April 20, 2014

Colorado Mass-Murder Linked to Prescription Drug Use

James Eagan Holmes
 Makes first court appearance

Health Impact News Editor Comment: The Telegraph and other sources are reporting that James Holmes, the alleged “Joker” gunman, dosed up on prescription medication before going on a shooting rampage. Holmes, 24, is accused of shooting dead 12 people and injuring 58 in the rampage during a premiere of Batman film The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. The suspect made his first public appearance today in court (see video above), prompting some media reporters to comment that it appeared he was on some sort of medication based on his actions in court.

The Telegraph is reporting that after the massacre, Holmes calmly told detectives he had taken the prescription painkiller Vicodin, and identified himself as “The Joker”. The same drug was found in the system of actor Heath Ledger when he died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2008. Ledger played The Joker in the previous Batman film The Dark Knight. Vicodin side-effects can include euphoria, paranoia and, in rare cases, hallucinations.  It will be interesting to see if the media will continue to ask questions regarding Holmes’ possible prescription drug abuse, especially given the fact that he was a medical student specializing in neuroscience.

This tragic event is another sad commentary regarding the role of prescription drug use in mass murders and acts of violence. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International lists the 10 recent murders and murder-suicides, resulting in 43 dead and 37 wounded, that were linked to prescription drug useage:

  1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – March 8, 2012: 30-year-old John Shick, former patient of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and former student at nearby Duquesne University, shot and killed one and injured six inside UPMC’s Western Psychiatrist Institute. Nine antidepressants were identified among the drugs police found in Shick’s apartment.
  2. Seal Beach, California – October 12, 2011: Scott DeKraai, a harbor tugboat worker, entered the hair salon where his ex-wife worked, killing her and seven others and injuring one. At DeKraai’s initial hearing, his attorney indicated to the judge that DeKraai was prescribed the antidepressant Trazodone and the “mood stabilizer” Topamax.
  3. Lakeland, Florida – May 3, 2009: Toxicology test results showed that 34-year-old Troy Bellar was on Tegretol, a drug prescribed for “bi-polar disorder,” when he shot and killed his wife and two of his three children in their home before killing himself.
  4. Granberry Crossing, Alabama – April 26, 2009: 53-year-old Fred B. Davis shot and killed a police officer and wounded a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a call that Davis had threatened a neighbor with a gun. Prescription drug bottles found at the scene showed that Davis was prescribed the antipsychotic drug Geodon.
  5. Middletown, Maryland – April 17, 2009: Christopher Wood shot and killed his wife, three small children and himself inside their home. Toxicology test results verified that Wood had been taking the antidepressants Cymbalta and Paxil and the anti-anxiety drugs BuSpar and Xanax.
  6. Concord, California – January 11, 2009: Jason Montes, 33, shot and killed his wife and then himself at home. Montes had earlier begun taking the antidepressant Prozac for depression related to his impending divorce and a recent bankruptcy.
  7. Little Rock, Arkansas – August 14, 2008: Less than 48 hours after Timothy Johnson shot and killed Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney, the Little Rock Police declared they were investigating shooter’s use of the antidepressant Effexor, which was found in Johnson’s house. A Little Rock city police report later stated that Johnson “was on an anti-depressant and that the drug may have played a part in his ‘irrational and violent behavior.’”
  8. Dekalb, Illinois – February 14, 2008: 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amount of Xanax in his system.
  9. North Meridian, Florida – July 8, 2003: Doug Williams killed five and wounded nine of his fellow Lockheed Martin employees before killing himself. Williams was reported as having been taking two antidepressants, Zoloft and Celexa, for depression after a failed marriage.
  10. Wakefield, Massachusetts – December 26, 2000: 42-year-old computer technician Michael McDermott had been taking three antidepressants when he hunted down employees in the accounting and human resources offices where he worked, killing seven.

Source: http://www.cchrint.org/2012/07/20/the-aurora-colorado-tragedy-another-senseless-shooting-another-psychotropic-drug/

At least thirteen of the recent school shootings (including Columbine Colorado ) were committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs. There have been 109 wounded and 58 killed.

  1. Huntsville, Alabama – February 5, 2012: 15-year-old Hammad Memon shot and killed another Discover Middle School student Todd Brown. Memon had a history for being treated for ADHD and depression. He was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”
  2. Kauhajoki, Finland – September 23, 2008: 22-year-old culinary student Matti Saari shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.
  3. Dekalb, Illinois – February 14, 2008: 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amount of Xanax in his system.
  4. Jokela, Finland – November 7, 2007: 18-year-old Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School in southern Finland, then committed suicide.
  5. Cleveland, Ohio – October 10, 2007: 14-year-old Asa Coon stormed through his school with a gun in each hand, shooting and wounding four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon had been placed on the antidepressant Trazodone.
  6. Red Lake, Minnesota – March 2005: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, on Prozac, shot and killed his grandparents, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead 7 students and a teacher, and wounded 7 before killing himself.
  7. Greenbush, New York – February 2004: 16-year-old Jon Romano strolled into his high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano had been taking “medication for depression”.
  8. El Cajon, California – March 22, 2001: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor, opened fire on his classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School.
  9. Williamsport, Pennsylvania – March 7, 2001: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush was taking the antidepressant Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.
  10. Conyers, Georgia – May 20, 1999: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with antidepressants when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.
  11. Columbine, Colorado – April 20, 1999: 18-year-old Eric Harris and his accomplice, Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves. Harris was on the antidepressant Luvox. Klebold’s medical records remain sealed.
  12. Notus, Idaho – April 16, 1999: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a prescribed SSRI antidepressant and Ritalin.
  13. Springfield, Oregon – May 21, 1998: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac.

Source: http://www.cchrint.org/school-shooters/

See also: Holmes’ psychiatrist was disciplined by Colorado Medical Board

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