Stephen Paddock Had Been Prescribed Valium

The shootings in Las Vegas are a terrible, terrible tragedy. Can we learn from this?

Prescription drug use and/or an emotional condition leading to psychotropic drug use may help us understand mass killer Stephen Paddock better than a search for his motivations.

“Stephen Paddock, who killed at least 58 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas on Sunday with high-powered rifles, was prescribed an anti-anxiety drug in June that can lead to aggressive behavior, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.” See here for a detailed article.

Valium can cause psychotic symptoms. From web sources, it “Can cause paranoid or suicidal ideation and impair memory, judgment, and coordination.” “Call your doctor at once if you have: confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior; unusual risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger; depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself; hyperactivity, agitation, aggression, hostility.”

We’ve been aware for some time that mass shooters very often are on prescription drugs that affect the brain. Adam Garrie’s article on this is a very good one. Being prescribed this category of drugs is not sufficient to turn one into a killer. On the other hand, it might come close to being a necessary condition. It is known that ISIS fighters take captagon. Guns are also not sufficient, but they too may come close to being a conveniently necessary kind of weapon to kill many people. Bombs, poisons and rockets are not as convenient. If millions and millions of us take prescribed psychotropic drugs and also have access to guns, a few of us are going to become mass killers.

Not all killers go to doctors and get drugs, but enough do that we should think through their situation. Presumably, a potential killer goes to a doctor because he has problems, and they can cover a wide range. There are emotional states that are key. These problems come early in understanding causation. But prescribing drugs that may in a few instances cause or worsen violent behavior is socially and legally accepted as a remedy. That too comes early if we are to understand mass killings. Strong inhibitions have to be overcome usually in order for someone to become a mass killer. Drugs can facilitate that process. They can intensify existing emotional states or bring out new ones.

We usually search for a person’s reasons, and they can cover a wide range. There are always motivations and rationalizations going through a person’s mind. We want to know what makes a person decide to kill great numbers of others. Knowing motives of the mass killers is not enough because they’re always present and they probably are not sufficient to trigger killing. They need to be amplified, and that’s where emotional states, seeking out drugs and taking drugs come in. We can walk around looking quite normal (emotionally stable) to people around us, and yet be harboring and hiding volcanic emotions ready to erupt. We can plan meticulously and yet still be emotionally ready to kill. The human being is a complex animal.

We may raise similar questions regarding the largest mass-murderers in history, the men who attained great heights of political power and instigated the killing of millions of people. Are they in a different category than a lone wolf mass killer or one who leads a small gang? They may not be: “Adolf Hitler, amphetamine addict; Joseph Stalin, alcoholic; Mao Tse Tung, addicted to barbiturates.” Furthermore, “Most serial and mass murderers have been addicts. These include Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and Richard Speck. Amphetamine addict Jim Jones…”

The social environment cannot be ignored. There are pacific times, there are agitated times. This is an agitated time as were the 60s and 70s. Trump is fond of making extreme threats. His opposition among celebrities and media have made many extreme statements. A professor recently wrote that Trump must hang: “To save American democracy, Trump must hang,” Mr. Maischak tweeted in April. “The sooner and the higher, the better. #TheResistance #DeathToFascism.” Now note that Mr. Miaschak subsequently apologized and regretted his action: “My statements each represent the end point of a dark train of thought triggered by my despair over the actions of the present U.S. government,” he said in a statement to the Fresno Bee. “It felt cathartic at the time to write them down.”

He points to his “despair”, an emotional state, and that is what I’m emphasizing above, as opposed to single-mindedly looking for motivations.

Psychotropic drugs do not simply treat identifiable diseases. They affect emotional states. As one scientific paper puts it: “…some substances produce altered cognitive and emotional states, which differ from the normal un-drugged state, and we distinguish these effects from the putative disease-specific effects of prescribed drugs. The distinction matters because, although significant, the consequences of the psychoactive effects of psychiatric medications are not well-recognized.”


10:27 am on October 4, 2017