Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hitchens Tries to Explain The Cumbria Killings

From The Daily Mail:-
But I’d also like to urge another line of investigation.
Was Bird taking the anti-depressant pills that are now prescribed so readily by NHS doctors to so many people whose lives – like Bird’s – have gone down the drain?
Look carefully at the reports of many of the big US shootings – for example Eric Harris at Columbine in 1999 – and you will find that the shooter is described as having been ‘depressed’ and ‘on medication’.
Here is a partial list of other incidents (there are several more, including some where it is likely, but not proven, anti-depressants were involved) which must surely suggest that this possible link badly needs investigating.
Patrick Purdy, culprit of the 1989 Cleveland School massacre in Stockton, California, had been on anti-depressants. Jeff Weise, perpetrator of the March 2005 Red Lake High School massacre, was on anti-depressants.
Anti-depressants were found in the cabin of the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski. Michael McDermott, culprit of the 2000 ‘Wakefield massacre’ in Massachusetts, was on anti-depressants.
Kip Kinkel, culprit of a 1998 murder spree in Oregon, was on anti-depressants.
John Hinckley, who tried to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, was on anti-depressants.
This is pretty irresponsible stuff.

Let's start from the top.

  1. Eric Harris was diagnosed with Luvox, an anti-depressant of the SSRI variety. It was launched in late 1994, and by the end of 1995, was being used by 10 million patients worldwide. After the mass murder at Columbine, sales fell and the company withdrew it in 1999. In 1995, there was 1 "spree killing" globally, or as many as there were in 1994. So, across what could be called a pretty large field trial of a drug, there was no recordable difference.
  2. There are 2 things I can find about Purdy. Firstly, from a Christian anti-antidepressant site which says: During the two years prior to the murders of the Stockton children, Purdy had been treated by psychiatrists who put him on the mind altering drugs Thorazine and Amitriptyline.". Sounds like a link? Well, except that that would suggest he was on anti-depressants from around 1987-1989. Which I'm sure also explained his arrest in 1983 for possession of an illegal weapon and receiving stolen property and in 1984 for being an accomplice in an armed robbery. Oh, and Amitriptyline and Thorazine have been used across the globe since before the Beatles, and we didn't see much of a rise in spree killings in the 1970s or 1980s.
  3. I can't find much on Jeff Weise except that "Weise expressed frustration with being forced back to the Red Lake region and was considered an outsider by many there. Troublesome behavior eventually led to his expulsion of public schooling, and was placed in a home schooling program in 2004. He was diagnosed with clinical depression when he was 16 and began taking anti-depressants.". The fact that he was troublesome before the anti-depressants doesn't seem to be noticed by Hitchens.
  4. The Unabomber's cabin contained a bottle of Trazodone, a drug approved in the US in the early 1980s. Unfortunately for Hitchens, his first bomb was made in the late 1970s.
  5. Michael McDermott was a man who suffered from severe depression, paranoia and schizophrenia. He took Paxil, Prozac and Desyrel. Paxil can cause mania as the result of withdrawl, but again, millions of people take these drugs and we've hardly seen phenomenal rise in mass murder.
  6. Kip Kinkel, like McDermott, was on Prozac. That's a drug with 700,000+ prescriptions per year. You'd think we'd have an epidemic of violence if that was the cause.
  7. John Hinckley was on anti-depressants, but of course, they would have been the old tricyclics, used by millions of people for decades.
There's 4 things I'd like to add of my own:
  • Using the term "anti-depressant" shows just how ignorant Hitchens is. There are at least 9 different types of anti-depressant, with the likes of Paxil and Prozac in the SSRI group and drugs like nortryptaline and amitryptiline in the tricyclic groups. These are quite different drugs with quite different side-effects.
  • Just because someone was prescribed with anti-depressants doesn't mean that someone was taking them.
  • Even if someone is taking them, there's no guarantee that it will keep them safe.
And finally:-
  • according to NHS Cumbria there was no record of Bird attending the hospital or his GP in the last six months.
So, Bird wasn't even on them. Neither was Thomas Hamilton or Michael Ryan. Or the French murderers Eric Dorel or Christian Dornier. Or the Colombian Campo Elias Delgado. So, the idea that there's some sort of causal link is ridiculous. There isn't.

Unfortunately, there will be people out there reading Hitchen's piece of crap who I hope will stumble across this post before they get scared of what they or their children are taking. We saw the impact of newspapers on MMR where parents chose not to give their children a drug that had been shown repeatedly to have no autistic side-effects.

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