Psychiatric drugs blamed for shootings

The San Francisco Chronicle/April 28, 2013

Washington - An unlikely coalition of gun rights advocates, Scientologists and physician-skeptics is using post-Newtown outrage over gun violence to promote the view that psychiatric drugs fuel mass shooters.

"It is not guns" that are to blame for mass shootings, Ignatius Piazza, a chiropractor who runs Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, said in a blog entry. Rather, "the common denominator (is) the creation of strong, mind altering, psychiatric drugs."

Republican activist Bob Price said in a radio interview at a gun rights rally in Austin, Texas, that mass-casualty shooters "are on psychotropic drugs or under some sort of psychiatric care, and that's really where the discussion needs to be."

Gun control advocates call the drug-shooting linkage a thinly veiled ruse to obfuscate the main issue: the easy availability of firearms, particularly for those not qualified under law to buy them.

"This is just the latest example of the pro-gun forces working to divert attention to virtually anything in the wake of a mass shooting except the real issue, the guns themselves," said Josh Sugarmann, founder and executive director of the Violence Policy Center.

Los Angeles' Citizens Commission on Human Rights has an online petition demanding a federal investigation of the drug-shooting link.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology, a longtime opponent of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. Commission Vice President Marla Filidei, a Scientologist, said that while most of the organization's employees are church members, it receives no financial support from the Church of Scientology.

Adam Lanza killed his mother, then 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, and then shot himself. Although his medical records have not been released, his uncle, James Lanza, told the New York Daily News that Adam Lanza was taking Fanapt, an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia.

And James Holmes, accused of killing 12 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last year, had medications at his home including the antidepressant Zoloft and the antianxiety drug clonazepam, police said.

Most psychiatrists dismiss the idea that psychiatric drugs cause violent behavior, arguing the issue is the underlying mental illness - not the drugs designed to treat it.

"It's a little like saying cold medicine makes people sneeze because so many people taking cold medications seem to sneeze," said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and director of its Division of Law, Ethics and Psychiatry.

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