Drugs with Potentially Psychotic Side Effects: Which Ones are They (& Who Deserves to Know)?
During a six-week span in 2002, four soldiers from Fort Bragg
were accused of killing their wives. Three of them committed
suicide. While the Army officials who investigated the cases
said the killings were likely "due to existing marital
problems and the stress of separation while soldiers are away
on duty," many believe the true cause may have been Lariam,
an anti-malaria drug.
Drugs prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and depression
can lead to suicidal thoughts, aggression, rage and
The drug has been given to over 20 million people, including
U.S. soldiers, since it was approved in 1989. Three of the
four soldiers who killed their wives, and later committed
suicide, also took Lariam. The drug is known to cause neuropsychiatric
side effects, including nightmares, depression, hallucinations,
paranoia, psychosis and aggression.
Internal documents from the drug's maker, Roche pharmaceuticals,
even show that they have received over 3,000 reports of such
psychiatric problems linked to the drug.
"The military is drawing the wrong conclusion from those
deaths," said public health specialist Sue Rose. "The
true cluster, the true group you want to look at are those
men who took Lariam, and of the men who took Lariam, who all
served in Afghanistan, all three of them killed their wives
and subsequently committed suicide."
Others in the military community, as well as civilians, have
experienced psychotic effects from the drug. Former Green
Beret John Lown said his unit called the days they took Lariam
"manic Mondays or wild Wednesdays," according to
a CBS New report.
His wife, Debbie, also noticed changes when John was on the
drug. "He just turned ugly towards me
I mentioned that to other wives, they said that's the way
their husbands are as well."
Other reports by CBS News include a couple who took Lariam
for a vacation to Africa, and the husband committed suicide
six months later. Another woman took the drug for the same
reason, and experienced such extreme psychosis that she had
to spend a month in a U.S. psychiatric hospital, where she
was diagnosed with Lariam-induced psychosis.
ADHD, Depression or Anxiety? Psychotic Effects Possible
From These Meds
Ritalin, Concerta and other ADHD drugs can cause suicidal
ideation, aggression and violent behavior in kids.
Lariam is not unique in its potential to cause severe psychotic
effects. Other commonly prescribed drugs, including Ritalin
and Concerta for ADHD, and Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft for depression,
have been linked to such effects.
In 2005, the FDA added warning labels to ADHD drugs belonging
to the methylphenidate class because of concerns of psychiatric
side effects, including visual hallucinations, suicidal ideation,
aggression and violent behavior.
Antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors) have also been linked to suicide and violent behavior,
particularly in children. Perhaps one of the most well-known
and tragic incidents involved 18-year-old Eric Harris who
was one of the Columbine High School shooters in 1999. Harris
was taking antidepressants at the time of the shootings.
Other children, too, have committed violent crimes while
taking these drugs. These include:
Kip Kinkel, 15, who killed his parents and two classmates
and wounded 22 others while on Prozac.
Elizabeth Bush, 14, who wounded a classmate at Bishop
Neumann High School in Williamsport, Pa. while taking
Jason Hoffman, 18, who wounded a teacher and three students
at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Calif. while
taking Effexor and Celexa.
Drugs With Psychotic Side Effects to Watch Out For
Because side effect information on any drug is often hard
to come by, sketchy and, at times, confusing, knowing about
the potential for psychotic side effects before taking a drug
is often the exception rather than the rule.
Whether you want to know before taking a drug yourself, giving
one to a child, or suspect someone you know may be experiencing
psychotic effects, make a note of the drugs below, and their
potential for drastic psychotic side effects.
Ritalin, Concerta, Methylin and Metadate
|Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Visual hallucinations
- Suicidal ideation
- Psychotic behavior
- Violent behavior
Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro
(SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants)
Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Akathisia, an overwhelming physical and mental restlessness,
which can lead to destructive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Mania and manic-like symptoms
- Violent behavior
| Anti-malaria drug
Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret
- Suicidal ideation and attempts
- Violent behavior
- Emotional instability
Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin
|Anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, muscles spasms, anesthesia
- Increased excitement
- Irritability and aggression
- Hostility and impulsivity
- Attacks of rage or violence
- Antisocial behaviors
- Suicidal ideation
Is it YOUR Right to Know Who's Using Drugs With Psychotic
Certainly most would not argue that the patient has a right
to know what types of side effects any medication might cause
(though this may or may not happen).
But what about your neighbors? Coworkers? Family? Do they
have a right to know that someone close to them may experience
psychosis as a drug side effect? Considering that it could
put them in harm's way, some would say yes. Others would say
it's nobody's business but the patient's.
As it stands, no one is required to tell anyone anything.
Doctors, yes, should tell their patients the risks, but do
Debbie Lown, whose husband was affected by Lariam while in
the military, voiced her opinion when she complained about
the drug to military authorities as long ago as 1996.
Said Lown, "I said, 'I'm not asking you to stop giving
them the Lariam. I'm just asking you to better inform the
soldiers of what they're taking, tell their wives, because
they'll save marriages that way, they'll save lives that way.'"
Adverse Drug Reactions On the Rise: What You Can Do to Shield Yourself from the Dangers of ADRs
Is Your Doctor Skimping on Giving You the Best Advice?
News: The Dark Side of Lariam
Military's Use of Malaria Drug in Question
News: Ft. Bragg Killings Blamed on Stress
May Trigger Violent Behavior
Net: FDA Gets Tough on ADHD Drugs
for Human Research Protection
Academy of Family Physicians