how to blame big pharma for mass murder

February 1, 2013

smiley death grafitti

It started almost immediately after Sandy Hook. The reliably shrill alt med ignoramus who hasn’t read about a conspiracy theory he didn’t immediately love, Mike Adams, penned a fiery screed accusing psychoactive drugs of creating mass murderers and using a seemingly long list of very grizzly events to support his point. Since he’s Alex Jones’ best buddy and fills in on the Coast to Coast radio show, the meme has spread like wildfire among conspiracy theorists, and even the pundits of World Net Daily — known as World Nut Daily for some very good reasons — are now spouting the dogma of antidepressants turning people into a homicidal frenzy, all so Big Pharma can profit from untested drugs while the government covers up the dark truth. Although that last part there could’ve been from the Sandy Hook Truther conspiracy. It’s kind of hard to keep all of the overlapping conspiracies straight sometimes, though it’s usually a safe bet that there’s some mention of the government covering up something for someone nefarious so the bigwigs of the New World Order can keep their sex slaves and appease their alien overlords.

Here’s the immediate problem with the psychoactive drug-induced mass murders theory. It fails the statistical significance test. Tens of millions of people have taken what’s known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, to treat mild to severe depression, and social disorders like anxiety and OCD. Virtually all the brand names given by Adams and his friends and fans are from the same family of SSRIs, and we can safely ask why just a few dozen examples of violent crime out of a population of tens of millions of patients mean that SSRIs turn people into crazed gunmen. After all, if your study population is, say, 20 million and your sample time period goes back decades, having some mass murderers, serial killers, and short tempered violent criminals is pretty much statistically inevitable. Plus, what about the other tens of millions of patients who didn’t commit any crimes? How can you argue for a causative effect between SSRIs and murder when the murderers are so few and far between as to be a tiny blip on the radar? And that’s not to mention that SSRIs don’t have any known side effects that increase one’s aggression.

In fact, patients on SSRIs with the most extreme side effects and conditions are likely to commit suicide, not homicide. A quick reading of the list presented by Adams and company mentions a number of suicides quite prominently, as well as changing the definition of mass murder to "any violent crime in which more then one person died," further weakening their own case. Yes, a lot of gunmen commit suicide after their massacres, true. But the problem is that it’s very difficult to make any definitive causative link between SSRIs and suicide. Considering that patients with an extreme case of depression may commit suicide in spite of the drug rather than because of it, as well as the fact that for patients with a history of abuse and trauma SSRIs might not really do all that much more than a placebo, the connection is very murky. While we can say that gunmen in the headlines today were taking SSRIs and other similar medications, we can make a stronger case that the medications failed to do their job than Adams can that their medication pushed all, or nearly all of them, them towards violence, because the former explanation better fits with the fact that tens of millions of SSRI-using patients aren’t violent, and the relevant scientific work.

So let’s review. Mass murdering gunmen on psychoactive drugs are few and far between even when the criteria for mass murder are loosened to include any crime in which two or more have been killed. The link between SSRIs and violence has been studied and shown not to exist. And while patients on SSRIs with a severe diagnosis are more likely to commit suicide, we could very easily make a sound case that suicides are the result of the medication failing to do its job, not driving someone to a suicidal state, much less to killing themselves after leaving a trail of victims in his wake. But none of this bothers the conspiracy theorists. To them, everything has to be a secret plot by those behind the scenes because this the only way they can imagine the world. If they allowed for random chaos to interfere or simplt incompetence to bring down economies and lose wars, why, the world would be an unpredictable place they couldn’t pretend to navigate like sages in the know observing a chess match. They would have to be ordinary shmoes just trying to make sense of events that all too often simply don’t make sense in the big picture…

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  • Off Meds

    The majority of people who use cocaine, crack and heroin do not cause immediate physical harm to themselves and others, and most people using these street drugs believe that these mind altering substances “work” for them. So, I guess you can also make the argument that cocaine, crack and heroine addictions do not lead to violence, homicides and suicides and are in fact helping the users and society at large.

  • gfish3000

    When was the last time heroin, crack, and cocaine were studied in a lab to see if they actually relieve a certain condition, ran through a series of clinical trials to be reviewed by the FDA, and prescribed by doctors with many years of training and experience in small, controlled doses under constant supervision? Never? Sounds about right. So why would you possibly compare them with prescription medication?

  • Paul451

    Pedantic aside: I think there are regulations from the ’80s that prevent the FDA from approving the study of illegal drugs if the research is for a positive use (such as therapy). You are only allowed to research negative effects. Has made things difficult for researchers trying to test MDMA for PTSD, and marijuana for any number of conditions.

    As for SSRI’s, I have heard a theory that depression may have several components, some of which (such as extreme anger or suicidal impulses) are suppressed by the inhibiting effects of the depression itself. So if the treatment affects different components at different rates, there may be a window in which the inhibition is lifted, but the underlying depression not yet treated. Allowing suppressed thoughts and urges to surface for the first time, and perhaps even be acted on.

    Given the suicide rate for people with untreated depression (and the link between depression and murder/suicide), then this disinhibition may occur naturally at times. Caused by anger or alcohol or… hell, changes in light levels. Which means that SSRI’s side effects are not caused by the drug; it just “releases” what is already in those at-risk patients in a short window after treatment. Anyone who experiences those side-effects of SSRI’s was already at v.high risk of having them triggered by something else.

  • viv

    When I was on tramadol, which has a similiar action to SNRIs, I had a suicide attempt. I wasn’t suicidal at the time, there is no doubt that the fact I took action that day, was because of the tramadol, and if I hadn’t of been on it, it would not have happened.

  • Dave N.


    We’d like to reach out regarding the growing debate over stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

    There have been new developments in Chinese researcher Rongxiang Xu’s lawsuit against the Nobel Assembly. Xu is seeking clarification on misstatements made
    in awarding the 2012 Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, James Watson’s remarks about the ineffectiveness of genetic sequencing have created burning questions as to the
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    Please take a look to see if this is would interest your readers.

    Lawsuit Details

    The suit was filed against the Nobel Assembly to clarify essential scientific details that Dr. Xu believed were misstated in their October 2012 Nobel prize

    Upon Nobel’s assertion that the lawsuit was frivolous, Xu is urging the Assembly to distinguish whether or not the human regenerative potential is innate or
    must be artificially created. These errors not only discredit Dr. Xu’s science, but also involve the health and safety of all people worldwide.


    Dr. Xu is an award-winning scientist whose work in applied regenerative restoration science has validated time and again that human regenerative potential is
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    The relevance of these debates could be informative for your readers. Would you be willing to share a piece to help make your audience aware of the impending
    upheaval in the scientific community?

    For more background on James Watson’s statements and Dr. Xu’s lawsuit:

    The Scientist – “Snubbed for a Nobel”:

    Sacramento Bee – “Nobel Assembly Attempts to Downplay Lawsuit with Dr. Rongxiang Xu”:

    UT San Diego – “Watson Questions the Usefulness of Genetic Sequencing”:

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about it. You can also learn more at the MEBO International Website and check out some of our
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    Thanks so much for your time.

    With appreciation,

    Dave N.

  • thixotropic

    Sorry, but this one isn’t just some conspiracy theory nuttery — it carries plenty of truth behind it. Of course they overstate the case — but the case is real. The atypical antipsychotics (AAPs) and antidepressants (ADs) have indeed been shown to cause delusions, aggression, hallucinations, depersonalisation, suicidality, mania, severe depression, psychosis… pretty much the entire DSM inventory of unpleasant and dangerous mental illnesses. The link between antidepressants and psychosis has been understood since the 60s, and several of the SSRIs carry black box warnings in the PDR about suicide and violence. Only some have the warning, but they’re all problematic.

    I counsel people about issues with their medication, and my experience is that these drugs are a growing menace. The ADs were bad enough, but the AAPs are so much worse. It is really frightening how many people of them are prescribed these powerful drugs for just about any reason at all — can’t sleep and are irritable due to menopause? Here, take some Seroquel! So they do, then come to me, terrified that they’re losing their minds, or unable to understand why they suddenly want to kill themselves or someone else. Too often a doctor’s response (crazy as it sounds) to many side effects is to raise the dose. And many people who do come to me have been suffering in silence, sometimes for years. Too many people have insurance that covers the drugs, but not the counselling, which research has shown is much more effective than drugs alone, and would no doubt reduce the death toll from suicide or violence.

    These drugs can be wonderful for those who truly need them, but they’re too often prescribed inappropriately.

  • thixotropic

    You’re far from alone in this, unfortunately. Glad to hear you made it — too many don’t.

  • thixotropic

    That would be reasonable, if it weren’t for the fact that too many people prescribed these drugs never felt suicidal at all, or even depressed, before taking them. There was nothing being inhibited by their depression, because they weren’t depressed or suicidal to start with. Until they took these drugs, that is.