The Columbine Connection 
Parents as Pushers 
From Ritalin to Luvox 

Elected officials often seize on the flimsiest pretexts to initiate "solutions" to problems that may not even exist. Typically this makes things worse. When there really is a problem, such as the mass murder at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, "solution" frenzy produces an outpouring of stale wisdom, self-flagellation, and misplaced blame. Not surprisingly, the blame is usually aimed at the few areas of society outside the control of government. This means a renewed assault on our remaining freedoms. Predictably, the real causes of the problem tend to be ignored or obscured.

There's substantial reason to believe that drugs - or, more to the point, the prevailing philosophy behind certain drugs - are at least partly to blame for the Columbine massacre. No, not the drugs you're thinking of. Perversely, and surprisingly to most people, the most dangerous drugs are not necessarily the illegal ones used for recreational purposes; they're the so-called therapeutic drugs that can result in their recipients' unpredictably "going postal." The real culprits of our national angst are the class of extremely popular, and potentially very dangerous, legal psychiatric drugs called SSRIs. Together with the psychostimulant Ritalin®, they have created legions of suppressed hyperactive volcanic kids ready to go off at a moment's notice.

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by preventing the conservation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which carries messages between neurons. In so doing, SSRIs increase the speed with which serotonin supplies are used by the brain. Serotonin helps people keep calm and act less impulsively. One reason why men are more prone to impulsive violence than women is that the male brain is more subject to variations in serotonin levels and thus is more prone to "bottoming out."1,2 People who are deficient in serotonin are more prone to depression, fits of violence, death by accident, and suicide. Essentially, SSRIs (Prozac® is the best-known example) make you feel better by causing your brain to use its supplies of serotonin more quickly. Unfortunately, however, SSRIs do not help the brain create more serotonin. So if serotonin supplies become critically depleted, the SSRI user can run into trouble.

Just before the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris was turned down by the Marine Corps, because his parents revealed that he was on an SSRI, the powerful antidepressant Luvox® (fluvoxamine). Alas, Eric was denied the possibility of venting his anger in a "controlled" setting, such as the Kosovo War, and resorted to "working out his problems" at school.

Less than one week after his rejection by the Marines, and following manic, sleepless nights of pipe-bomb preparation, Eric and his buddy Dylan Klebold launched their homemade version of a NATO assault, murdering 12 classmates and one teacher before killing themselves. Since then, undeservedly little attention has been given to the package insert warnings on fluvoxamine, including these:

  • All effective antidepressants can transform depression into mania in predisposed individuals.
  • The usual presentation of this switch is the sudden appearance of insomnia.
  • All antidepressants should be used with caution because of the possibility of suicidal ideation.
Studies have also found that fluvoxamine can increase the effect of caffeine, so much so that caffeine intoxication may result;3 Eric was a coffee drinker.4 Furthermore, mixing fluvoxamine with alcohol can cause extreme agitation;5 Eric was known to drink Jack Daniels whiskey.6

Psychiatric drug expert Dr. Peter Breggin states, "According to the manufacturer, Solvay, 4% of children and youth taking Luvox developed mania during short-term controlled clinical trials. Mania is a psychosis which can produce bizarre, grandiose, highly elaborated destructive plans . . . ."7


One can make the argument that kids today are more fidgety than in the past because they eat more sugar and get less exercise than they used to, but that's no excuse to dope them up - at least not before trying a better diet and more physical activity.  
Luvox Withdrawal?
Plausibly, the dual-edged Luvox may have held Eric's murderous impulses at bay for awhile. But then it may have unleashed them if, as some of his friends told The New York Times, he might have tried to go off the drug after that Marine rejection.8 SSRIs such as fluvoxamine produce nasty withdrawal symptoms. If the drug is stopped suddenly, symptoms quickly intensify, and the patient experiences a relapse.

After repeated denials that any drug residues were found in Eric's body, ABC's Colorado affiliate KCNC reported (5/4/99), "The coroner has released further toxicology reports on Eric Harris, one of the two dead suspects. Specialized testing shows levels of Luvox in Harris' blood in a therapeutic range." According to another report, Harris had a borderline therapeutic amount of Luvox in his blood. This is consistent with going off and then back on the drug again, because it takes awhile to build back up again to higher midlevel amounts. Did they think to measure his serotonin metabolites? In the spirit of the JFK coverup, the autopsy report has been sealed to the public.

Luvox is approved by the FDA for treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar affective disorder, in which there are swings between mania and depression. It is in the same family as the SSRI Prozac® and is often prescribed to people who are both depressed and prone to obsessive thoughts.

Drug Solutions: The Too Easy Way Out
Why do people become depressed? Although, undoubtedly, having an adequate amount of the right nutrients and neurotransmitters can help one think more clearly and rationally, one cause of depression is simply "sorry" ethics - or a conflict between one's actions and one's values. Unresolved conflicts create mental turmoil. The Age of Prozac has made it possible for antidepressant drugs to become substitutes for counseling, therapy, cleaning up one's act, and genuine conflict resolution. Prozac, Luvox, and similar drugs give parents an excuse to shirk the need for attentiveness, guidance, and supervision. If they choose not to act parentally, they default and allow the drugs to "listen" for them and to absolve them of responsibility. In other words, SSRIs and other antidepressants "solve" problems pretty much the way alcohol does, by making an examination of the fundamental-root cause seem unnecessary.

The Boomer parents of kids like Eric are the first recent generation to grow up with the widespread use of  illicit drugs. One would think that their personal experiences might have made it easier to teach their children wisely to distinguish the "dumb" drugs from the "smart" ones. Ironically, this has proven not to be the case. "I didn't inhale," is a typical, taciturn Boomer reply, hardly opening the doorway to useful dialogue between parent and child. This kind of inauthentic reserve discourages talk about the causes behind the use of drugs, illicit or otherwise.


Pumping the kids full of Ritalin is society's way of telling them to slow down. 
Drugs for Kids
The fact that psychiatric drugs are widely advocated for children and adolescents (Ritalin comes to mind first) is reflective of what's wrong with modern educational philosophy.

The overdiagnosis of mental diseases such as ADD (attention deficit disorder) has reached epidemic proportions, with some schools reporting 30% of the kids using Ritalin (methylphenidate), a drug closely related to methamphetamine, as a supposed remedy. The clever kids palm their Ritalin, which has been likened to heroin, and deal it to older kids who like the rush. Like so many psychiatric conditions, however, ADD has never actually been proved even to exist, and the criteria for its diagnosis are so general that virtually anyone would qualify for a prescription.

Meanwhile, as the government fights its futile war on recreational drugs, it subsidizes millions of Ritalin doses daily, turning kids into zombies. It's insane to give powerful psychiatric drugs to kids while their personalities - indeed, their actual brains - are still forming.

But surely there must be some reason for all this? Would schools advocate all these drugs unless they were really needed? One can make the argument that kids today are more fidgety than in the past because they eat more sugar and get less exercise than they used to, but that's no excuse to dope them up - at least not before trying a better diet and more physical activity. Drug companies like to sell drugs, of course, but the real driving force here may be a desire, on the part of most schools, and some parents, to harmonize and homogenize the most "difficult" kids. Smart, active, creative kids are notoriously hard to handle, especially when they are inadequately challenged by their schoolwork. Such kids are always troublesome to a system that bores them, and to parents who are too busy to be real parents. Pumping the kids full of Ritalin is society's way of telling them to slow down.

It's fairly predictable that many of these kids will graduate to Prozac. Longer-term consequences are less predictable, but it's unlikely to be good.

A Better Approach
What's a parent (or an adult) to do? First, realize that many "illnesses" are merely diagnoses of convenience, and that often, when there actually is a problem, that problem often can be a nutritional deficiency. There is some evidence that many behavioral symptoms are caused by biochemical imbalances that could be greatly alleviated by supplementation with DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). DMAE is a cholinergic agonist, i.e., it facilitates the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. In addition to helping with hyperactivity and attention problems (when used legitimately), DMAE can increase memory and elevate mood. It can also provide a feeling of mild stimulation and increase intelligence. And DMAE may possibly extend lifespan by stabilizing cell membranes, which degrade with age.

On the SSRI front, the natural herbal extract 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) has been shown, in direct comparison, to be as effective as Luvox, but without the side effects. A precursor to serotonin, which is now accepted as the principal neurotransmitter involved in preventing depression, natural 5-HTP can help to maintain or restore serotonin levels to those of a young adult. Those who supplement with it, especially from an early stage, are less likely to have impulsivity problems and are far less likely to slip into depression. 5-HTP has been used successfully in adolescents, without the harmful side effects of the SSRIs, especially Luvox.9

You might want to seek out a doctor who is not only expert in conventional medicine, but who responds rationally to the evidence for alternative solutions and who believes that ideas (or their lack) have consequences.

References

  1. Biver F, Lotstra F, Monclus M, Wikler D, Damhaut P, Mendlewicz J, Goldman S. Sex difference in 5HT2 receptor in the living human brain. Neurosci Lett 1996 Feb 2;204(1-2):25-8.
  2. Moffitt TE, Brammer GL, Caspi A, Fawcett JP, Raleigh M, Yuwiler A, Silva P. Whole blood serotonin relates to violence in an epidemiological study. Biol Psychiatry 1998 Mar 15;43(6):446-57.
  3. Jeppesen U, Loft S, Poulsen HE, Brsen K. A fluvoxamine-caffeine interaction study. Pharmacogenetics 1996 Jun;6(3):213-22.
  4. Kowal J, Kass J. The Colorado tragedy / to other youths, pair just ordinary kids. Newsday April 25, 1999, p. 77.
  5. Ebert D, Albert R, May A, Merz A, Murata H, Stosiek I, Zahner B. The serotonin syndrome and psychosis-like side-effects of fluvoxamine clinical use - an estimation of incidence. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 1997 Feb;7(1):71-4.
  6. Briggs B, Blevins J. Columbine - tragedy and recovery: a boy with many sides. http://www.denverpost.com/news/shot0502b.htm 05/01/99
  7. http://www.breggin.com/luvox.html.
  8. Wilgoren J. Terror in Littleton: the investigation; Marines rejected high school gunman for taking antidepressant, Pentagon says. The New York Times April 29, 1999, http://archives.nytimes.com/
  9. Kaneko M, Kumashiro H, Takahashi Y, Hoshino Y. L-5HTP treatment and serum 5-HT level after L-5HTP loading on  depressed patients. Neuropsychobiol 1977; 5(4): 232-40.

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