Caused a Stimulant-like Syndrome Leading to Manic-like Behavior, Suicidality and Violence ( Judge’s Opinion )
The headline from the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada tells the story: “Judge Agrees Prozac Made Teen a Killer.” Provincial court judge Robert Heinrichs listened to expert psychiatric testimony for the defense by Peter R. Breggin, MD and weighed it against testimony for the prosecution by a Canadian psychiatrist.
On September 16, 2011 the judge issued his opinion in regard to the sixteen-year-old who stabbed his friend to death. The judge determined, “His basic normalcy now further confirms he no longer poses a risk of violence to anyone and that his mental deterioration and resulting violence would not have taken place without exposure to Prozac.” Also consistent with Dr. Breggin’s lengthy report and testimony, the judge observed, “He has none of the characteristics of a perpetrator of violence. The prospects for rehabilitation are good.”
In his written opinion in the case of “Her Majesty the Queen and C.J.P” (Citation #2011 MBPC 62), Judge Heinrichs concluded, “Dr. Breggin’s explanation of the effect Prozac was having on C.J.P.’s behavior both before that day and in committing an impulsive, inexplicable violent act that day corresponds with the evidence” (p. 18). He also found, “there is clear medical and collateral evidence that the Prozac affected his behavior and judgment, thereby reducing his moral culpability” (p. 20). The judge’s complete opinion is available here.
This was the first criminal case in North America where a judge has specifically found that an antidepressant was the cause of a murder.
The case involved a teenage high school student with no prior history of violence who, while chatting in his home with two friends, abruptly stabbed one of them to death with a single wound to the chest. The boy had been taking Prozac for three months, during which time his behavior deteriorated. He became impulsive and unpredictable, and suicidal. He also began to talk at times as if fantasizing about violence. He seemed to become a different person to his distraught parents. Dr. Breggin testified that his primary care physician and his parents alerted the prescribing psychiatric clinic to the boy’s deteriorating condition, but the clinic continued the Prozac and then doubled it. Seventeen days after the increase in dosage, the teen committed the violence.
Starting approximately 2005 to the present, the FDA-approved labels for all antidepressants as found in the annual Physician’s Desk Reference includes the following information under the section entitled WARNINGS-Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk:
All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.
The following symptoms, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.
This list of adverse effects—“anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania”—is a prescription for violence. The teen in this case suffered from most of these dangerous effects which worsened during the time of his exposure to Prozac.
The Canadian drug regulatory agency, Health Canada, has warned that Prozac is not authorized for use in children and that it can cause “self-harm or harm to others.” According to a warning issued in 2004 by the drug manufacturer, Eli Lilly, and Health Canada: “There are clinical trial and post-marketing reports with SSRIs and other newer anti-depressants, in both pediatrics and adults, of severe agitation-type adverse events coupled with self-harm or harm to others. The agitation-type events include: akathisia, agitation, disinhibition, emotional lability, hostility, aggression, depersonalization. In some cases, the events occurred within several weeks of starting treatment.”
Dr. Breggin wrote in his report and testified that the boy’s symptoms were consistent with a Prozac (fluoxetine) Induced Mood Disorder with Manic Features and that he would not have committed the violence if he had not been given the antidepressant. He also testified that the teen had improved dramatically when removed from the Prozac after a few months in jail and that he was no longer a danger to himself or others. He brought numerous independent scientific studies to court confirming that a large percentage of youth exposed to the newer antidepressants will develop these hazardous adverse drug reactions. He also noted that the observations and even the wording of his own earlier scientific publications had been included into the information now found in the official FDA-approved labels. Dr. Breggin’s scientific articles concerning antidepressants can be found on his website at: www.breggin.com.
The original hearing was to determine whether or not the now 17 year old should be sentenced as a minor, in which case his maximum jail time would be limited to four years. The prosecution wanted him tried as an adult. On September 16, 2011, Judge Heinrichs decided that the boy would be tried as a minor and that his deterioration and violent behavior was caused by Prozac. On November 4, 2011 the judge will determine how much of the remaining four years the teenager will serve. The defense attorney in the case is Greg Brodsky of Manitoba.
The judge’s decision represents an enormous step forward in society recognizing that the newer antidepressants can cause violence.
Peter R. Breggin, MD is a psychiatrist in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and the author of dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty scientific and popular books. His two most recent books deal with medication induced violence: Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, Second Edition, and Medication Madness: the Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime. Dr. Breggin’s home website is www.breggin.com where many of his scientific reports on antidepressants and other subjects can be retrieved. On April 13-15, 2012 in Syracuse, New York, the annual conference of Dr. Breggin’s international organization, The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, will present a panel of lawyers, experts, survivors and families concerning antidepressant-induced violence, suicide, and crime.