Lessons from SSRIStories #2: Anecdotal Evidence of the SSRI-Violence Connection

Summary of Post #1: Hard as it may be to accept, there is evidence that SSRIs, along with some other drugs, legal and illegal, can cause people to become violent. The connection between psychoactive medications and violence is not understood. News reports that mention psychoactive medications in a story about a violent incident tend to treat the drugs as “proof” of mental illness. Consequently the public at large perceives that mentally ill people are violent, when most of the time, the medication caused or contributed to the violence. These side effects can result from stopping the drug (withdrawal) as well as from taking it. SSRIs can result in craving for alcohol, which is unfortunate because drinking while taking SSRIs magnifies the impact of both substances.

Usually, when the use (or cessation) of an antidepressant is reported in a news item about a tragic incident, it is not because it is considered a potential causal or contributing factor. Mental illness is blamed, when without the medication, the incident probably never would have occurred. Medication prescribed to alleviate anxiety, depressed mood, extreme emotions and other difficult, but transient, human states can create deadly outcomes with permanent consequences. Yet, the finger is almost always pointed at the person taking the meds, and the incident attributed to an inherent condition, instead of recognizing that the medication might be to blame. A few examples are summarized through excerpts from articles posted on SSRIstories.org:

  • FATHER OF JAILED TEEN SAYS GIRL NEEDS HELP, NOT PUNISHMENT – Maggie Ward, the 17-year-old Poth girl who is accused of fatally shooting her mother in February, was taking anti-depressant medication because she was suicidal and once called for emergency assistance claiming she was being assaulted when she wasn’t, her father said in a recent interview. Tom Ward, who this week broke his silence with the media over the incident, said his daughter “obviously is mentally ill” and needs psychiatric therapy.

  • SUICIDE NOTE FROM REV BREWER – How I came to be in this emotional state, I honestly do not know. Ever since the accident, it seems that I’ve been fighting a losing battle with depression and despair… I did try to seek help where I could. I even went to see a local psychiatrist. Though not a believer, he is a fine man. He put me on Prozac; then he doubled the dosage; and still it feels as if I’m sinking farther and farther into a downward spiral of depression.

  • PEDIATRICIAN NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY IN ATTACKS ON CHILDREN – A Champaign pediatrician who attacked her 6- and 10-year-old sons with a knife in February, killing the older boy, was found not guilty by reason of insanity Tuesday after three psychiatrists – including one hired by the prosecution – declared she was mentally impaired…. Ellen Feinberg, 44, was acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of 10-year-old Adam Feinberg and of attempted first-degree murder in the stabbing of 6-year-old Matthew Feinberg… “She was overcome by a belief of emptiness,” Champaign County Judge Michael Q. Jones said as he issued his ruling Tuesday. “An idea just crept into her head: `I want to kill my kids.'” Dietz, who was hired by prosecutors, concluded that Feinberg suffered from major depression and undiagnosed psychosis. The judge agreed… By all outward appearances, the family had a comfortable life in Champaign’s upscale Cherry Hill’s neighborhood… The day before the attack, Feinberg met with her therapist who was sufficiently worried about her patient’s mental state to call her psychiatrist, who raised the dosage of her antidepressant.

  • TAXI DRIVER WAS SLAIN BY MAN FLEEING EARLIER HOMICIDE, POLICE SAY – Two fatal shootings that occurred two miles apart Friday in south Minneapolis have been traced to the same gun and a single suspect, police said Monday. Investigators believe that a 30-year-old Cottage Grove man killed a young Minneapolis woman, drove to the airport but failed to catch a plane and then caught a cab and later killed the driver. Andrew J. Krosch, 30, was arrested on Interstate Hwy. 94 near Alexandria in a stolen Blue & White cab…In the past several weeks, Laurie Krosch said, her husband had grown increasingly troubled despite medication he took for depression and sleeplessness.

  • SUSPECT GETS PSYCH TESTS AFTER MOM’S BRUTAL ATTACK – Nancy Reida stood silently in Cambridge District Court – her eyes vacant and her hair disheveled – while a judge ordered her to undergo psychiatric testing following the brutal beating and scalding of her 85-year-old mom. A psychiatrist who examined Reida… told Judge Roanne Sragow the suspect was not taking her anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication [and so would have been in withdrawal].

  • RELEASED FROM JAIL ON PROMISE TO TAKE MEDICATION – A Suffolk County Court judge yesterday released without bail a Huntington Bay man accused of trying to kill his 3-week-old nephew, after the man pledged he would continue to get psychiatric treatment and medication out of jail… Judge Louis Ohlig said his decision was…based on Harmon’s previous lack of criminal record and his promise to see a psychiatrist once a week and continue taking medication [Harmon] had also been given a medication, Prozac …shortly before the incident.

  • MOTHER WHO STRANGLED SON A ‘MISDIAGNOSED SCHIZOPHRENIC’ – A WOMAN on trial for the murder of her eight-year-old son was a “misdiagnosed schizophrenic”… a jury heard yesterday. Dr Brian McCaffrey, a specialist in forensic psychiatry was giving evidence in defence at the trial of Jacqueline Costello (30). [He] told Paddy McCarthy, for the defence, that… Dr Derek O’Sullivan consultant psychiatrist to the accused had been treating her with medication for depression, not for schizophrenia. Dr McCaffrey told the court that when Ms Costello strangled and suffocated her son she “felt she was doing the right thing”…”She was actually killing Robert but she didn’t realise it, she could not have been persuaded to stop,” he said. The trial continues at the Central Criminal Court.
  • A DEPRESSION MORE POWERFUL THAN LOVE – Christine Humbert told her family she never fell out of love with her husband, even after he sliced her neck while she slept earlier this year… She recognized, her family said, that Johnny Humbert had momentarily lost the struggle against mental illness that had plagued both of them for years. Last week, Johnny Humbert killed himself by stepping into the path of a Metrolink train in Anaheim… In the weeks before the Feb. 11 knife attack, Humbert had begun taking a new prescription [Prozac] for depression.

  • DOCTORS SAY STUDENT ISN’T COMPETENT FOR A TRIAL – Flake has a history of alcohol abuse and had been taking the anti-depressant Prozac when authorities said he went on a weekend shooting spree this spring… Doctors at MTMHI say Flake… needs complete stabilization with medications and therapy…

  • MOM WHO KILLED KIDS RULED INSANE, TWO PSYCHIATRISTS BLAME POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION – Undisputed reports from two psychiatrists led Judge Ruthanne Polidori to conclude… that Bethe Feltman was insane when she killed 3-year-old Benjamin and 3-month-old Moriah on April 9. Many women suffer some degree of depression following childbirth, but few become as psychotic as Feltman, experts say. Such depression has been successfully used as a legal defense in cases nationwide. Defense attorney Craig Truman said Feltman “by all accounts was a wonderful teacher and mom before being struck down by this terrible disease. Bethe Feltman had been hospitalized three times for severe postpartum depression since January and was released three days before she killed her children. Although psychiatric drugs were prescribed, the doctor said it would take at least two weeks for the anti-depressants to become effective.

These few article excerpts illustrate the media’s lack of awareness that medications may have played a role in the tragedies. Journalists are taken in by the illusion just like everyone else. Thus, even as they describe a violent or suicidal act following shortly after the introduction, dose increase, or termination of an antidepressant, they do not appreciate what they are describing. There are hundreds of these stories on SSRIstories.org; a virtual mountain of evidence right under our noses that there is a connection between SSRIs (and other psychoactive drugs) and violence, but it goes unnoticed. It is “hiding in plain sight”.

 Next post:  The mechanisms by which SSRIs cause violence and suicide.