Many Psychoactive Drugs are Strongly Associated with Violence (including aggression, suicidal violence and homicidal violence)

Gary G. Kohls, MD

A recent study published in the Public Library of Science online journal (PloS One @ by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP @ listed the top 31 prescription drugs that can cause violent or aggressive behavior in those consuming them.
The original article was co-authored by Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, MD, author of the ground-breaking “Prozac Backlash.” Glenmullen has since written a second book titled “The Antidepressant Solution” that mainly deals with antidepressant drug withdrawal issues.

The peer-reviewed article evaluated the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), which records drug side effects that are reported to the FDA, largely by patients, physicians, or drug companies. The adverse drug effects evaluated by the study were specifically limited to acts of violence or aggression associated with therapeutic drugs from 2004 through the third quarter of 2009.

The original article can be accessed at

Any reported case that contained one or more of the following terms was included in the study: homicide, physical assault, physical abuse, homicidal ideation, or other violence-related symptom. Reports of self-inflicted violence such as attempted suicide, completed suicide, suicidal thinking, or cutting behavior were not included in the study.

With regard to suicidality, it is important to be aware that psychiatric drug-induced suicidality has long been recognized to be a problem serious enough to require black box warnings in all drug promotion literature. It is also important to be aware that the FDA admits that as few as 1 in every 100 adverse effects from drugs may go reported; thus the figures below may theoretically be multiplied by as much as 100 times!

There has been increasing concern about the negative psychiatric side effects of many popular drugs, including such major classes of psychotropic drugs that have effects on the brain, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, psychostimulants, so-called “mood-stabilizing” drugs, anti-epileptic drugs, and antipsychotic drugs. FDA-enforced black box warnings are increasingly being used since these drugs commonly cause severe health problems to chronic users.

Now we know that these drugs also pose a significant threat to society in that irrational, out-of-character  behaviors can result. One example is the fact that Ambien (zolpidem) can cause people to sleep-eat, sleep-walk and even sleep-drive while taking it. That reality may seem humorous, but Peter Breggin’s book “Medication Madness” includes scores of case reports known to the author of people doing far more serious and irrational things, including driving dangerously, assaulting others, and criminal acts such as murder or bank robbery while taking psych drugs.

Most of the drugs in the top ten list of those likely to cause violence are antidepressants, but the list also includes a sleeping pill, psychostimulant drugs, an anti-malaria drug, and an anti-smoking medication. Soberingly, the longer list at the end of this column lists virtually all of the SSRI drugs.

Here are the two lists of drugs that can cause violence, the top ten list revealing the worst offenders, with commentary.

The Top 10 List

10. Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) – Pfizer’s newest antidepressant (a knock-off of Effexor— note the similarity of the generic terms) that artificially stimulates both serotonin and noradrenaline. The drug is 7.9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

9. Venlafaxine (Effexor) - An antidepressant that has marketing approval for both depression and anxiety. The drug is 8.3 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

8. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) - A so-called “selective” serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug that is 8.4 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

7. Triazolam (Halcion) - A benzodiazepine (a so-called “minor” but highly addictive tranquilizer) drug for insomnia that is 8.7 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

6. Atomoxetine (Strattera) – A psychostimulant drug that is 9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

5. Mefloquine (Lariam) – An anti-malaria drug that is 9.5 times more likely to be associated with violence (including homicide and suicide) than other drugs. (It has been proven to have caused numerous drug-induced soldier-perpetrated suicides, domestic homicides, and other occurrences of irrational behavior. Larium may have been taken by the soldier alleged to have been the lone shooter in the latest Afghanistan massacre of 17 innocent civilians (March 11, 2012).

4. Amphetamines – This general class of dangerous and highly addictive psychostimulant drugs is 9.6 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

3. Paroxetine (Paxil) - An SSRI antidepressant with psychostimulating, mania-inducing effects that is 10.3 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs. It is also linked to severe withdrawal symptoms and birth defects.

2. Fluoxetine (Prozac) - A popular SSRI antidepressant drug that is 10.9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

1. Varenicline (Chantix) – A dopaminergic anti-smoking drug that is a shocking 18 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.

The list below is the more complete list of brain-altering drugs from the study (mostly psychotropic drugs) that are statistically related to violence. (The drugs listed are in decreasing order of the likelihood of inducing violent acts.) The number behind the name of the drug is the relative risk of drug-induced violence. The number 2 means that the drug is twice as likely to cause violence than the comparative group:

The Top 27 List

Chantix (Varenicline) 18.0
Prozac (fluoxetine) 10.9
Paxil (paroxetine) 10.3
Amphetamines 9.6
Strattera (atomoxetine) 9.0    
Halcion (triazolam) 8.7    
Luvox (fluvoxamine) 8.4    
Effexor (venlafaxine) 8.3
Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) 7.9
Zoloft (sertraline) 6.7    
Ambien (zolpidem) 6.7    
Lexapro (escitalopram) 5.0
Celexa (citalopam) 4.3    
Abilify (aripiprazole) 4.2
OxyContin (oxycodone) 4.1
Wellbutrin/Zyban (bupropion) 3.9    
Geodon (ziprasidone) 3.8
Ritalin/Concerta (methylphenidate) 3.6
Remeron (mirtazapine) 3.4
Neurontin (gabapentin) 3.3
Keppra (levetiracetam) 3.3
Valium (diazepam) 3.1
Xanaz (alprazolam) 3.0
Cymbalta (duloxetine) 2.8
Klonopin (clonazepam) 2.8
Risperdal (risperidone) 2.2
Seroquel (quetiapine) 2.0

For more information about these and other important drug-related issues, check out these helpful websites:,,,,,, www.quitpaxil, org,, and

Also check out this short
list of informative books:

Toxic Psychiatry, Your Drug May Be Your Problem and Medication Madness - Peter Breggin, MD –

Prozac Backlash and The Antidepressant Solution - Joseph Glenmullen, MD

Mad In America:  Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, - Robert Whitaker

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America - Robert Whitaker –

Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime, and Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent - Grace Jackson, MD

The ADHD Fraud - Fred Baughman, MD –

Excitotoxins - Russell Blaylock, MD –

Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies
             Are Turning Us All Into Patients - Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels

Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression - David Healy, MD

Prescription for Nutritional Healing – Phyllis Balch

The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health – Randall FItzgerald

The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying our Brains and Harming our Children - Carol Simontacchi

The above article contains information about the risks associated with certain psychiatric drugs, many of which can be dependency-inducing (addicting) and can easily cause withdrawal symptoms. If you are taking one or more of these medications, DO NOT suddenly stop taking them.Some people can experience serious, even life-threatening reactions during the discontinuation of (withdrawal from) such drugs.
Any attempt to get off such medications should be done under the guidance and supervision of a qualified health care practitioner who has an understanding of the possible dangers of drug usage, the symptoms that can occur during drug withdrawal, and the nutritional and mental health support that is needed.