Antidepressants And Violent Behavior: Are You Taking One Of The 10 Most Dangerous?

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Recent reports show that long term studies have strongly linked antidepressants with violent behavior.

This latest study, out of Britain’s Oxford University, looked at Sweden’s national crime register and their prescribed drug register over a three year period. This involved more than 850,000 subjects who were taking prescribed SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). SSRI’s are often prescribed for those with anxiety attacks and depression and includes popular drugs such as Paxil or Prozac. A full one percent of these subjects had been convicted of a violent crime, with the 15 to 24 year old age group showing a full 43 percent increase in their risk of performing a violent act after taking SSRI’s.

It’s interesting to note that it was among this age group that those who were given the lowest possible dosage were the most likely to commit violent acts. Researchers suggested that the higher doses of these prescription drugs were given out to reduce the risk of violence. The lead researcher suggested that perhaps those subjects who were being given lower doses were not being full treated which left them more vulnerable to impulsive violent behavior.

However, higher doses might not be the answer.

The Harvard School of Public Health also published a study that involved more than 162,000 subjects between the ages of 10 and 64 for 12 years. Individuals in this study who were 24 and younger who were consuming high doses of antidepressants had double the risk of committing suicide. A 2004 review by the US Food and Drug Administration reached the exact same conclusion: subjects between the ages of 18 and 25 who took higher doses of antidepressants were twice as likely to commit suicide as those who did not take antidepressants.

Is there a connection between gun violence and antidepressants? Consider these facts:

  • 1999: Kip Kinkel, a 15 year old Oregon boy, was taking Prozac when he opened fire in his high school cafeteria
  • 1999: Columbine killer Eric Harris was taking the antidepressant Luvox
  • 1999: Georgia’s T.J. Solomon was taking Ritalin
  • 2005: Jeff Weise, the Red Lake Indian Reservation Shooter was on Prozac
  • 2007: Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech shooter who killed 32 people, was taking both antidepressants and Prozac
  • 2012: The Colorado theater shooter, James Holmes, was taking both antidepressants and Vicodin
  • 2012: Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza was taking an anti-psychotic medicine called Fanapt, according to his uncle.

Of course, not all shooters are taking antidepressants but it does appear that a certain amount of caution and skepticism should be employed when listening to the pharmaceutical companies claiming that SSRI’s and other antidepressants are “completely safe.”

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Although most people think of violence and drugs, it isn’t antidepressants that come to mind but crack or coke. However, this is no denying that there is something going on here. Some type of link between antidepressants and an increased risk of violent homicidal or suicidal behavior exists.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices published a new study in the journal PloS One, which identifies 31 drugs that have an unusually high level of reports of violent behavior.

We don’t want to alarm anyone unnecessarily. If you or someone in your family is currently taking antidepressants, this does not mean that you should stop taking them. In fact, going off of prescription antidepressants too quickly or cold turkey can lead to serious mental and physical side effects. If you wish to stop taking your prescription antidepressants or if you have concerns about them, please discuss these concerns with your doctor.

Not everyone who takes antidepressants goes on violent rampages. In fact, for some people, antipsychotics and antidepressants can stop violent behavior.  For others, such as those with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, these drugs are used to try to stop violence but violent acts happen despite the medication. This would mean that the drugs themselves are not to blame, but they end up being linked to it because they failed to stop the behavior.

However, there is no denying that when one particular class of drugs is used to treat the same type of problem (depression), you get the same type of unexpected reaction (violence), and then it is very likely the drug that is the cause of the problem.

Researchers have determined a ratio of risk for each drug, comparing them to others in the database. After adjusting for various factors, here is their list of the top 10 worst offenders, ranked in order:

10. Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) – This antidepressant affects both noradrenaline and serotonin and has been determined to be 7.9 times more likely to be involved in violent behavior than other drugs in its class.

9. Effexor (venlafaxine) – This is related to desvenlafaxine, listed above, as both are used to treat generalized anxiety disorders. This antidepressant is 8.3 times more likely to be connected to violent behavior.

8. Luvox (fluvoxamine) – This is also an antidepressant that affects serotonin levels and is 8.4 times more likely to be connected to acts of violence than other medications in its class.

7. Halcion (triazolam) – This drug is used to treat insomnia and is a benzodiazepine, which can be very addictive. This drug is 8.7 times more likely to be connected to acts of violence than other drugs in its class.

6. Strattera (atomoxetine) – This drug is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). This works by affecting noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter and is 9 times more likely to be connected to acts of violence than other medications in its class.

5. Lariam (mefoquine) – A common malaria treatment, this drug has a long history of being linked to bizarre and irrational behavior. It is 9.5 times more likely to be connected to violence than other medications.

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4. Amphetamines – There are various types of amphetamines which are usually used to treat ADHD. These drugs affect the brains noradrenaline and dopamine systems. Amphetamines have been determined to be 9.6 times more likely to be connected to violence than other types of medications.

3.  Paxil (paroxetine) – This is another SSRI antidepressant that has been linked to birth defects and very severe withdrawal symptoms. Paxil is 10.3 times more likely to be connected with acts of violence when compared to other drugs in its class.

2. Prozac (fluoxetine) – The first well-known antidepressant, this drug is 10.9 times more likely to be linked to violent behavior than other drugs.

1. Chantix (varenicline) – Used in anti-smoking campaigns, this drug is also prescribed for those suffering from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). This drug affects the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, which reduces the craving to smoke. This drug is 18 times more likely to be connected to acts of violence and emotional outbursts than other drugs. For example, Xyban is only 1.9 times more likely to be linked to violent behavior. However, Chantix is superior in terms of success rates when compared to other drugs. If you are trying to quit smoking, this study should not necessarily rule out this drug as a viable option. Please discuss all your concerns with your doctor.


SEE ALSO: Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally and Beat Depression Without Pills


One last thought, although these studies were concerned with the link between violent behavior, especially among the young, and antidepressants, it is important to note that antidepressants increase the risk of death among the elderly.

In a study that involved more than 60,000 adults over the age of 65 who were diagnosed with depression and were tracked over an 11 year period, it showed that those who took SSRI’s had a 10.6 increased risk of death when compared to the control group. This study was published in August of 2011 in the British Medical Journal.

There are numerous ways of treating your depression naturally. Prescription drugs, especially those listed above, should only be used as a last resort and even then, only under the close supervision of your doctor and/or psychiatrist.

Again, we urge you to discuss your concerns with your doctor if you or a family member are taking any of these antidepressants, do not stop taking these drugs abruptly as serious consequences can arise.