Maybe we’ve all focused our aim in the wrong direction. Maybe it’s not guns that need more regulating, but DRUGS.
Do a Google search for phrases like “antidepressants and mass shootings”, and you’ll get page after page of results proclaiming the undeniable connection. But disappointingly, most of the results point to sites like InfoWars, Rense, and Above Top Secret. It’s unfortunate that wingnut conspiracy theorists are so convinced that there’s a connection between anti-depressants and mass shootings, because it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’re the only ones who are going to talk about the notion, thereby undermining its credibility as a possible explanation for the phenomena. Why? Because for the most part, the only other likely sources of information about a possible connection between pharmaceuticals and violent behavior are likely to have considerable bias on the topic. The drug companies that produce the psychotropic agents intended to treat mood and behavioral problems sure won’t want to talk about it, the agencies intended to regulate them (like the FDA) are essentially controlled by revolving door appointments, and the end-user in this scenario will be not only a person who has already been identified as mentally unfit, they will additionally have the consumer bias that comes with not wanting to face the fact that their troublesome and expensive mental health treatment could possibly have such a tremendous flaw built right into it. And “credible” news sources? The triumvirate of insurance, pharmaceuticals, and health care probably comprises more advertising and lobby dollars than all other business sectors combined. You don’t need to be a conspiracy nut to understand why mainstream media outlets aren’t going to start bashing big pharma and health care, unless the masses have already picked up their torches and pitchforks.
This is all a shame, because the notion definitely warrants a closer look. The list of top ten legal drugs linked to violence is topped by three familiar names: Paxil, Prozac, and Chantix. And of the credible, readily accessible studies and data that are available, the link does seem clear. For example, the research article Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others identified 1527 cases of violence disproportionally reported for 31 drugs. And for some probably biased – but at least comprehensive – data on the topic, “SSRI Stories” has compiled a database of over 4800 incidents related to antidepressants or SSRI’s, with links to news stories about the incidents. That link is to one huge sortable table; you might prefer to start with a subset like School Shootings & Incidents or Highly Publicized Cases. The CNN video below is typical of the softball references to the issue that you’ll find from larger media sources; CNN’s Sanjay Gupta talks for a while about the obvious connection between mental illness and mass shootings, but he barely addresses the pharmaceutical angle until the end, and immediately back-pedals on the notion: