Why so many Americans today are 'mentally ill' [Excerpts]
"When I was lying in my bed that night, I couldn't sleep because my voice in my head kept echoing through my mind telling me to kill them."
You're reading the words of 12-year-old Christopher Pittman, struggling to explain why he murdered his grandparents, who had provided the only love and stability in his turbulent life. He was angry with his grandfather, who had disciplined him earlier that day for hurting another student during a fight on the school bus. So later that night, he shot both of his grandparents in the head with a .410 shotgun as they slept and then burned down their South Carolina home, where he had lived with them.
His lawyers would later argue the boy had been a victim of "involuntary intoxication," since Pittman's doctors had him taking the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft just prior to the murders.
Andrea Yates, in one of the most horrifying and heartbreaking crimes in modern history, drowned all five of her children -- aged 7 years down to 6 months -- in a bathtub. Insisting inner voices commanded her to kill her kids, she had become increasingly psychotic over the course of several years. At her 2006 murder re-trial, Yates' longtime friend Debbie Holmes testified: "She asked me if I thought Satan could read her mind and if I believed in demon possession." And Dr. George Ringholz, after evaluating Yates for two days, recounted an experience she had after the birth of her first child:
"What she described was feeling a presence ... Satan ... telling her to take a knife and stab her son Noah," Ringholz said, adding that Yates' delusion at the time of the bathtub murders was not only that she had to kill her children to save them, but that Satan had entered her and that she had to be executed in order to kill Satan.
Yates had been taking the antidepressant Effexor. In November 2005, more than four years after Yates drowned her children, Effexor manufacturer Wyeth Pharmaceuticals quietly added "homicidal ideation" to the drug's list of "rare adverse events." The Medical Accountability Network, a private nonprofit focused on medical ethics issues, publicly criticized Wyeth, saying Effexor's "homicidal ideation" risk wasn't well-publicized and that Wyeth failed to send letters to doctors or issue warning labels announcing the change.
Effexor is Wyeth's best-selling drug, by the way, bringing in $3.46 billion -- with a "b" -- in sales worldwide in 2005, almost one-fifth of the company's total revenues.
Columbine mass-killer Eric Harris was taking Luvox -- like Paxil and Zoloft (and trendsetter Prozac), a modern and widely prescribed type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Harris and fellow student Dylan Klebold went on a hellish school shooting rampage in 1999 during which they killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 others before turning their guns on themselves.
Luvox manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals concedes that during short-term controlled clinical trials 4 percent of children and youth taking Luvox -- that's 1 in 25 -- developed mania, a dangerous and violence-prone mental derangement characterized by extreme excitement and delusion.
The inescapable truth is, perpetrators of many of the nation's most horrendous murder rampages in recent years were taking, or just coming off of, prescribed psychiatric drugs.