“…as if it were something ominous.”

Megan McArdle links to this CNN story that reports:

Steven Kazmierczak had been taking three drugs prescribed for him by his psychiatrist, the Northern Illinois University gunman’s girlfriend told CNN.

Jessica Baty said Tuesday that her boyfriend of two years had been taking Xanax, used to treat anxiety, and Ambien, a sleep agent, as well as the antidepressant Prozac.

The first question I had upon hearing about the shooting was “I, for one, wonder if the shooter was on anti-depressants.”

Megan doesn’t see it that way:

This is being reported as if it were something ominous, perhaps the cause of the tragedy. This seems a little much. It’s not exactly shocking to find out that people who go on shooting sprees are often depressed, anxious types with difficulty sleeping.

Megan seems to be missing the point. This kind of rampage murder/suicide was extremely rare. It has since become something that occurs two, three, or four times a year. Everybody asks “what changed?” Most seem to blame “the number of guns” or “gun availability,” but the fact of the matter is that “gun availability” has never been the issue – guns have always been available. Some people blame violent video games, but there doesn’t seem to be a correlation there.

The one thing that seems to be consistent is that the shooters are often on (or recently off of) medications like Prozac. According to this NY Times piece:

Over the years, the antidepressant Prozac and its cousins, including Paxil and Zoloft, have been linked to suicide and violence in hundreds of patients. Tens of millions of people have taken them, and doctors say it is almost impossible to tell whether the spasms of violence stem in part from drug reactions or the underlying illnesses.

Tens of millions. Well, gee, how many “rampage shootings” did the U.S. (or the world, for that matter) see prior to the widespread use of these drugs, and how many do we see now? And if these drugs affect only 1/100 of 1% of people this way, that’s 1,000 out of every 10,000,000.

So yes, Megan, many of us are wondering if Prozac wasn’t a contributor to Kazmierczak’s decision to murder a bunch of college students and then kill himself. The correlation seems to point in that direction.

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