- Think about it
- Make the decision
- Get the gun
- Do the shooting
Two of those steps involve guns. Two of them do not.
Today I’d like to talk about the two steps that lead to so many of our young people reaching for a gun so they can kill their peers.
School shootings happen so often in America that we don’t really pay much attention to them anymore.
The recent shooting in Texas confirmed this, with TV news moving off the subject rather quickly, in just a couple days.
A big reason for this is people have become inured to school shootings…just when the number of school shootings is skyrocketing.
It seems from that graph that 2015 was the real jump-off point for our current, society-wide problem.
And we’ve seen this trend coming for some time now.
Back in 2013, a U.S. Justice report analyzed three decades of data and told us that by 2011, the country had entered a new era of mass shootings. The number had tripled between 2000 and 2009, going from an average of five a year to fifteen a year.
So what’s the reason behind this?
Is it guns…bullying…stress…or something else?
I often wonder if that ‘something else’ is teen antidepressant use. Here’s a graph of what that looks like:
Not a huge increase for the overall teen population over the past 15 years.
Still, some say that 90% of school shooters were on, or had been on, antidepressants when they committed their crimes.
That seems high to me, but when you look at the individual cases, perhaps there’s something to it.
- In February, the aunt of the 19-year-old school shooter in Florida told the Miami Herald that she thought he was on “medication to deal with his emotional fragility.”
- Back in 2013, family friends of the Newtown school shooter told CBS News that they knew “he was on medication and everything.”
Aside from those two high-profile shootings, we know the following school shooters were also on some kind of psychiatric medications:
- The 1988 Illinois school shooter was on the mania drugs, Anafranil and Lithium.
- The 1989 California school shooter was on the antidepressant called Amitriptyline, as well as the antipsychotic drug, Thorazine.
- The 1997 Kentucky school shooter was on Ritalin.
- The 1998 Oregon school shooter was on both Ritalin and Prozac.
- One of the 1999 Columbine school shooters was on the antidepressant Luvox.
And it’s not just school shootings.
- In 1981, would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley took four Valium just hours before trying to shoot the president.
- In 1989, a man in Kentucky killed nine coworkers after he’d been taking Prozac for a month.
- In 1996, 18-year-old Kurt Danysh killed his father just two weeks after starting Prozac.
- In 2001, Andrea Yates of Texas killed her five children. She’d been on the antidepressant Effexor.
- Also in 2001, a 12-year-old in South Carolina killed his grandparents while they slept. He’d been on the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft.
- In 2005, a man in Minnesota killed nine people and himself while taking Prozac.
- In 2012, the Colorado movie theater shooter was on the antidepressant Sertraline.
We often say our modern era of mass school shootings began in 1999 with Columbine.
As I mentioned, one of those shooters was on the antidepressant Luvox.
The maker of Luvox, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, has admitted that 1-in-25 youth on the drug will develop mania, or 4% of users.
Two years after that tragedy, we had Andrea Yates kill her kids and blame it on Satan. She was taking Effexor.
Effexor made Wyeth $3 billion in sales just a couple years ago, with 19.2 million prescriptions going out. That means thousands could have “homicidal ideation.”
In fact, the antidepressant drug industry is a $300 billion a year industry. Last year, the Guardian told us that pharmaceutical companies poured nearly $2.5 billion “into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.”
For comparisons sake, the NRA has spent $203 million on lobbying over the past two decades.
It doesn’t even come close. But that’s not really important. As a society, we’ve convinced ourselves that guns are the problem, not drugs.
And that’s no surprise. Last year USA Today told us that drugmakers had spent $6.4 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising in 2016, which was up 5% from 2015. In fact, drug ads were the 12th-largest TV ad category in 2012, but by 2016 they’d moved up to 6th.
My how this creates demand! As 2017 began, we knew that 17% of Americans were taking a psychiatric drug, or 1-in-6.
This has made the psychiatric drug industry a $300 billion a year juggernaut. For comparisons sake, the gun and ammunition manufacturing industry saw $13.5 billion in revenue in 2014. We know that 31% of American households own guns.
And if you’re a TV network that makes a lot of money from drug companies for TV ads – but little if any from the gun industry – wouldn’t you rather blame guns than drugs for the school shooting problem? After all, why ruin the bottom line?
I think it’s clear that Big Pharma lobbies Congress a lot more than the NRA, and that Big Pharma makes a lot more in profits.
Now let’s consider if Big Pharma’s products are dangerous or not. Surely if they were, the company would lose a lot of money should that become public.
So the goal is to not let it go public. They’ve been very successful with this before.
These companies know they have a dangerous product, and sometimes that gets out in the court records.
- After the 1989 Kentucky shooting, survivors sued Prozac-maker Eli Lilly, with the company settling out of court.
- After the 2001 Andrea Yates murders, Effexor-maker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals admitted that homicidal ideation was one of the “rare adverse events” that could occur while on the drug, meaning it could happen to 1 person in 1,000.
When it comes to Paxil, the FDA label even lists things like “mania” and “psychosis” and “hostility” and “delirium” and “abnormal thinking” as possible “adverse drug reactions.”
In fact, the FDA has what they call “black box” warning labels, which are their most serious drug warning. All these drugs warn of “increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24.”
The main type of antidepressants being prescribed in America today are called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
In England, regulators have discovered that 60 murders over the past three decades are linked to SSRI use.
Here in America, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has determined that child and teen antidepressant use increased from 1.3% to 1.6% between 2005 and 2012.
The same group tells us that pediatric prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs increased 65%, from 2.9 million to 4.8 million, between 2002 and 2009.
They also discovered that 150,000 kids were taking stimulants for ADHD in the 1970s, but by 2014 a whopping 4.3 million kids were on them, accounting for a 2,766% increase.
A study of 31 drugs that have been linked to violence told us that five of the top ten most popular of those dugs are antidepressants: Prozac, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor and Pristiq.
I think it’s clear that antidepressant drugs are dangerous at any age, but particularly for the young, still-developing brain.
And yet those drugs are being increasingly prescribed to teenagers.
Most of the teenagers that have done school shootings were on some kind of antidepressant.
Yet in the media, and in our national discussions, we rarely if ever mention this.
Instead we blame guns.
But what were the reasons and causes leading up to that teen getting a gun and going to school and shooting people?
What got them to thinking that using a gun would be a good idea, perhaps the answer to all their problems?
School shootings in this country aren’t going to stop.
Even if we got rid of guns, these teens would just find another way…perhaps with a bomb or even a knife.
Why are they doing this?
I think we should look at the prescription drug angle a lot more, though I’m confident that as a society we will not.
Let’s look at any angle, but please…let’s stop blaming guns.
Remember, two steps involve guns, but the two steps leading up to that do not.
Teens think about it and premeditate it, and guns have nothing to do with those thoughts.
Guns are the tool that the sick mind is using.
Let’s talk more about those sick minds.
I’m afraid if we don’t, we’ll just keep seeing the same problem over and over again.