Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shootings, Violence, and Young People - One Causative Factor & Solutions

The Issue
Shootings/violence by young people often have commonalities that never get proper attention. People use these terrible situations to further their political causes rather than trying to get to the causative factors of the violence. For this reason, when one of the causative factors of these shootings is brought up, it usually gets swept under the rug. So, I decided to take a closer look at one of the common factors that I think is key. Something many of these young people have in common is that they are on a medication for depression. Usually that medication is an SSRI. Could it be the drugs that tip them over the brink?  I realize that these drugs are a symptom of even a deeper issue, which I will dig into at a later date, but currently I want to point out that this seems to be a common factor.

SSRI's as a Correlative Factor
SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs block the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter (nervous system chemical) that is used by brain cells to communicate. As SSRIs mainly affect the levels of serotonin and not levels of other neurotransmitters, they are referred to as “selective.”

Serotonin influences many cognitive functions including mood, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and decision-making. Disorders in serotonin are linked to such clinical issues as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

SSRIs are thought by mainstream practitioners to be very effective and to have fewer side effects than other antidepressants. However, I would disagree with this well accepted idea by the industrial medical model. First they are not much more effective than placebos. Second, Dr. Paul Andrews pointed out in 2015 that the role of serotonin in depression and use as an antidepressant has not been elucidated. He completely negates the idea that serotonin is lowered in the population of depressed people and you can find his research article here. Besides the fact that low serotonin may or may not be the issue, I think there is enough evidence to show that SSRIs may be involved in additional violence including suicide and murders.

The following antidepressants are included in the SSRI category.
Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox) Fluvoxamine CR (Luvox CR), Paroxetine (Paxil), Paroxetine CR (Paxil CR), Sertraline (Zoloft).

Support For The Idea That SSRI's Are Linked to Increased Violence
I first searched the internet for any data I could find in the incident of shootings linked to SSRIs. I knew that I had heard over and over again that these young shooters were on an antidepressant. The question was how many of them were related to SSRIs and were they all SSRIs? I found many links to supportive data. This is just a drop in the bucket.
This link has a list of 66 school violence incidents being related to SSRIs.
This link has a list of various stories on school shootings/violence and includes data on the antidepressants, usually SSRIs.
Another list similar to the first one is at this link.

In a 2016 meta-analysis of scientific research the reviewers found "Treatment of adult healthy volunteers with antidepressants doubled their risk of harms related to suicidality and violence."

A 2015 study examined SSRI effects related to age. They concluded " With age and sex stratification, there was a significant association between SSRIs and violent crime convictions for males aged 15 to 24 y (HR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.13-1.73, p = 0.002) and females aged 15 to 24 y (HR = 1.75, 95% CI 1.08-2.84, p = 0.023). "

There appears to be a correlation between the SSRI drugs these young people are taking and the violence that ensues. However, correlation does not always mean causation and this is what supporters of these drugs attempt to point out.

Who are the companies or individuals who take our attention away from this correlation? They would be drug companies and people with private agendas. Please do not let them take your focus off of the issue of these SSRIs and move it to guns. If you have an issue with guns, and turn your own attention onto the guns, please look a little deeper at the person using the gun and what is driving them to use it in this way.

More on SSRIs
So, it is obvious there is a correlation of SSRIs and violence if you look at the studies. A number of studies have indicated that SSRIs may have different effects in the young compared to adults. There has been a consistent indication in research that children and adolescents treated with SSRIs may experience higher rates of suicidal ideation. There are also clinical trials that suggest an association between SSRIs and an increased risk of violence in children and young adults.

Young people still have developing brains. None of the antidepressants were tested on children, but they are used on them. In animal research with antidepressants used in early development, the animals showed increased depression and anxiety in later life.

We do know that low serotonin levels appear to be linked to aggression. Especially the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. Research has found long-term use of SSRis can reduce the levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. There is even a possibility that these young people treated with SSRIs are having violent episodes when they have dips in their serotonin due to the SSRI having a short half-life. So, it may have something to do with enhancing the amount of serotonin and then getting sudden dips due to the difference in the adolescent brain, increased metabolism of the drug in young people and a shorter half-life of the drug. However, there are other methods that can be used to support serotonin rather than using SSRIs. These should also be examined as possible safer choices.

I would also point out another possibility is that a lack of sulfation of serotonin may be the issue for increased anxiety and aggression seen in these young people, rather than a lack of enough serotonin. Mice engineered with a knockout gene for 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase (MST) exhibited increased anxiety along with elevated levels of serotonin in the brain. (Nagahara N, et. al., 1986.) MST can produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which can subsequently be oxidized to sulfate, so it probably plays an important role in the production of serotonin sulfate and therefore in serotonin transport. Its deficiency would be predicted to result in an accumulation of unsulfated serotonin. This also suggests that it is a deficiency in serotonin sulfate rather than a deficiency in serotonin that leads to anxiety, and this could explain contradictory research results seen on the relationship between serotonin and anxiety. (Morley, Seneff, 2024)

In a recent Swedish sudy of 850,000 individiduals, they found SSRI use was linked to 43% increased risk of violent crimes in 15 -24 year old young people.  This association was not found to be significant in older individuals.

Among individuals 15 to 24 years old, there were significant associations between SSRI use and arrests for violent crimes with preliminary investigations (HR, 1.28; P <.001), nonviolent crime convictions (HR, 1.22; P <.001), nonviolent crime arrests (HR, 1.13; P <.001), nonfatal injuries from accidents (HR, 1.29; P <.001), and emergency inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol intoxication or misuse (HR, 1.98; P <.001). The researchers also found that the association between violent crime and SSRIs remained significant among individuals 15 to 24 years old after analyzing the results with regard to gender (among boys and young men: HR, 1.40; P =.002; among girls and young women: HR, 1.75; P =.023). The researchers pointed out that there were other things going on in the lives of these people that could be confounding the data. However, I believe with the current research and the fact that many violent crimes by young people are associated with SSRIs, this should give us cause to take a closer look at these drugs and consider reevaluating their use or how they are used. At the same time we should examine the reason for depression in our society at large. Depression is an emotional response to complex problems and those issues are not solved with a drug.

Suggestions For Therapists and the Medical Establishment to Consider For Diagnosed Depression

  Cognitive Therapy or some other type of  "Talk Therapy" Both cognitive therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy have proven to be as effective as medications in treating major depression. A book that you can suggest to patients is "Feeling Good" by David Burns.

• Examine genetic predispositions towards depression and use nutrigenomics to make changes. Serotonin is not the only neurotransmitter and there may be predispositions to instability of various neurotransmitters.

  Sleep must be considered: Low serotonin if it exists leads to low melatonin and sleep issues. Melatonin can be used for sleep. Doing this also helps save the serotonin to be used for other things. However, additionally L-tryptophan or 5-HTP can be used as precursors to making serotonin and then melatonin.  L-tryptophan is used to make 5-HTP and then 5-HTP is used to make serotonin and serotonin is used to make Melatonin. For more details on natural methods to support melatonin levels go to this link.

• Exercise is helpful. It has been shown to be as beneficial as Zoloft in Duke University Medical Center trials.

• Eat high nutrient, organic foods.

• Supplements to support normal serotonin levels, happiness and a good functioning brain include Vitamin D: Vitamin D regulates the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. (Vitamin D levels should be measured before supplementing.)

• Omega-3-fatty acids: One type of fatty acid called ecosapentanoic acid, facilitates serotonin release from brain cells into synapses by reducing E2 series prostaglandins. These inflammatory prostaglandins can negatively impact the serotonin in the brain cells and block the release of serotonin into the synapses between the brain cells. The omega-3-fatty acid called docosahexanoic acid influences serotonin receptors by increasing cell membrane fluidity in postsynaptic neurons, which makes the receptors more accessible.

• There are also herbs such as adaptogens, nootropics, and general nervines that may help these individuals. They should also have their biotransformation/detox system supported as needed and any other support specific to the individual. There is a lot that naturopathic medicine/functional medicine can offer these individuals.

For future discussion:
This is one area we need to focus our attention but there are others. You cannot solve a problem without finding out what the causes of that problem are. Otherwise you are simply attending to symptoms and will never eradicate the causal issue.  Ultimately, we need to dig deep and get to the cause of why we have an epidemic of depression and kids who do not value their life or the lives of others. Not just in young people, but in all citizens. 

I realize there are problems with programs at schools called "restorative programs" and "promise programs" which lead to schools not turning kids into the police for violent acts. This program is why Nikolas Cruz (most recent shooter in Florida) was not turned into the local police when he should have been for numerous previous violations. This would have put his name on a government list and kept him from being able to get guns when a gun-check was undertaken. 

I also realize there are problems with kids spending so much time on Facebook, watching TV, texting, playing videos and being in chat groups. They lack the real one-on-one socialization and replace it with a digital world. Face-to-face socialization is important to learn the real value of having friends, connecting and having a communication that leads to a real conversation and learning to value other human beings. 

Herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, sugar, food additives and hormones in the standard American diet do not build healthy bodies or minds. Add in a dash of alcohol, street drugs, and prescription drugs and things really get complicated.

I would add that many kids do not get out into nature enough or ever. This is important as  it is a way for them to connect with something that moves their soul. Even a kid that has trouble socializing can connect with nature in a way that can significantly touch their life. Taking kids to farms or the woods can allow them to connect in a "real" way if they have trouble connecting with other kids. It can be a step to connecting with other humans in a more meaningful way.

I think I will stop here as I don't want to simply list all the societal problems young people face these days. They are coming into a world that could use some improvement and I know the place I start with all improvements is usually with myself. So, perhaps I need to help a young person to live a more meaningful life this week.