Are prescription drugs linked to school shootings? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Are prescription drugs linked to school shootings?

October 12, 2006

Valdosta - A recent string of school violence and shootings have left many concerned citizens asking why.  And with studies showing at least 10 school shooters since 1998 were under the influence of antidepressants or other stimulants, drugs like Prozac, Effexor, and Paxil are being blame.

"Children that end up taking antidepressants naturally are ones that already have behavioral problems, depression issues, social things going on in the home," says Wendy Vandemark, a  Psychiatrist at Greenleaf Hospital.

Doctors and pharmacists agree that antidepressants and other mood altering drugs can increase the risk of suicidal behavior and changes in behavior for people, especially young adults, taking these drugs.  "Those changes can range from social withdrawal to irritability, to aggressiveness and in some cases hostility," says Pharmacist Michael Hicks.

With only a small percentage of people experiencing a negative reaction, they have no doubts the drugs help more people than they hurt.  "Depression is just completely debilitating, it keeps people from working and going to school and affects their quality of life significantly.  And antidepressants don't just treat depression, it also treats anxiety disorder," Vandemark adds.

They also say that while the drugs may cause a slight change in behavior, those actions are more likely the result of the illness, not the medication.  "If a person has a major depressive disorder, they can swing into these changes in behavior or suicidal thinking spontaneously whether or not they're on anti-depressants," Hicks says.

All medical experts agree that when being prescribed an antidepressant, all patients should be closely monitored during treatment.

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