After latest Ft. Hood shootings, time for psych medications review

medicine bottle

Photo of medicine bottle/CDC

Authorities have cited one medication that the 2014 Ft. Hood shooter was taking, Ambien. The Navy Yard shooter had been prescribed Trazodone. Investigations of other mass shootings have revealed many of the shooters were on some sort of prescription drug for mental illness.

After this latest shooting, it seems logical to review medications now widely prescribed for everything from depression to insomnia.

A brief look at Ambien, for instance, suggests the patient make the doctor aware of any “history of depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts.” Trazodone carries cautions as well—mania, agitation, and psychosis are among potential side effects.

While drugs are certainly useful when warranted, many drugs prescribed for psychiatric disorders must be carefully monitored and administered in exactly the right way.

The 2014 Ft. Hood shootings were allegedly committed by a soldier who had what officials described as “mental problems.”

The Navy Yard shooter had a history of the same, with outbursts documented by law enforcement. Yet the chain of command and red tape apparently obstructed his private sector employer from knowing about them.

The official report issued after the Navy Yard shootings is highly detailed, and the information suggests vulnerability exists on U.S. military installations. Yet media and the public paid scant attention to the report despite the fact it also indicated the shooter’s violent outburst might have been prevented.

The Infowars website said the Aurora theater shooter and one of the Columbine shooters were on SSRIs—Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. WebMD provides a lengthy list of potential side effects for some taking these popular drugs.

Pharmaceuticals play an important role in healthcare, but it is time to review drugs prescribed for psychiatric conditions in certain people. While the majority of people taking psych drugs commit no violent crimes, there is a significant association between mass shooters and those drugs. Perhaps a study could yield information to determine whether the drugs were right for those particular individuals or whether the meds played no role whatsoever in the outbursts.

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/April 4, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.

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