LOS ANGELES, March 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, a 49-year mental health watchdog says that underscoring increasing reports of school and veteran shooters there is a clear and consistent connection to psychiatric treatments, especially mind-altering drugs. The group cited the latest gunman alleged to be behind an all-day hostage situation on Friday 9 March that left three women dead at the nation’s largest veterans’ home in northern California. He was a former patient who served in the Army, officials said.[1] Within days of the tragedy came the telltale revelation that he’d been on “medication” for treatment of a mental disorder, CNN reported.[2] The veteran’s legal guardian was also quoted in an NBC interview that he had taken “medication” for mood swings. She said, “He couldn’t sleep and I think that was hard for him because a couple times we saw him, I barely recognized him.” Further reported, “He was given meds, changed him,” said the guardian.[3]

Local Florida ABC News also provided additional information about the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter reporting that records show he was at some point dependent on psychiatric drugs.[4] The New York Times had previously reported that the alleged shooter had taken or was still taking “medication” for ADHD.[5]

Ms. Jan Eastgate, president of CCHR International said, “There are many possible explanations for school shootings or violent acts committed by veterans but a common denominator that should not be ignored in many current cases is the link to prior and current psychiatric treatment, especially psychotropic drugs which can cause violence in a percent of those taking them.”

CCHR pointed to the similarities between the alleged Florida shooter and the ringleader in the Columbine High School shooter in 1999, who had been taking an antidepressant documented to cause suicidal and violent behavior. The Columbine shooter had been part of a death education class which asked participants to imagine their own death. He wrote about a dream where he and his friend went on a shooting rampage in a shopping center and handed the essay into the teacher. Shortly afterwards, he and a friend acted out the dream, killing 12 students, a teacher, and wounding 23 others before shooting and killing themselves.[6]

In the case of the alleged Florida shooter, according to The Miami Herald, a May 3, 2014, notation in a Broward County schools psychiatric file said that the shooter “reported [a dream] last week of him killing people and covered in blood. He smiled and told the therapist that sometimes he says things for shock value.” Again and again, authorities were warned about the teen’s explosive tendencies and lack of impulse control, the Miami Herald stated. Apparently, weekly therapy sessions between February 2014 and December of 2015, failed to help the teen. In March 2018, the shooter was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.[7]

ADHD stimulants have adverse effects that include hallucinations, behavior changes, aggression, abnormal thoughts, sudden outbursts, thoughts of suicide and mood swings.[8]

Cocktails of psychotropic drugs prescribed to veterans have also been linked to acts of violence. CCHR produced a documentary about this, The Hidden Enemy. Some 37 percent of war veterans are being treated for alleged PTSD, with 80 percent of those being “treated” with at least one psychiatric drug.[9] From 2005 to 2011, the U.S. Department of Defense increased its prescriptions of psychiatric drugs by nearly seven times or over 30 times faster than civilians.[10]

Consider the potential effects of this:

Veterans Drugged and Violent

February 2, 2013: A former Marine (25) shot and killed Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was the subject of the movie, American Sniper, and Chad Littlefield, at a firing range. In 2011, the Marine had been diagnosed with PTSD and prescribed eight drugs, including lithium, for mania; prazosin for nightmares; the antidepressant sertraline for PTSD, and the antipsychotic risperidone. The Marine’s father reported that the cocktail of pharmaceuticals “made his son worse” and stated: “I ain’t no doctor. I ain’t no rocket scientist or nothing, but I could tell a difference in him.”[11] He was later prescribed a cocktail of more psychotropic drugs that included two powerful antipsychotics and the antidepressant paroxetine.[12] He was also mixing prescription drugs known to cause aggressive and psychotic behavior with alcohol and marijuana.

  • December 15, 2014: An Iraq War veteran and a former Marine reservist killed his ex-wife and her mother, grandmother and sister, and the sister’s husband and 14-year-old daughter, then committed suicide. According to the Medical Examiner, he had both the antidepressant trazodone and the antipsychotic risperidone in his system at the time of his death. He’d also taken meta-Chlorophenylpiperazine, or mCPP, which is sometimes sold on the street as a substitute for ecstasy. Just one week prior to the murders, he had seen his Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, who cleared him as having no suicidal or homicidal ideation.[13]
  • September 16, 2013: A former Navy reservist (34) had been prescribed the antidepressant trazodone when he killed 12 people and wounded eight, before being killed by police at the Washington DC Navy Yard.[14]
  • April 2, 2014:  An Iraqi War veteran, (34), had been prescribed a sleep agent and psychiatric drugs for depression and anxiety when he shot dead three colleagues and injured 16 others before killing himself at the Fort Hood military base.[15]
  • July 17, 2016:  A former U.S. Marine (29) went on a shooting rampage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three law enforcement officers and wounding three others before being shot dead by a SWAT team officer. He had filled a prescription for a sedative hypnotic and also had prescriptions for the benzodiazepine diazepam and a sedative.[16]

Taking Psychotropic Drugs, Taking Hostages

Other incidents of someone taking hostages while potentially influenced by psychotropic drugs include:

  • January 10, 2001: A 17-year-old from Oxnard, California, went to Hueneme High School with a gun and shot twice at a car in the school’s parking lot before taking a female student hostage. The shooter was eventually killed by a SWAT officer. He had been prescribed two SSRI antidepressants and “drugs that helped him go to sleep.”[17]
  • April 10, 2001: A 16-year-old from Wahluke, Washington, took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. Three weeks earlier, his doctor had switched the teen’s antidepressant from paroxetine to venlafaxine.[18] According to The Los Angeles Times, the dosage of the drug had been increased from 40 mgs to 300 mgs over a three-week period. The first morning the teen took 300 mgs he felt rotten and went back to bed. He has no memory of taking a high-powered rifle into his third-period English class, of herding his classmates and teacher into a corner, of holding them at gunpoint for 45 minutes, of being persuaded by the principal into giving up his gun. In 2004, the teenager testified before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the drug. He and his father believed the antidepressants made him suicidal at first, then violent, according to The Los Angeles Times.[19]
  • December 13, 2010: In Planoise, France, a 17-year-old held 20 school children and their teacher at Charles Fourier preschool hostage for hours, using two swords. The teen was reported to be on “medication for depression.”[20]

CCHR says that educators, school superintendents, law enforcement officers, and Veterans Affairs officials and legislators should all take heed of a Chelsea, Michigan teacher, who fatally shot a school superintendent and wounded two others, including a fellow teacher at his school in 1993. Not excusing his crime, and while in prison, he warned about the antidepressant that had been prescribed him in a letter to the FDA Commissioner:

“I was constantly agitated…. My temper became shorter and anything could set me off. My anger burned so intensely it was scary. I had never experienced anything like it either before going on [fluoxetine] or since I was taken off of it…. Something inside felt as if it wanted to crawl out of me…. After nearly two years of decline, I snapped and killed the Superintendent at a grievance meeting…. Only minutes later I was going about the normal routine in my classroom, wondering if the shooting had really transpired; it did not seem real…. The Superintendent, a talented man, is dead and his family is bitter over his loss and their wrecked lives…. My wife was disgraced in the community due to my actions, and she died from the cancer two years later without me having been there to help her and comfort her…. This drug is dangerous. Both you and I know it, and it is time to do the right thing. Declare this drug unsafe and take it off the market.” 

CCHR reiterates its call for government investigations into the link between invasive and potentially damaging psychiatric treatment and that toxicology testing for psychiatric and drugs should be mandatory in cases where someone has committed a mass shooting or other serious violent crime, the information from which would become part of a national database that all branches and levels of law enforcement could access. A report on psychiatric drug usage in such crimes would regularly be made public to identify which drugs are most associated with violence.

CCHR is a mental health industry watchdog organization that has been investigating and collecting information on psychiatric drug links to school shooters and other acts of senseless violence since 1989. CCHR has been responsible for more than 180 laws worldwide that now protect the rights of patients and families in the mental health system. As a nonprofit, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission and actions. Click here to support the cause.

Contact: Amber Rauscher, media@cchr.org or (323) 467-4242


[1] “California gunman was kicked out of veterans program before deadly hostage situation,” USA Today, 10 Mar. 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/03/10/california-veterans-home-gunman-victims-identified/413140002.

[2] “Gunman at California veterans’ home ‘wanted to get back at them’ but ‘not kill,'” CNN, 12 Mar. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/11/us/california-veterans-home-gunman-details/index.html.

[3]”Guardians of Vet Home Gunman Say He Sought Their Help,” NBC Los Angeles, 10 Mar. 2018, https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/california/Legal-Guardians-of-Yountville-Shooter-Saw-Warning-Signs-476466603.html.

[4] “Superintendent recommends independent review regarding Parkland school shooter,” ABC News, 6 Mar. 2018, https://www.local10.com/news/parkland-school-shooting/superintendent-recommends-independent-review-regarding-parkland-school-shooter.

[5] “Florida Agency Investigated Nikolas Cruz after Violent Social Media Posts,” The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2018.

[6] Richard Restak, “The ‘inner child’ the ‘true self’ and the wacky map of Eupsychia,” The Washington Times, 18 Aug 2002, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/aug/18/20020818-040825-5515r/; Jodi Wilgoren, “Terror in Littleton: The Investigation,” The New York Times, 29 Apr 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/29/us/terror-littleton-investigation-marines-rejected-high-school-gunman-for-taking.html.

[7] “Shooter revealed gory fantasies to his therapists years before the Parkland massacre,” Miami Herald, 9 Mar. 2018,

[8] Ritalin, Side Effects Center, http://www.rxlist.com/ritalin-side-effects-drug-center.htm; Adderall, Side Effects Center, http://www.rxlist.com/adderall-side-effects-drug-center.htm.

[9] Susan Donaldson James, “Marines Battalion Mentally Upbeat, Despite Record Deaths,” ABC News, 15 Apr 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/camp-pendleton-marine-battalion-mentally-fit-deadliest-war/story?id=13377215; Mohamed S, Rosenheck RA, “Pharmacotherapy of PTSD in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: diagnostic- and symptom-guided drug selection,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Jun 2008, Vol. 69, No. 6., pp. 959-65, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18588361.

[10] Richard A. Friedman, “Wars on Drugs,” The New York Times, 6 Apr 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/wars-on-drugs.html.

[11] “In the Crosshairs,” The New Yorker, 3 June 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/06/03/in-the-crosshairs; Mike Spies, “INSIDE THE TORTURED MIND OF EDDIE RAY ROUTH, THE MAN WHO KILLED AMERICAN SNIPER CHRIS KYLE,” Newsweek, 21 Nov. 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/2016/01/08/inside-tortured-mind-man-who-killed-american-sniper-chris-kyle-397299.html.

[12] “‘American Sniper’ killer found guilty in murders,” USA Today, 25 Feb., 2015; Op. cit, Mike Spies, “INSIDE THE TORTURED MIND OF EDDIE RAY ROUTH, THE MAN WHO KILLED AMERICAN SNIPER CHRIS.”

[13] Timothy Williams, “Overdose Cited in Death of Man Who Killed 6 in Pennsylvania,” The New York Times, 24  Dec. 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/us/bradley-stone-autopsy-finds-overdose.html; “Bradley Stone cleared by Veterans Affairs doctor one week before murders, suicide,” The Washington Times, 17 Dec. 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/17/bradley-stone-cleared-veterans-affairs-doctor-one-/.

[14] Trip Gabriel, Joseph Goldstein and Michael S. Schmidt, “Suspect’s Past Fell Just Short of Raising Alarm,” The New York Times, 17 Sept. 2013.

[15] David Montgomery, Manny Fernandez and Timothy Williams, “Fort Hood Gunman Was Being Treated for Depression,” The New York Times, 3 Apr 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/us/fort-hood-shooting.html?_r=0.

[16] Steve Visser, “Baton Rouge shooting: 3 officers dead; shooter was Missouri man, sources say,” CNN, 18 July 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/17/us/batonroutepoliceshooting/; Joshua Berlinger and Jason Hanna, “Gavin Long said he suffered from PTSD, source tells CNN,” CNN, 20 July 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/20/health/gavinlongptsdbatonrouge.

[17] Steve Chawkins, Anna Gorman, “Police Kill Armed Teenager at High School,” Los Angeles Times, 11 Jan. 2001, http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jan/11/local/me-11081; Tamara Koehler and Letisia Marquez, “Lack of help for mentally ill decried,” Ventura County Star, 13 Jan. 2001.

[18] Linda Vester, Douglas Kennedy, Steve Harrigan, Fox on the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 25 Nov. 2002; Elizabeth Shogren, “FDA Probes Downside of Antidepressants,” Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2004, http://articles.latimes.com/2004/mar/21/nation/na-violent21; Martha Irvine, “Wash. School Deals With Gun Incident,” Associated Press, 28 Apr. 2001, http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2001/Wash-School-Deals-With-Gun-Incident/id-623899cd241f3809d666b4767088ea3f.

[19] “FDA Probes Downsides of Antidepressants: Cases of youths turning violent while taking the drugs lead panel to examine possible links to adverse behavior, especially in minors,” The Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2004, http://articles.latimes.com/2004/mar/21/nation/na-violent21.

[20] Carol Anne Hunt, “Teenager holds school children hostage in France,” indiepropub.com, 13 Dec. 2010, http://ssristories.com/show.php?item=4698.

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SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights International