June 15 2004

Antidepressants and Violent Behavior

The SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are antidepressants patterned after Prozac (fluoxetine) and include Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, and Zoloft. These and two other non-SSRI antidepressants, Serzone and Remeron, are widely suspected of contributing to suicidal and/or violent behaviors, especially in children. This point of view has recently been adopted by the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) somewhat more slowly than its British counterpart, the Medicines Control Agency. In England, for instance, use of Paxil in children has been banned, amidst allegations of a cover-up by the drug's manufacturer.

In the United States, use of these antidepressants for patients under 18 years has not been approved by FDA, with the exception of Prozac. This means that both the healthcare professional who prescribes or dispenses these drugs for children and adolescents and the pharmaceutical company that promotes this "off-label" (unapproved) use knowingly take a risk with the patient's safety.

SSRIs have become famous for their alleged ability to induce children to violence and suicide in such high profile cases as that of Christopher Pittman who ran away from his home in Florida to his grandparents in South Carolina at age 12. He is suspected of having killed his grandparents and burned down their house after being treated with Paxil followed by Zoloft.

SSRI antidepressants have been implicated in a number of the school shootings: Shooters alleged to be on antidepressants at the time of their attacks include:

  • 18-year old Eric Harris on Luvox who with Dylan Klebold killed 13 and wounded 22 people April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado

  • 15-year-old Kip Kinkel on Prozac killed his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on classmates, killing two and wounding 22 others

  • 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush on antidepressants when she wounded one student at Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport, Pa.

    18-year-old Jason Hoffman on Effexor and Celexa when he wounded one teacher and three students at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Calif.

    Violent and suicidal behavior linked to SSRIs is not limited to adolescents. Fully one-third of all drug-related suicides since 1990 for which FDA has data are associated with Prozac use, according to Keith Altman of Fibonacci Group.

    The warning issued by FDA in a "Dear Health Care Professional" letter against use of SSRIs in children appears to indicate a major shift in national policy that will have major impact on pending lawsuits in this area.

    - John Lehmann PhD, DrugIntel Nov 11, 2003.


    Effexor in the News

    (Feb-27-07) Canadian doctors have been notified that the most commonly prescribed antidepressant has increasingly shown signs of toxic overdose consequences such as seizures and even deaths. Effexor, (venlafaxine) is prescribed to millions of people each year throughout North America. The proper Effexor dose is 75 to 225 milligrams/day in adults, but overdoses requiring hospitalization have occurred in those taking just a little more than the recommended top range. [VANCOUVER SUN: EFFEXOR]

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  • Last updated October 21 2007