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Three school shootings in the past week have left 11 dead and 29 wounded, prompting the Bush administration to call for a school violence summit with education and law enforcement officials to help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath. Yet parents and legislators say that the government has consistently ignored the correlation between school shooters and psychiatric drug use and are likely to do so again at the upcoming summit.
Last year, following the Red Lake Minnesota school shootings and the revelation that the shooter Jeff Weise was under the influence of the antidepressant Prozac, a coalition of Tribal leaders and National Foundation of Women Legislators (NFWL) issued a joint resolution calling on Congress to fully investigate the correlation between psychiatric drug use and school shooters that had left 29 dead and 62 wounded. Ablechild also requested an investigation at that time.
The joint resolution called for such an investigation “to include all autopsies, toxicology reports, dosages of drugs that school shooters were either taking or withdrawing from, and testimony from medical experts who have exposed the dangers of these events”.
To date Congress has not acted upon this request. Nearly a year later, the Rocky Mountain News reported that Colorado school shooter Duane Morrison had an antidepressant in his car. Morrison took several girls hostage, killing one of them before committing suicide.
The evidence tying psychiatric drugs to acts of violence continues to mount; the FDA has warned that antidepressants can cause suicidal ideation, mania, and psychosis. The manufacturers of one antidepressant, Effexor, warn the drug can cause homicidal ideation. And earlier this month a study published in the Public Library of Science-Medicine journal found that the antidepressant Paxil raises the risk of violence. Though the study focuses specifically on Paxil, the researchers concluded that antidepressant drugs such as Prozac, Celexa, and Zoloft most likely pose the same risk. Lead researcher of the study, Dr. David Healy, director of Cardiff’s University’s North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine stated, “We’ve got good evidence that the drugs can make people violent and you’d have to reason from that that there may be more episodes of violence.”
AbleChild.org, a national grassroots parent’s organization, calls on all concerned citizens to contact their federal representatives, urging them to conduct a full investigation into the link between the spate of school shootings and possible psychiatric drug use of the shooters. Furthermore, state officials must demand full toxicology reports on all three recent school shooters to determine psychiatric drug usage or withdrawal. The victim’s families and the public at large deserve no less.