The Making of Monsters
The Scourge of Prozac
When I first heard about the Columbine High School massacre, my initial thought was, "Lord help us, were they taking Prozac?" Nine days later, it was reported that Eric Harris, one of the shooters, was taking Luvox, which, like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, belongs to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In one out of every 25 children taking it, Luvox causes mania, "a psychosis characterized by exalted feelings, delusions of grandeur and overproduction of ideas."
Guns Are Blamed, but What About Prescription Drugs?
Likely due to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry-heavy advertisers in all media-the national debate on the epidemic of teen violence has ignored the widespread use of prescription drugs in teens and particularly those who have committed monstrous acts. However, the drug-violence link is frighteningly common. Fifteen-year-old Shawn Cooper of Notus, Idaho, fired a shotgun at students and school staff. According to his stepfather, he had been taking an SSRI. Thirteen-year-old Chris Fetters of Iowa killed her favorite aunt. She was taking Prozac. Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old youth, went on a rampage in Oregon. He first shot and killed his parents, spent the night with the bodies (characteristic of the dissociative reaction these drugs often cause), then killed two and wounded 22 of his fellow students at Thurston High School. He was taking Prozac.
SSRI Drugs Can Turn People Into Monsters
Look, folks, these are the acts of monsters. The accessibility of guns and violent movies alone does not create monsters out of children. But prescription drugs that markedly alter brain chemistry can-and do! Particularly drugs like Prozac, which are, in my opinion, the chemical equivalent of a ghoulish Stephen King monster hiding in the closet. A few people have tried to warn the neighborhood, but no one is listening. And SSRIs don't backfire in children only. In November 1991, 66-year-old Barbara Mortenson attacked her 81-year-old mother, biting her more than 20 times and leaving chunks of flesh strewn on the floor. Barbara had been taking Prozac for the previous two weeks. Kristine Marie Cushing, age 39, had been separated from her husband for several months. In October 1991, she took a .38-caliber pistol and shot and killed both of her children, Elizabeth age 8, and Stephanie Marie, age 4, while they lay sleeping in their beds, then shot herself, inflicting a non-fatal wound. Prosecutors stated that they "couldn't find one iota of information to show that she was anything but a very giving, caring and sweet human being." After a plea of insanity, she was committed to a mental institution. What made her snap? She had been taking Prozac. Ann Blake Tracy, Ph.D., author of Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?, has been studying the violent, dark side of SSRI drugs for ten years. She has researched 32 murder/suicides that involved women and their children. By interviewing their families and studying autopsy reports, news accounts and medical histories, she has determined that in 24 of these 32 cases, the women were taking Prozac or another SSRI.
These Drugs Alter Normal Brain Function
The explosive nature of these drugs is predictable. Studies show that they can cause a condition known as akathisia. Akathisia comes from the Greek word meaning "can't sit still," and refers to significant physical and mental agitation. Akathisia is to violence what a match is to gasoline. This condition has been reported in one out of 16 Prozac users, but its incidence is likely under-reported because Prozac also produces mania, hypomania, anxiety and restlessness, which are first cousins of akathisia. The defenders of Prozac say that millions are being helped by it, but this claim is spurious. In the clinical trials submitted to the FDA for registration, Eli Lilly studied the drug in less than 300 people and for only four or six weeks. However, one out of every seven participants dropped out of the study because of side effects of the drug. In fact, in a recent evaluation of the usage of Prozac and other SSRIs, it was found that nearly 70% of those who are prescribed the drug do not take it as prescribed, probably due to its undesirable side effects. Imagine that, for a drug touted to make people feel better! Furthermore, there are no studies demonstrating that taking any antidepressant prevents suicide or violent behavior. In fact, according to Peter Breggin, M.D., author of Your Drug May Be Your Problem, "there is substantial evidence that many classes of psychiatric drugs-including antidepressants, such as SSRIs-can cause or exacerbate depression, suicide, paranoia and violence." Did you know that one out of every 12 patients (and this figure, too, is likely under-reported) admitted to mental hospitals for psychosis is taking SSRIs?
Even the Bright Side of SSRIs Is Dark
As Dr. Breggin points out in his earlier book, Talking Back to Prozac, these drugs rob people of their humanity-they lose their capacity for empathy. "A lot of what we are seeing is individuals losing their feeling for the people in their lives. They stop caring about their husbands or wives or children. They stop caring about God." Though zombie-like numbness may initially be felt to be an improvement by someone with depression, it can hardly be considered healthy, or even desirable. It is this loss of empathy in my opinion, that allowed Kip Kinkel to kill both of his parents, then spend the night in the same room before heading out to shoot his classmates in Oregon. It is precisely why Eric Harris could wander around shooting his classmates in Columbine High School, even kids he liked, and laugh about it. It's beyond my comprehension how any doctor could knowingly prescribe a drug that may generate violence and numb the individual to its consequences!
We Are the Drug Companies' Guinea Pigs
This is not the first time Eli Lilly and other large drug companies have polluted our culture with mind-altering, hallucinogenic drugs. Did you know that Eli Lilly first produced and marketed LSD as a legal drug in the 1950s, promoting it as an aid to psychoanalysis, a cure for alcoholism and a way to clear up mental illness? Did you know that PCP, often referred to as angel dust-one of the most dangerous street drugs because it produces irrational, violent behavior-was once legally marketed as an analgesic and painkiller by Parke-Davis? Did you know that both LSD and angel dust act by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, precisely the same mechanism of SSRIs? Dr. Tracy reports that people who have taken LSD in the past sometimes have LSD flashbacks when given Prozac or a similar drug. These drugs are not helping people. At best, they blunt your experience of both the joys and the sorrows of the human experience. At worst, they are our most frightening nightmare.
More SSRI-induced Tragedies
Two years ago, Matthew Miller had achieved every 13-year-old boy's dream-he had reached 100 pounds. He had also changed schools and was a little melancholy. He saw a psychiatrist, who gave him some samples of Zoloft, an SSRI, with the instructions to "give it a try for a week." His parents were happy and trusting, though a little perplexed that it all seemed so easy and that no other form of therapy was even mentioned to help Matthew with what they felt was a common adjustment reaction for a child his age. The drug produced akathisia in Matthew. His sister complained that he was being loud and bothering her more than normal. His grandmother noted that Matthew "could hardly sit still through our Sunday brunch." In the early morning hours of his seventh day on Zoloft, Matthew committed suicide. He hanged himself in his closet. His father, now painfully aware of what these drugs can do, wrote: "There was no cry for help. No scream. Nothing but that single, fateful, horrifying and irreversible act. For a bright, healthy and loved young man, Matt had every reason to live. Yet under the power of this debilitating drug, he found a way to die. We know it was not our Matt who took his own life. This was a Matt 'high' on a legalized pill. Reality and nightmares became indistinguishable for him. The universe that was his chemically stimulated, serotonin-enriched, emotionally tortured brain came crashing down around him with such ferocity, he had no way out."
We Must Get the Word Out
Drug companies are pushing to sell more and more SSRIs, thereby drugging larger segments of our population. Believe it or not, it's reported that many children under the age of three have already been given Prozac, and it will soon be made in flavored form for children! Folks, you must educate yourself and others on this issue. There are at least two current lawsuits against Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft. The family of the late television actor Phil Hartman claims that Brynn Hartman, Phil's wife and the mother of their two children, aged 9 and 7, was under the influence of Zoloft when she shot and killed her husband while he was sleeping, then killed herself. Another SSRI murder-suicide. The family of Matthew Miller is also suing the company over the fatal consequences of this drug in their son. As evidence like this mounts, the tide is bound to turn against these dangerous drugs and, just like LSD and PCP, I believe they will ultimately be taken off the market. It's just a question of how much human suffering must be endured before that occurs.
Let's Get Rid of These Drugs
I urge you to state your views on this important matter in a letter to Jane Henney, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 1471, Rockville, MD 20857. Send copies of your letter to your Senators and Congressman, and the International Coalition for Drug Awareness at P.O. Box 1044, West Jordan, UT 84-84 ( www.drugawareness.org).
Want to Know More?
Two books I strongly recommend Peter R. Breggin's Your Drug May Be Your Problem and Talking Back to Prozac (both available in bookstores). Jon Rappoport's in-depth analysis of teen violence, Why Did They Do It? An Inquiry into the School Shootings in America may be downloaded from his web site http://home.earthlink.net/~alto/
Two other excellent web sites for obtaining detailed information on the human tragedies and the dark side of "happiness in a bottle" are Dr. Tracy's International Coalition for Drug Awareness at drugawareness.org and the Prozac Survivor's Support Group at pssg.org.
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