Sunday, February 17, 2008

THE PHARMACOLOGY OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS--COMMON BOND OR UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCE?

Gunman's Contradictions Confound Police
By ASHLEY M. HEHER and CARYN ROUSSEAU The Associated Press Sunday, February 17, 2008; 7:16 AM
DEKALB, Ill. -- Steven Kazmierczak had the look of a boyish graduate student _ except for the disturbing tattoos that covered his arms. Professors and students knew him as a bright, helpful scholar, but his past included a stint in a mental health center.
Many saw him as happy and stable, but he had developed a recent interest in guns and was involved in a troubled _ possibly abusive _ on-again, off-again relationship.
What people initially told police about the Northern Illinois University shooter didn't add up, and now investigators are searching for answers to what triggered Thursday's bloody attack, in which five students were killed and several more injured before Kazmierczak committed suicide.
. . . One person who knew the couple, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said the couple's relationship was on-again, off-again and "really rocky." Kazmierczak was controlling, she said.
"He was abusive, had a temper," she said. "He didn't actually hit her; he would push her around."
The 27-year-old Kazmierczak also had a history of mental illness and had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication, said university Police Chief Donald Grady.
A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center said Kazmierczak had been placed there after high school by his parents. He used to cut himself and had resisted taking his medications, she said.
Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in the late 1990s, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told The Associated Press. His parents placed him there after high school because he had become "unruly" at home, she said.
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There seems to be a commonality in enough of these school shootings, to raise the issue of whether improper prescribing (in all too many child-controlling circumstances) may be a factor.
(San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2005) Another teenager has shot and murdered schoolchildren, and those who believe that "mental illness" is the cause of all our social problems have offered the standard explanation and usual solution: This child suffered from a mental illness, and if only someone had seen the symptoms and notified mental-health authorities, he would have received an accurate diagnosis and the proper medication, and the tragedy could have been prevented. If only Red Lake High School student Jeff Weise had been placed on antidepressant medications, psychiatrists say, then this murder/suicide would never have happened. The story is usually followed by calls for more mental-health screening and treatment of our nation's schoolchildren.
As it was in this case and as it was with the Virginia Tech shooting.
In 2003 Britain banned antidepressants for use in children and adolescents, and last year Health Canada issued a stern warning about these drugs, noting "clinical trial and post-marketing reports (of) ... severe agitation-type adverse events coupled with self-harm or harm to others."

The worry seems to be with kids who are prescribed as well as those who stop taking their medicine. It's absolutely a caution to be taken seriously, as schools, parents and doctors prescribe casually and (perhaps) excessively for 'fidgety' children.
I was fidgety as a child in school in the 40's and 50's and was considered to be a normally fidgety kid. My son, in school in the 70's, was put on Ritalin, as are increasing numbers of kids.
(Wikipedia) Beginning in the 1960s, it (Ritalin) was used to treat children with ADHD, known at the time as hyperactivity or minimal brain dysfunction (MBD). Today methylphenidate is the medication most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD around the world. Production and prescription of methylphenidate rose significantly in the 1990s, especially in the United States, as the ADHD diagnosis came to be better understood and more generally accepted within the medical and mental health communities.
Ciba Pharmaceutical, your drug-pusher of choice.
Reported side effects include psychosis (abnormal thinking or hallucinations), difficulty sleeping, stomach aches, diarrhea, headaches, lack of hunger (leading to weight loss) and dry mouth, in some cases also including death.
This is only the description of Ritalin. There are thousands of other psychotropic drugs out there being prescribed for children.
(SF Chronicle, again) According to a study last year in the Lancet, U.S. psychiatrists, pediatricians and family practitioners wrote 11 million prescriptions for antidepressants for children in 2002. All the signs indicate this method of dealing with our children is not working. It is high time for both parents and schools to find a different method of dealing with troubled children. To paraphrase Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the fault is not in our children's brains or genes, but in ourselves. It is to our own treatment of children that we must look to find an answer to their problems -- and ours.

Good sense would dictate that improper and extravagant drugging of our children should be looked at as we morph into increasingly strange and dangerous actions on campuses across America.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Health Care, check out Opinion-Columns.com