Monday, December 17, 2012

Lots of Nonsense About Mental Health on the Web Following the School Shooting

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.


pjm said...

This is definitely a mental health issue; not a gun issue.
Though having guns so easily accessible might not of been the most prudent thing.

It will be interesting to hear what comes out if in the next few weeks. If his Brother and Father can shed some light on his past behavior. I can't imagine that the Mom felt that Adam was a threat. So far nothing has come out about violent behavior. It's all about someone that is socially awkward at an extreme level. All of this might have been building up into the rage that your cousin points to.

Interesting information gathered from your Cousin.
What does he feel, if anything can be done?

Stogie Chomper said...

He didn't express an opinion, merely saying that violence is difficult to predict. However, he was against widespread, involuntary institutionalization.

Always On Watch said...

Not all of what I've read on the web (and elsewhere) is nonsense, IMO.

I have some experience in working with those on the autism spectrum. That spectrum is very broad -- and remains a mystery to neurologists and educators.

BTW, I don't liken Adam Lanza to James Eagan Holmes, Jared Loughner, Seung Hui-Cho, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. I found several differences that have caused me to come to a different conclusion about Lanza.

PS: Neurology and abnormal psychology have been two of my "hobbies"for most of my life.

Stogie Chomper said...

Not all of what I've read on the web (and elsewhere) is nonsense, IMO.

I would need more specifics before I could agree or disagree.

Bumr50 said...

The only thing that I dislike about the Zoloft is the dependency that the nervous system develops, to the point where if I try to stop taking the drug it feels like my body is undergoing electric shock therapy.

Stogie Chomper said...

The feeling when you stop is from fluctuations in your serotonin levels. You need to take yourself off the drug more gradually.

Zippy said...

You owe it to yourself to read the book Pharmageddon by Dr. David Healy.

Zippy said...


Stogie Chomper said...

Thanks Zippy, I'll look into it.

Rick Darby said...

Well, what do you know, Stogie. It seems we're both prone to depression and both take meds (in my case, Venlafaxine and Zoloft).

I wasted half my life being depressed and untreated. Useless to myself and a waste of space. I began the long road out of despondency when I was finally diagnosed by a doctor -- a GP, not a psychiatrist -- with depression and given a prescription for Sinequan, which helped some, but was far from a complete answer. There is no perfect answer but that is true for many conditions. Antidepressants help but the individual has to take responsibility and do a lot of the recovery work.

People who have not suffered depression have no idea what it's like. And many of them have erroneous ideas about antidepressants. They imagine the meds create some kind of high, like booze or (what I read about) cocaine. Or that they dull the mind and emotions. Or send weak personalities "over the edge." I try to dispute such notions, but it probably does no good. Particularly with Swipples, who believe there is a "natural" relief for everything. But St. John's Wort never sorted me out.

You probably have anyway, but if not, see the continuing discussion at View From the Right,

OhReilly said...

I find it astonishing that someone who complains about "willful ignorance of facts" asserts nonsense about clinical depression being the result of a "chemical imbalance" in the brain that's supposedly corrected by SSRIs.

Of course, SSRIs may have therapeutic value in certain cases, but that's not because they somehow restore brain functioning by correcting brain chemistry. If anything, the SSRIs themselves work by causing chemical imbalances in the brain. They do not fix an underlying organic condition anymore than, say, paracetamol fixes the underlying condition behind a headache.

Most likely, the only reason why Stogie thinks he has a chemical imbalance in his brain is because someone told him so. I'm pretty sure he has never had a test taken that has identified this alleged "chemical imbalance". I mean, how could he? Even if he had measured, say, serotonin metabolites in the cerebral spinal fluid, what values would be considered normal or abnormal, balanced or imbalanced? And even if there were a reference range of serotonin metabolites for identifying depression, that wouldn't necessarily mean that serotonin levels had anything to do with the cause behind the depression. As someone correctly pointed out the other day, correlation is not causation.

I think it all boils down to one thing - the act of repeatedly asserting the idea that clinical depression is caused by an underlying chemical imbalance that may be corrected with SSRIs, has a therapeutic value for the patient using SSRIs - it's essentially an act of self-empowerment and self-consolation. In any case, however, it remains a load of hogwash, and someone allegedly as concerned about ignorance about SSRIs as Stogie should educate himself about what these medications do and don't do before spreading more ignorance on his blog, potentially at the peril of his readers.

Stogie Chomper said...

What a load of crap, OhReilly. My doctor told me about the chemical imbalance, and you can read about it all over the web. My cousin, a psychiatrist, agrees with my regular doctor. You offer nothing to support your delusions other than your own ignorant opinion. Now don't you suppose after thousands of doctors and clinics who have treated depression with SSRI's might know something more about it than you, a layman? Your arrogance is appalling. Why don't you go lecture on jet propulsion, quantum mechanics or complex chemical reactions? I suspect you are as ignorant about those subjects as you are serotonin, clinical depression and SSRI drugs.

Stogie Chomper said...

Rick, yes there are many misconceptions about antidepressants. They do not substitute an artificial euphoria in place of the depression, they only make you more normal. They remove depression, they do not make you high or euphoric; they are not a "happy pill." I have already informed Lawrence Auster that his major commenter, Kristor, is full of beans and doesn't know what he's talking about. Auster was not pleased with my disagreement and didn't print any of it.

OhReilly said...

And here are some more, picked at random:

And there is a lot more information available on the web, if one's just willing to use something called a search engine (the most well-known of which is the one called Google) and spend some time separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
But I realize that I'm casting pearls before swine here, because Stogie has too much personal investment in the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance correctable with SSRIs. For him to admit that I'm right would not only be to admit personal defeat, it would also mean admitting that his cousin is wrong. Neither is likely to happen.
But at the very least one should expect Stogie to refrain from using tragedies such as school shootings as occasions for propagating ignorant nonsense about SSRIs in public by accusing others of being ignorant about them.

pharmacology said...

My other half was on SSRI and it made her crazier than a bag full of ferrets. It was a hell of a project to wean her off from them,, I am glad you have had success with them. It was heel for us.

Stogie Chomper said...

You clearly are a kook and not to be taken seriously.

Stogie Chomper said...

I seriously doubt that this is true. Which SSRI was she on? What was the dosage in milligrams? And what did her doctor say about it?

OhReilly said...

So I had the audacity to substantiate my claims, and what happened? Well, Stogie deleted my post (apparently the quote I provided was intolerable because it made it glaringly obvious that Stogie is completely ignorant about SSRIs, so it had to be removed) and retorted with a cheap ad hominem ("You clearly are a kook and not to be taken seriously", which he later seems to have deleted). Granted, his options were limited, but still, such a primitive reaction doesn't exactly inspire confidence in him.

As a service to readers who want to know more about why assertions about SSRIs correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain is complete nonsense, I provide this link once more - it might be that these readers, unlike Stogie, actually want to be knowledgeable about this category of antidepressants:

Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature
If Stogie has any integrity whatsoever, he won't remove it this time.

Stogie Chomper said...

OhReilly, you are a crank and a kook who has not answered my question: how are you qualified to have any opinion on depression, serotonin or SSRI's? You have no qualifications, and posting voluminous crap that you copied and pasted from other crank websites does not qualify you to opine. I will continue deleting any and all posts from you. You are banned from this site.

Stogie Chomper said...

Zippy, I read the articles you refer to in your own blog post and found them unconvincing. Also, a number of highly qualified psychiatrists refute both of the authors who argue against the effectiveness of SSRI's. See this link: