Dr Peter Breggin on The Real “Mental Health Lessons” from Virginia Tech

Dr Peter Breggin has been sharing his thoughts on the Virginia Tech massacre. You can read his entire article here; a part of it is featured below.

And what about drugs for the treatment of violence? The FDA has not approved any medications for the control of violence because there are no such medications. Yes, it is possible to temporarily immobilize mind and body alike with a shot of an “antipsychotic” drug like Haldol; but that only works as long as the person is virtually paralyzed and confined–and forced drugging invariably breeds more resentment.

Instead of offering the promise of reducing violence, all psychiatric drugs carry the potential risk of driving the individual into violent madness. For example, both the newer antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Celexa, and the antipsychotic drugs such as Risperdal and Zyprexa, cause a disorder caused akathisia–a terrible inner sensation of agitation accompanied by a compulsion to move about. Akathisia is known to drive people to suicide and to aggression. Indeed, these tragic outcomes of drug-induced akathisia are so well documented that they are described in the most establishment psychiatric book of all, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

For the past fifteen years or more, I’ve been writing about the capacity of psychiatric drugs to cause mayhem, murder and suicide. In early 2005 the FDA finally issued a warning that antidepressants cause both suicidality and violence. For example, the FDA’s new mandated warning label for antidepressants states that these drugs produce “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania.”

Note the reference to “irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity” in the label or package insert for antidepressants. That’s a formula for violence. Note the mention of akathisia, another source of both violence and suicide. And finally, note the reference to mania, yet another drug-induced syndrome associated with violence and suicide.

As a psychiatrist and medical expert, I have personally evaluated dozens of cases of individuals driven to violence by psychiatric drugs of every type, but most commonly the newer antidepressants. One of the cases I evaluated, the Columbine shooter Eric Harris, looks the most like Cho. Both were very emotionally disturbed in an extremely violent fashion for a prolonged period of time. For the entire year that Eric Harris was evolving his manic-like violence, he was taking Luvox, a drug known to cause mania at a high rate in young people

In my book Reclaiming Our Children, I analyzed the clinical and scientific reasons for believing that Eric Harris’s violence was caused by prescribed Luvox and I’ve also testified to the same under oath in deposition in a case related to Columbine. In my book the Antidepressant Fact Book, I also warned that stopping antidepressants can be as dangerous as starting them, since they can cause very disturbing and painful withdrawal reactions.

We have not been informed whether or not Cho was taking psychiatric drugs at the time he unleashed his violence; but even if he wasn’t, he might have been tipped over into violent madness weeks or months earlier by a drug like Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft. He could also have been undergoing severe drug withdrawal. Investigators should set a high priority on obtaining and publishing Cho’s psychiatric drug history.

To focus on Cho as a “mental patient” or “schizophrenic” distracts from the real need to enforce security on college campuses, or in any setting, by reacting definitively to lesser acts of violence before they escalate. It also maligns people with serious mental problems, the vast majority who are, above else, inoffensive and overly docile.

The violence unleashed on the Virginia Tech campus should not lead to calls for more mental health screening, more mental health interventions, or more drugs. Instead, the violent rampage should confirm that psychiatric interventions don’t prevent violence and instead they can cause it. Early on, Cho should have been confronted by the police and by university administrators with the reality that his behavior was unacceptable and he should have been suspended. In other words, he should have been treated as a criminal who was stalking women, and as an obviously threatening individual, not as a potential mental patient. These measures might have confronted him with sufficient reality to nip his violence in the bud and more certainly would have removed him from the circumstances that the he found intolerably stimulating, while also removing him from so many targets of opportunity.

Dr Breggin’s own website can be found here.

One Response to “Dr Peter Breggin on The Real “Mental Health Lessons” from Virginia Tech”

  1. seroxat secrets… A brief history of school shootings « Says:

    […] Dr Peter Breggin on The Real “Mental Health Lessons” from Virginia Tech […]


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