Every time some psychopath goes postal and starts murdering innocents, a lot of self-appointed mental health "experts" come out of the woodwork to rail against the evil of psychotropic drugs, particularly SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) -- drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Cymbalta. There is a school of thought on the wacky right that has built a near-religion around the demonization of these drugs, almost on a par with 911 trutherism and Alex Jones style paranoia, and with the same willful ignorance of facts.
Invariably one of these drugs will be prescribed to someone who is quite unbalanced in the off chance that it may help the patient with his mental problems. Then the person becomes violent and kills someone, and the ignoramuses start screaming about the SSRI being the cause. One might as well argue that bandaids cause cuts, or aspirins headaches. The fact that the SSRI was ineffective in a particular case does not mean it was the cause of the violence. It has been said many times before and needs to be repeated once again: Correlation is not causation. Don't put 2 and 2 together and get 5.
An SSRI does one thing only: it increases the amount of the brain hormone serotonin in the synapses -- your own serotonin that is produced by your very own brain. The brain puts the hormone into your synapses and then reabsorbs it. An SSRI inhibits the reabsorption, leaving more of the hormone in your synapses for a longer period of time. Without enough serotonin, a person goes into clinical depression and/or experiences anxiety attacks. These conditions are very unpleasant: the patient is in psychic pain, often to an extreme degree. Suicide may be the result. However, I have never heard of someone who is clinically depressed committing mass murder. Clinical depression is not psychosis; it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and it cannot be fixed with positive thinking or wishful thinking, because not every function of the brain is subject to the conscious will.
What does cause maniacs like Adam Lanza, James Eagan Holmes, Jared Loughner, Seung Hui-Cho, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to commit mass murder? I put the question to my cousin, a psychiatrist and M.D. in Dallas, Texas. He said the major cause of such events is rage. The angrier a person is, the more irrational they become. Their brains shift into the rage/kill software program. Where does the rage come from? From a malfunctioning brain, where delusions seem very real and where emotions may be totally out of all proportion to external stimuli. Insanity is not completely understood and cures for it not well defined. What works for one patient may not work on another.
Apparently, a psychopath and a psychotic are not one and the same thing. They're both pretty messed up mentally, but a psychopath is mean and angry his whole life. They have little or no empathy for other human beings and enjoy causing others to suffer. Psychotics may have trouble differentiating reality from delusion, but most psychotics are not dangerous. It is difficult to predict who will become so, and so mass institutionalization of psychotics is not considered a practical solution to preventing violence. My cousin says we would need to know a lot of Lanza's personal history to diagnose him, but at first glance Lanza seems to be a paranoid psychotic rather than a psychopath. Not that it matters much now: crazy is as crazy does.
By way of disclosure, I have clinical depression and take generic Zoloft, an SSRI. I have been taking it for 15 years. It has some side effects that I do not like, namely, dizziness and lethargy. Those are my side effects, not every patient suffers the same ones from the same drug. We all have a different and unique biochemistry. I plan to try Cymbalta as an alternative, on the advice from my cousin, the psychiatrist. I can assure the Alex Jones amateur psychologists out there that their only danger from me is sarcasm.
Related articles are linked at American Power here.