Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, and other SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) collectively have been prescribed for decades to help children and adults deal with various conditions, including depression, anxiety, and social phobias.1 These popular antidepressants have caused various harmful side effects for patients, but are also the center of another SSRI legal controversy in the criminal arena. Known to cause escalated psychological behaviors, SSRI drug use is now being linked to cases of assaults, gun violence, mass shootings, and murders.
SSRIs linked to killings and mass shootings
SSRIs have been linked to several mass killings and murders, including Columbine, Red Lake Indian Reservation, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. In 1999, it became known that Eric Harris, one of the Columbine gunmen, had been prescribed the SSRI Luvox.2 In 2005, a dozen people were injured and ten others were killed at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota when a teenager, prescribed the SSRI Prozac, went on a shooting spree.3 In 2012, the Sandy Hook mass shootings and murders sparked renewed national concern about SSRIs being linked to gun violence.4
SSRIs and other cases of violence
In 2005, 15-year old Chris Pittman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder.5 His defense counsel and a psychiatrist argued that the teen could not reason right from wrong and that because of chemical intoxication from Zoloft, another SSRI, the teen murdered his grandparents. Around the world, there have been reports of previously non-violent teens killing best friends and relatives after starting regimens of SSRIs.6 In a 2011 landmark decision in Canada, a judge found that modern SSRIs, including Prozac, are linked to “violence and even murder.”
Teens are not the only victim-perpetrators. In 2012, a New Jersey mother decapitated her small child and placed his head in the freezer before stabbing herself to death. She had been prescribed the SSRI Prozac.7
Side effects, risks, and concerns
SSRIs are some of the most popular medications prescribed in America and are at the center of the gun violence controversy. Recent studies have linked the use of SSRIs to violent behavior, and researchers have linked SSRI drugs to 90 percent of school mass shootings and gun violence.
SSRI drugs have a number of confirmed side effects and risks. SSRI side effects and risks include:
- Abnormal thoughts, hallucinations, or delusional thinking
- Emotional numbing
- Poor impulse control8
- Homicidal ideation
- Self harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviors
SSRIs are controversial, but remain some of the most prescribed drugs in America. Hundreds of people are violently harmed as a result of another's SSRI use. The legal community and medical community are realizing that the risks go beyond those of the patient, impacting entire communities.
If you believe that you or your family members have been harmed through your or another’s use of an SSRI drug, you may have legal options. Contact an experienced lawyer familiar with the side effects, defects, and injuries caused by SSRIs for help.