarded to Mohave Mental Health. Dr. Ernest Harman, director of inpatient psychiatry, responded to it.

"First of all, you have to recognize where (CCHR) is coming from," Harman said. "They're a mouthpiece for the Church of Scientology, which is big on anti-psychiatry drugs.

"They look at all kids in what we call primary process thinking, which does not adhere to logic. For example, if you have someone in a yellow shirt kill someone wearing a yellow shirt, a primary process thinker believes anyone in a yellow shirt will kill someone else in a yellow shirt."

All of the students identified as shooters in the school incidents were troubled individuals with behavioral or psychiatric problems, he said.

Anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs all affect the neural transmitter system in the brain. One neuron wanting to talk to another does so with an electro-chemical message, Harman said.

People with depression can have suicidal thoughts and prescribing one of the drugs cited helps all but a relative few. Mohave Mental Health personnel conduct medication monitoring among teens taking anti-depressants and caution parents about possible suicidal thoughts in their child, Harman said.

"The kids doing the school shootings are troubled to begin with, whether they're on anti-depressants or not," he said. "The fact they're on a medication is an indication that somebody in the community has identified a problem and is trying to help.

"I don't think you can make the stretch and say that because you have a depressed kid, he's more likely to commit anti-social acts."

Harman was asked if abuse of the medication's prescribed dosage could be responsible for its long-term effects if taken improperly.

"Anti-depressants are not usually medications of abuse," he said. "You don't tend to take them to get high.

"It's not a problem of taking too much, but rather taking too little."

The FDA does ample testing of drugs before allowing them to be marketed, he said.

"Any medication can have side effects," Harman said. "A physician prescribing something looks at the risk vs. benefit ratio of each drug.

"Research data and my own experiences indicate that in the vast majority of cases anti-depressants are extremely helpful to the individual taking them."

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