School Shooter Took Mood-Altering Drug; Medical Experts Debate Role in Violence

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

School Shooter Took Mood-Altering Drug; Medical Experts Debate Role in Violence


Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The teen who went on a deadly shooting rampage at a Minnesota high school Monday was on Prozac, adding to the list of youths involved in similar crimes who were taking antidepressants or other mood-altering medications.

But medical experts say the role the drugs played in the school shootings is debatable.

"When you look at the school shooters, some were on Luvox, Prozac, Ritalin, and Paxil. These are mood elevators, but they can push up the psyche and can cause agitation," said Robert Butterworth, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, who specializes in trauma.

Dr. Robert Findling, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry for University Hospitals of Cleveland, said while some youths "may become more agitated or irritable" while on such drugs, their actions are the result of their illness, not the medication.

"Association is not the same as causation," he said.

Jeff Weise, 16, killed nine persons and himself in Red Lake, Minn., making it the second-deadliest school incident in the nation. A cultural coordinator at the school told The Washington Post that he was taking Prozac and had been previously hospitalized for suicidal tendencies.

The deadliest school shooting occurred in Littleton, Colo. where Eric Harris, 18, who was on Luvox, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 13 persons and themselves at Columbine High School in 1999.

Other school shooters who took prescription drugs include:

* Kip Kinkel, an Oregon youth, who in 1998 when he was 15 years old, killed both his parents and then went to his school, where he killed two classmates and wounded 22 others. News reports indicated he had been treated with Prozac.

* Jason Hoffman, at age 18, was on Effexor and Celexa, both antidepressants, when he wounded one teacher and three students at California's Granite Hills High School in 2001. …

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