The Massacre at Sandy Hook and the Elephant in the Room

Gary G. Kohls, MD

Since the most recent American school shooting-of-the-month  that occurred on 12-14-12, thousands of aware mental health professionals, psychiatric survivors, and victims of drug-induced violence have been watching and listening in vain for any of the major TV or radio networks to even breathe a single word about the likely possibility that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter (widely identified as having had a very troubled, bullied, but over-privileged childhood) was on brain-altering prescription drugs.

The well-documented fact is that most (if not all) of the previous American school shooters have either been taking or withdrawing from commonly prescribed, legally obtained psychoactive drugs. That reality seems to have been totally out of the consciousness of any and all of the talking heads and their invited guests (which include criminal justice experts, journalists, concerned community members, and mental health professionals). None of the national or local media outlets that I watched and listened to during the first three days of news coverage ever mentioned this critically important issue. In vain I dedicated many hours to listening for some enlightened viewpoints about drug-induced violence or drug-induced suicide. Psych drugs, which can be calamitous to the developing brain, were never mentioned once.

Police authorities immediately confiscated all the prescription bottles in the home, read the mom’s blogs about her troubled son, and now know which, if any, psychiatrists, physicians, or physician’s assistants have treated him (and what kind of therapy was prescribed). By now the shooter’s medical clinic’s records have been accessed and read, but so far there has been no mention of psych drugs. What concerns me is the fact that Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s medical records were sealed, as was the psychiatric clinic’s record of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, probably sparing embarrassment or medico-legal liability for the health professionals involved in the name of “patient  confidentiality,” while at the same time keeping vital information about motive from the public.

The first U.S. school
shooter: the University
of Texas “Tower Sniper”

The fact that most of America’s school shooters were on psych drugs has been treated as a taboo subject ever since August 1, 1966, when sharp-shooter and ex-Marine Charles Whitman (who spent a year and a half at Gitmo in the early ’60s) became known as the infamous “Tower sniper” at the University of Texas at Austin. Whitman was a patient of the UT campus psychiatrist during his second try at being a college student (he had flunked out after his first attempt and re-joined the Marines until he was court-martialed in disgrace and discharged).

After his second tour with the Marine Corps ended, he tried again to make it as a student at UT. During the summer months before the infamous shooting rampage, he became a patient of the campus psychiatrist and was on amphetamines and barbiturates when he killed 14 and wounded 31 during the five-hour shooting spree from the top of the tower. By the time the shooting spree started, Whitman had already stabbed to death both his mother and wife.

True to the profile of other school shooters since 1966, Whitman had been a victim of parental conflict that led to divorce. He was also a victim of physical abuse from his strict father. He had suffered the humiliation of failing at college, for which he wanted to extract some revenge. And then, at the last moment of his tragic life, like Hitler years before him, he cunningly avoided having to face the jury or the hangman for his crimes by committing suicide, in his case orchestrating a “suicide by cop” when his position at the top of the tower was eventually stormed by city policemen.

Whitman probably gained some satisfaction in his “control” of the mall and the people below him. He also knew that he was the subject of intense media attention and that he would be (in)famous for using his skills as a shooter and going out in a “blaze of glory” rather than living and dying in obscurity and disgrace. At least he would be famous for something.

But Whitman himself, unlike the Columbine shooter Eric Harris (who realized that he could ratchet up his hostility by altering the dose of his Prozac-like anti-depressant pill Luvox), had no way of realizing that his “irrational” behavior was affected by his brain-changing psychiatric drugs.  

Singer/songwriter Harry Chapin immortalized Whitman’s sad story in his powerful, haunting, and psychologically accurate song “Sniper.” (Hear Chapin sing this song at

Listening to the
 survivors of psychiatric drug use

Across the U.S., there are many online groups of psychiatric survivors, survivors of electroshock “therapy,” and survivors of psych drug “therapy.” Examples of such groups  and websites wanting to break the silence about the dangers of psych drugs include, Mind Freedom International, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the International Center for the Study of Psychology and Psychiatry,, the International Coalition for Drug Awareness,,,, Safeminds,,, and In addition to these, there are many other support groups that are also aware of the serious dangers of psychotropic drugs.

Permanent sexual
dysfunction from SSRI
usage is possible

These survivors of another one of the many unanticipated consequences of psych drug usage have also been trying to attract media attention for the serious problem of school shootings, psychiatric drug-induced suicidality, psychiatric drug-induced violence, psychiatric drug-induced dementia (often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s dementia “of unknown etiology”), psychiatric drug-induced Parkinsonism, psychiatric drug-related tardive dyskinesia, psychiatric drug-induced sexual dysfunction, and psychiatric drug-related withdrawal syndromes. All of these problems are well documented in the literature, but they have been virtually ignored in mainstream medical or psychiatric journals that are heavily subsidized by the big pharmaceutical companies. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.

Hence the problem of medical professional unawareness of potentially serious issues related to the rather cavalier prescribing of synthetic psychoactive drugs that have been designed by clever BigPharma chemists to pass out of the brain’s capillaries, across the protective blood/brain barrier, and into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the highly vulnerable, easily damaged brain cells.  And then, once in the cerebrospinal fluid, these potentially dangerous synthetic molecules mess around, in poorly understood ways, with various synaptic organelles located at the ends of neurons (where every nerve impulse begins), causing  a variety of long-term changes in those complex systems. Unfortunately, very few of those changes yield positive results; most of them have terribly negative and sometimes permanent adverse results, otherwise known as side effects.

I include below two lists that should give pause to every person interested in what may be motivating the average drug-intoxicated school shooter. The two lists below have been taken from the Physician’s Desk Reference, a 3,500+ page book that is on the library shelves of every medical and psychiatric clinic in America. The PDR contains information about every FDA-approved drug and is supposed to alert health care providers about recommended drug dosages, contraindications, adverse effects, precautions, warnings, and the management of overdoses. Due to its length and extremely small font size, it is only the rare physician who has the time and energy to do justice to the book’s contents. As an example of how daunting the PDR is, Prozac’s recent section is eight three-column pages long and appears to be printed in 7 or 8-size font! An online version of the PDR can be accessed at or

Common adverse effects of SSRI “antidepressants,” any of which can be misdiagnosed as a symptom of a “mental illness”

Agitation, Akathisia (severe internal restlessness that can lead to suicidality), Anxiety, Bizarre dreams, Confusion, Delusions, Emotional numbing, Empathy degradation, Hallucinations, Headache, Heart attacks, Hostility, Hypomania (abnormal excitement), Impotence, Insomnia, Loss of appetite, Mania, Memory lapses, Nausea, Panic attacks, Paranoia, Psychotic episodes, Restlessness, Seizures, Sexual dysfunction, Suicidality (ideation or attempts, i.e. thoughts or behavior), Violent behavior, Weight loss.

Common withdrawal symptoms that can occur during discontinuation or down-tapering of SSRI “antidepressants” (these symptoms are commonly misdiagnosed as a “relapse” or “recurrence”)

Aggravated nervousness, Agitation, Amnesia, Anxiety attack, Apathy, Anorexia,
Auditory hallucinations, Bruxism, Carbohydrate craving, Impaired concentration,
Confusion, Crying, Worsened depression, Disorientation, Abnormal dreaming,
Emotional lability, Excitability, Feelings of unreality, Forgetfulness, Insomnia,
Irritability, Jitteriness, Lethargy, Decreased libido, Nervousness, Panic reaction, Yawning.

80% of the world’s school shootings occur in the U.S., and American children consume 90% of the world’s cocaine-like Ritalin

There have been 80 documented cases of school shootings around the world since 1996. The list can be found at Tellingly, 80 percent of them occurred in the United States, the nation that also dispenses the most brain-altering psych drugs  to its children. Despite representing only 5 percent of the world’s population, American children consume 90 percent of world’s Ritalin.

Equally tellingly, the U.S. is also number one in lethal weapons production, exports, and sales, and leads the world in number of boys who compulsively engage in virtual gun massacres through first-person shooter games, simultaneously becoming less and less sensitized to violence and more and more indifferent to the pain of others.

The following two weblinks should be required viewing for anybody who is still confused about the rather strong links between mass shootings and psychiatric drugs. Please spend additional time at the CCHR International site.

The elephant in the
room: psych drugs as
a tipping point to overt
acts of violence

In a 1600-word essay, it is impossible to thoroughly discuss, much less draw conclusions about, the enormous complexities of what shapes a school shooter’s willingness to kill.

What have been the traumas (sexual, psychological, physical, or spiritual), developmental deficiencies, humiliations, bullying episodes experienced, societal support systems denied, toxic or malnourishing foods ingested that adversely affect brain function (non-organic, processed, genetically modified, or fast), toxic exposures to prescription or illicit drugs, vaccine injuries to the brain, access to lethal weapons, violent videos watched, sleep deprivations, head traumas, parental neglect, or punitive child-rearing?  

Any of these events, if it occurs at certain critical times in the development of the mature brain, can determine the likelihood that any 20-year-old boy is going to become a mass murderer. And that short list of factors doesn’t address the thousands of other unknown factors for which it is humanly impossible for any mental health practitioner to thoroughly evaluate and use in meaningful psychotherapy. Certainly it can’t happen in the average 15-minute clinic appointment or medication check appointment.

When the goal is saving
our children’s lives, why
can’t we overcome
the taboos?

The most that a society (or average  mental health practitioner) can do is to try to honestly evaluate all of the risk factors and try to prevent their presence in the survivors who might be at risk of becoming the next shooter.

Courageously exposing the fact that brain-altering prescription psych drugs can, just by themselves, facilitate the extinction of empathy and increase the likelihood of violence, suicidality, and psychopathic personality trait development is a big threat to the previously honorable professions of medicine and psychiatry. And it is an existential threat to the “too big to fail” pharmaceutical corporations. All three of these entities are somehow regarded as not just too big to fail, but also too important to criticize.

But it must be emphasized that in order to really heal a nation of its frailties and traumas, as everybody on TV and the talk shows seem anxious to do, it is essential to diligently search for even the inconvenient and unwanted truths, no matter where the search leads. No exceptions should be tolerated.

The elephant in the room, the taboo subject, that has kept us as a nation from comprehending the increasingly prevalent epidemic of school shootings is the intimate connection between violence and the equally serious epidemic of brain-altering and potentially addictive psych drug usage among young people.

It will take some political will to overcome our nation’s tendency to reflexively deny and blindly ignore new truths and simultaneously reject old, increasingly discredited belief systems about the safety of psych drugs. That approach has already failed our children and has only made our uniquely American epidemic of gun violence worse.

Dr. Kohls practiced holistic mental health care for the last decade of his medical career and dealt with nearly 1200 patients, most of whom had experienced serious adverse effects from psychiatric drugs, including permanent drug-induced disabilities, dementia, and even brain damage from the five categories of commonly used psychiatric drugs. Most of his patients came to see him knowing that they had been sickened by the drugs, but were also addicted to or dependent on them, asking for help in getting off the medications. Through a combination of gradual tapering, brain nutrient supplementation, dietary changes, and psychoeducational psychotherapy, many of his patients became drug-free or capable of living life on a simplified and reduced drug regimen. The major limiting factor for success was the length of time the drugs had been used, the dosage strength, the variety of drug  combinations used, and the type of drug used (antipsychotics and tranquilizers were the worst ones to get off of).

DISCLAIMER: Readers who are interested in reducing their psych drug use should consult their prescribing physician and not suddenly stop their psych drugs. Stopping drugs suddenly can be more dangerous than starting them. They should preferably consult a physician knowledgeable in neuroscience and brain nutrition and experienced in helping people safely discontinue psychiatric medications.