Psychiatric Drugs Could be Behind Recent Mass Shooting

Media, Politics
Reading Time: 7 minutes

As reports are now emerging of the Las Vegas country music festival shooter Stephen Paddock being prescribed the mind-altering sedative-hypnotic, diazepam, the mental health industry watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) said this should play a role in ongoing law enforcement investigations and government response to increasing acts of senseless violence in the country. Police have been baffled by the motive of 64-year-old Paddock, whose mass shooting on October 3, where he killed 59 and wounded more than 500, was the worst in U.S. history. But CCHR says that for the public’s protection governments need to ignore psychiatric-pharmaceutical interests and investigate the potential link between psychotropic drugs and both the Las Vegas shooting and similar acts of violence.

CCHR posted an informational page on its website citing facts to back up the need for a federal investigation. This highlights the lack of media coverage about the potential role of psychotropic drugs impacting the mental state of the shooter. It applauded those few journalists that did investigate this possible link. CCHR especially refers to the 27 international drug regulatory agency warningsciting psychiatric drug side effects of mania, psychosis, violence and homicidal ideation. There are also 1,531 cases reported to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch program alone that document psychotropic-drug induced homicidal ideation.[1]

The sedative-hypnotic Paddock was taking is from a class of drugs also known as benzodiazepines that have been documented in several studies to cause violence, aggression, homicidal ideation and suicide risk or attempts. They can become addictive within 14 days of taking them, although Dr. David Sackboard certified in addiction medicine, says, “Tolerance and dependence can develop quickly. There have been reports of people who received high doses of benzodiazepines becoming physically dependent in as little as two days.”[2]

Media reporting on Paddock’s diazepam use include:

  • Paul Harasim from the Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program that show Paddock was prescribed fifty 10-milligram diazepam on June 21of this year, as well as fifty 10-milligram tablets in 2016.[3]
  • On October 9Scott Glover and Kyung Lah for CNN reported that court records CNN obtained indicated that Paddock had been prescribed the drugs as far back as 2013.[4]
  • In a 97-page 2013 court document exclusively obtained and released by CNN, Paddock himself admitted to being prescribed diazepam when he was deposed as part of a civil suit he filed against a hotel, after slipping on its walkway in 2011. According to CNN, the document revealed Paddock said he was prescribed diazepam for “anxiousness” and when asked whether he had a good relationship with the doctor who prescribed him the pills, he responded, “He’s like on retainer, I call it, I guess. It means I pay a fee yearly…I have good access to him.”
  • CNN also noted that “Rage, aggressiveness, and irritability are among the possible side effects of taking diazepam” according to a manufacturer of the drug. It is not known when Paddock last took the drug.
  • WND reported that according to a study published in the June 2015 World Psychiatry journal there is a strong correlation between a person’s risk of homicide and use of benzodiazepines. After examining 960 adults and teens convicted of homicide, the study found users of benzodiazepines have a 45 percent increased risk of committing homicide.[5]

WND also reported that nearly every mass shooter in recent decades used mind-altering drugs prior to or during their acts of violence — a trend that CCHR has been tracking and documenting, especially since the Columbine high school shooting in 1999 when an antidepressant was implicated in the mass killing.

CCHR has documented 65 high profile acts of senseless violence, including mass school shootings, mass stabbings, and even the intentional crashing of a commercial airplane, committed by individuals taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, resulting in 357 dead and 336 wounded. Drug proponents argue that there are thousands of shootings and acts of violence that have not been correlated to psychiatric drugs but as CCHR points out, these have neither been confirmed nor refuted to have been connected to psychiatric drugs. This is largely because law enforcement may not be educated about the studies showing the link or are not required to investigate or report on prescribed psychotropic drugs linked to violence.

The New York State Senate recognized the lack of reporting correlating mind-altering psychiatric drugs to both suicide and violence as far back as 2000, when the senate introduced a bill which would “require police to report to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), certain crimes and suicides committed by persons using psychotropic drugs,” citing “a large body of scientific research establishing a connection between violence and suicide and the use of psychotropic drugs.”

Unfortunately, that bill stalled out in the finance committee, yet had it passed, a reporting system would be in place to determine the extent to which violence is committed by those under the influence of mind-altering prescribed drugs.

The FDA admits that only 1-10 percent of drug adverse effects are reported to MedWatch[6], so taking a medium range of 5 percent, the number of homicidal ideation/homicides linked to psychiatric drugs could be more than 30,600.

CCHR says that while not all of the millions of Americans taking these drugs will experience violent reactions, drug regulatory agency warnings confirm that a percentage will. And no one knows who will be next.

Some examples of high-profile cases where the individual was under the influence of such drugs include John Hinckleywho on March 30, 1981 gunned down James Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, a Secret Service agent, and a D.C. police officer outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. A psychiatrist later attributed Hinckley’s attack on the president and others to a violent rage precipitated by diazepam.[7]

Contemporary cases include:

  • Arcan Cetin: Burlington, Washington – September 23, 2016: The 20-year-old opened fire in a Macy’s department store at the Cascade Mall, killing five people. He was on three different psychiatric drugs.  He had been receiving antidepressants in the months before the shooting. Side effects include homicidal ideation, agitation/hostility, mood changes and depression.[8]
  • Andreas LubitzSouthern France – March 24, 2015: The pilot deliberately crashed a Germanwings plane into the side of a mountain killing all 150 people on board. He was on an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety drug. Side effects of these drugs include homicidal ideation, hostility, aggression, mania and depression.[9]
  • Elliot RodgerSanta Barbara, California – May 23, 2014: 22-year-old Rodger stabbed three roommates to death at his apartment then drove to a sorority house where he shot three women, killing two of them. Driving again, he exchanged fire with deputies, hit a bicyclist, fired on other people in multiple locations and then killed himself having killed six and wounded 13 others. He was taking an anti-anxiety drug. Side effects include homicidal ideation, hallucinations, unusual changes in mood or behavior and depression.[10]
  • Ivan LopezFort Hood, TX – April 2, 2014: Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood military base, killing three people and wounding 16 others before taking his own life. He had been prescribed an anti-anxiety drug, antidepressants and other drugs to treat anxiety and depression. Side effects include homicidal ideation, abnormal thinking, hallucinations, behavioral changes and suicidal thoughts/actions.[11]
  • Aaron AlexisWashington, DC – September 16, 2013: Alexis opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 and wounding eight before he was killed by police. Alexis was prescribed an antidepressant. Side effects include homicidal ideation, aggressiveness, irritability, mania and akathisia.[12]
  • James Holmes: Aurora, CO – July 20, 2012: Holmes opened fire at a movie theater during “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and wounding 70. He was on an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety drug. Side effects include homicidal ideation, hallucinations, agitation, anxiety and behavior problems.[13]
  • Scott DekraaiSeal Beach, California – October 12, 2011: A harbor tugboat worker, Dekraai entered the hair salon where his ex-wife worked, shot and killed her and seven others and injured one. He was prescribed an antidepressant and a “mood stabilizer.” Side effects include homicidal ideation, aggressiveness, irritability, mania and paranoia.[14]
  • Steven KazmierczakDeKalb, Illinois – February 14, 2008: The 27-year-old shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. His girlfriend said he had recently been taking an antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, but had stopped taking the antidepressant three weeks before the shooting. Toxicology results showed that he still had a trace amount of one of the anti-anxiety drugs in his system. Side effects include homicidal ideation, suicidal ideation, hallucinations and unusual changes in mood or behavior.[15]

As CCHR states in its online story, while there is never one simple explanation for what drives a human being to commit such unspeakable acts of senseless violence as that committed by Paddock and others, one common denominator is that a percentage of cases are prescribed psychiatric drugs which are documented to potentially cause mania, psychosis, violence, suicide and in some cases homicidal ideation. The not inconsequential link can sometimes be overlooked where there is a lucrative psychiatric-pharmaceutical drug industry that rakes in $80 billion a year through sales alone.

It is long past the time that government health care agencies launch an investigation, which would help not only the families and communities looking for answers to these mass killings but also to assist the many first responders and law enforcement officers that face gruesome consequences of these. Moreover, the New York bill which would have required law enforcement to report any use of mind-altering psychiatric drugs prescribed to those who committed violent criminal acts should be reintroduced and enacted not only in that state but across the country.

To read all documented drug regulatory agency warnings, studies and reports to the US FDA’s MedWatch system, click here.

As a nonprofit, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission and actions to curb psychotropic drug violence and suicide. Click here to support the cause. CCHR has already been responsible for helping get over 180 laws enacted and to raise awareness with drug regulatory agencies to issue warnings such as the FDA black box warning of 2004 about antidepressants causing suicide in those 18 and younger.

Contact: Amber Rauscher, or (323) 467-4242.


[1] “The Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS): Older Quarterly Data Files,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration,

[2] David Sack M.D., “Benzodiazepines: The Danger Lurking in the Shadow of Opiates: Fatal overdoses more than quadrupled for benzodiazepines prescriptions,” Psychology Today29 June 2017

[3] Paul Harasim, “Las Vegas Strip shooter prescribed anti-anxiety drug in June,” Las Vegas Review Journal, 3 Oct. 2017

[4] Scott Glover and Kyung Lah, CNN “Exclusive: Vegas killer described his unusual habits in 2013 testimony,” CNN, 9 Oct. 2017

[5] Alicia Powe, “Paddock prescribed drug linked to violent outbursts:Use of anti-anxiety medication can sometimes trigger aggressive behavior, psychotic experiences,” Oct. 2017

[6] David A. Kessler, MD, “Introducing MEDWatch,” JAMA, Vol 269, No. 21, June 2, 1993

[7] Stuart Taylor Jr., “Hinckley Treatments Termed ‘Absolute Calamity,'” The New York Times, May 19, 1982,

[8] Andrew Blankstein and Corky Siemaszko, “Arcan Cetin, Accused Cascade Mall Shooter, Faces Five Counts of Murder,” NBC News27 Sep 2016; “Hospital tried to commit suspected Cascade Mall shooter,”King 527 Sep 2016 Stensland, “Treatment, supervision didn’t stop alleged shooter with a troubled past,” Whidbey News-Times1 Oct 2016

[9] Elizabeth Whitman, “What Drugs Was Andreas Lubitz On? Lorazepam, Antidepressants Could Have Affected  Germanwings Pilot,” International Business Times2 Apr 2015; “Germanwings co-pilot had serious depressive episode: Bild newspaper,” Reuters27 Mar 2015; Shena Shankar, “Germanwings Plane Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Told Doctor He Could Not ‘See Clearly’ And Had Insomnia,” International Business Times7 Mar 2016

[10] Oren Dorell and William M. Welch, “Police identify Calif. Shooting suspect as Elliot Rodger,” USA Today26 May WintonRosanna Xia, Rong-Gong Lin II, “Isla Vista shooting: Read Elliot Rodger’s graphic, elaborate attack plan,” LA Times25 May 2014,

[11] David MontgomeryManny Fernandez and Ashley Southall, “Fort Hood Gunman Was Being Treated for Depression,” The New York Times3 Apr 2014Ben BrumfieldTom Watkins and Josh Rubin, “Fort Hood shooting spree: ‘Texans’ hearts are once again very heavy,'” CNN3 Apr 2014.

[12] Trip Gabriel, Joseph Goldstein and Michael S. Schmidt, “Suspect’s Past Fell Just Short of Raising Alarm,” The New York Times17 Sept 2013.

[13] Maria L. La Ganga, “What will Dr. Lynne Fenton say about her former patient James Holmes?,” LA Times, 4 Jun 2015; “Timeline of Events Leading to James Holmes’ Guilty Verdicts,” ABC News, 16 Jul 2015,

[14] “OC DA Expects Seal Beach Shooter to Use Insanity Defense,”, 14 Oct 2011; “Ex-wife feared Seal Beachsuspect as unbalance,” CBS News, 13 Oct 2011.

[15] “Report of the February 14, 2008 Shootings at Northern Illinois University,” NIU; “Girlfriend: Shooter was taking cocktail of 3 drugs,” CNN, February 20, 2008 Newbart, “NIU shooter had trace amounts of drugs in system,” The Chicago Sun-TimesMarch 15, 2008,

Related Links

Another Mass Shooting, Another Psychiatric Drug—27 Drug Warnings and 1,531 Cases of Drug-Induced Homicidal Ideation Back Need fo

SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights International

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