Which Medications Can Induce Violence?
According to the non-profit parent rights organization AbleChild, there were nearly 15,000 reports to the FDA’s MedWatch system on violent psychiatric drug side effects between 2004 and 2012. This included “more than fifteen hundred cases of homicidal ideation and homicide, 3,287 cases of mania and more than eight thousand cases of aggression.”
So far, these destabilizing effects have been linked to many different classes of medications, including:
- Antidepressants (both SSRI and SNRI)
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs
ADHD Medication and Violence
In 2006, the FDA’s ADHD psychiatric review team called for stronger warnings on ADHD drugs after a safety review found almost 1,000 case reports of psychosis (including hallucinations) or mania related to Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and Strattera submitted to the agency by drug makers between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2005. These symptoms came in children with “no identifiable risk factors, at usual doses of any of the drugs used to treat ADHD.”
There was a “complete absence” of these ADHD medication side effects in children treated with dummy pills during clinical trials and in many children the symptoms stopped when the drugs were withdrawn and resumed when they were restarted. In addition to the case reports submitted by manufacturers, there were 560 reports of psychosis or mania submitted to the FDA via its MedWatch reporting system. It is estimated that only about 1% of adverse side effects are reported to the FDA. This suggests that over 100,000 children diagnosed with ADHD may have become psychotic or manic while taking ADHD drugs during this five- and-a-half year period.
This review of marketed experience with amphetamine/dextroamphetamine [Adderall], atomoxetine [Strattera], methylphenidate [Ritalin, Concerta], and modafinil [Provigil], presents compelling evidence for a likely causal association between each of these four drugs and treatment emergent onset of signs and/or symptoms of psychosis or mania, notably hallucinations, in some patients. Post in larger font
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “Psychiatric Adverse Events Associated with Drug Treatment of ADHD: Review of Postmarketing Safety Data,” 2006
The same safety review reported “numerous postmarketing reports of aggression or violent behavior during drug therapy of ADHD.” In approximately 20% of the cases the behavior was considered life-threatening or required hospitalization. The majority of the reports of ADHD violent behavior were for children and adolescents, most of whom had “no specific risk factors for aggression or violent behavior.” According to the report, “a striking majority (80 to 90% overall) of patients … had no prior history of similar events.” Drug makers submitted over 1,400 reports of ADHD aggression or violent behavior, with over 700 additional cases reported to MedWatch.
The FDA report establishes an unmistakable tie between ADHD medication and violence.
Over 31 Medications Linked to Violence
In 2010, Thomas Moore, a senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medical Practice (ISMP) and Joseph Glenmullen, a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, published a joint study on prescription medication-induced violence, finding that 31 prescription medications are disproportionately linked to reports of violent behavior. In the study, Moore and Glenmullen extracted serious adverse event reports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System, searching for any drugs with 200 or more case reports received from 2004 to 2009.
They selected any reports that indicated homicide, homicidal ideation, physical assault, physical abuse or violence-related symptoms, and then used mathematical and statistical methods to identify drugs that were significantly more associated with those reports compared to other drugs. Out of 484 medications they evaluated, 31 (6%) were significantly more associated with violence. All but seven of the drugs were psychiatric drugs.
Per the study, the medications below were the most strongly associated with violent adverse events:
- Varenicline (Chantix)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Mefoquine (Lariam)
- Atomoxetine (Strattera)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
An update of this study by RxISK.org extended the analysis through December 2014 and added data from Health Canada. The results essentially confirmed the original findings, though the rankings were somewhat different: ADHD medications and antidepressants still ranked high on the list, and, with a broader definition of violence that included suicide, Ritalin moved much higher in the RxISK rankings.
Another 2015 study by researchers in Finland further corroborates Moore’s findings. The Finnish researchers collected data on all homicides investigated by police in Finland from 2003 to 2011. They found antidepressants increase the risk of homicide by 30% and benzodiazepenes (anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, and Klonopin) more than double the homicide risk.
The Public’s Right to Know About Medication-Induced Violence
At least 36 school shootings or acts of violence committed at schools have been committed by individuals who were taking or withdrawing from psychiatric medications. In these incidents, at least 250 people were killed or wounded. This psychiatric medication link is not limited to school shooters, either —dozens of acts of senseless violence have been perpetrated by individuals either taking or withdrawing from psychiatric prescription drugs. These tragedies (outside of schools) have killed at least 270 people and wounded at least 164.
Parents and the public have a right to know what psychiatric drugs do in the brain, the side effects of taking and withdrawing from these medications, and the medical basis — or lack thereof — behind the skyrocketing numbers of children being prescribed these drugs. This is basic medical ethics and the foundation of informed consent. If you or a loved one has been injured in an incident of mass violence that may have been caused by prescription medications, please contact the attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman for a free consultation.
Give us a call at (855) 948-5098 to review your claim. We serve clients in Los Angeles, California, and nationwide.