The Fort Hood Killing and Psychotropic Drugs

April 7, 2014
Marylyn Donahue

Pharmaceutical Executive

In response to the recent shooting at Fort Hood that killed four (including the killer’s suicide) and wounded 16, the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) views this and other recent incidents as a wake-up call to the dangers of antidepressants.

In response to the recent shooting at Fort Hood that killed four (including the killer’s suicide) and wounded 16, the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) views this and other recent incidents as a wake-up call to the dangers of antidepressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety drugs, which between them have accumulated 22 international drug regulatory warnings for causing violent and even homicidal behavior.

But is it the drugs themselves that’s the problem? Or could it be ignorance in prescribing, or misdiagnosis, or lack of oversight in administrating them? Or is the problem the incorrect combining of psychotropic drugs, or the sheer neglect on the patient’s condition on the part of military medical personnel?

In the weeks following the shooting, details are emerging that Lopez was said to have self-reported traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he returned from Iraq in 2011 and from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He had recently been transferred to Fort Hood in order to be evaluated for PTSD. So for almost three years, his mental health problems likely went untreated or inadequately.

According to The New York Times, Fort Hood shooter Lopez had been prescribed a cocktail of drugs that included Ambien, a sleep aid (know to cause aberrant behavior, but not mass murder) and other medication to treat “anxiety and depression,” CNN reported he was taking an “antidepressant.” a sleep aid, and other medication to treat “anxiety and depression.”

Likewise, CNN media reports on last September’s Washington Naval Yard shooter detailed how Aaron Alexis was taking antidepressant Trazadone prior to fatally shooting 12 people and wounding three others before he was killed by police. Trazadone, main indication is for, sleep disorder and not depression.

In the aftermath of the shootings,  Lopez’s parents wrote: We also found a cover letter he had written as part of his disability benefits claim, describing his many physical and psychological ailments. It was not until we read the letter that we truly understood the immense scale of his illnesses. He described his post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury symptoms in these words: “unrelenting depression and a generally joyless existence,” terrifying nightly panic attacks, and “unbearable anxiety and fear in any situation in which I don’t have complete control of the surroundings.” In addition, he wrote, he had a “constant bombardment of violent thoughts and images.”

“His physical symptoms included acute and chronic pain from fibromyalgia, which was so “grinding” that at times he could barely move; chronic fatigue so severe that “just holding my head upright requires more effort that I can bear”; excruciating headaches that could “easily be enough to strike an entire day from my calendar”; and an extreme case of irritable bowel syndrome that “literally controlled my schedule.” He was so embarrassed by these medical issues that we did not know until after his death that the hugs we gave him for comfort actually hurt him physically.

Upcoming congressional hearings are scheduled to focus attention on veteran suicides and mental health, including the prescribing of psychiatric drugs to soldiers, according to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

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