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A Short Note on Antidepressants, Violence, and Kazmierczak

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Ed Silverman at Pharmalot has this post on the emerging (albeit very preliminary) evidence that gunman Stephen Kazmierczak had stopped taking his psychiatric medication before the killings at Northern Illinois University. As ABC news reports, there's evidence that Kazmierczak had a history of mental illness, which seems to have included depression, violence, and self mutilating behaviors.


The comment thread of the Pharmalot post is particularly revealing in its predictability of responses from those who blame antidepressants for violent behavior among those with mental illness. Those critics, however, want it both ways: to blame antidepressants for violent behavior if someone takes them and to blame them as well if someone stops taking them and becomes violent due to the amorphous discontinuation syndrome purportedly associated with some of these medicines. But as mentioned previously, antidepressants have become a popular target by those who wish imbue the pharmaceutical industry with evil for their supposed malfeasance and deception rather than focusing on the simple fact that sometimes people engage in very violent conduct which itself imbues evil- and this seems to occur more often among those with mental illnesses.


This should hardly be surprising. For all rhetoric we've been told that those with mental illnesses are no more likely to become violent than anyone else, intuition dictates that when an illness robes people of their rationality - as it often does with mental illness - bad outcomes are to follow. It is true that most people with mental illnesses are not violent; but we're not taking about most people when we're discussing incidents like Kazmierczak or Kendra Webdale. Rather, what comes into focus when we examine cases like these is the inconvenient truth that untreated mental illnesses can be harbingers for tragedies from the personal to the infamously public.

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Those who prescribe medications should be among the first to know that their potentially violent patient has stopped taking the meds necessary to keep the patient from turning violent. Should the prescribers of the medications be permitted to post an immediate warning on some sort of database that a specific patient should not purchase weapons?

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