It seems to be a commonly-held belief that there is a strong correlation between the use of prescription drugs such as SSRIs and mass-shooters. For instance, this claim:

Every mass shooting over last 20 years has one thing in common... and it's not guns

The overwhelming evidence points to the signal [sic] largest common factor in all of these incidents is the fact that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes.

Multiple credible scientific studies going back more than a decade, as well as internal documents from certain pharmaceutical companies that suppressed the information show that SSRI drugs [etc.]

Does the evidence support this claim?

If there is a correlation, is there a way to untangle the statistical relevance? For instance, can the use of such drugs among violent offenders be compared to the use among non-violent offenders or other relevant demographic?

  • 2
    Maybe related to Are people with depression more likely to commit murder?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 22, 2015 at 22:44
  • 2
    In my opinion this is impossible to answer conclusively: there have been too few mass murders to achieve statistical significance. I'll ask on Cross Validated.
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 23, 2015 at 10:44
  • 3
    Every mass shooting? That's difficult to accept. Still, it's an important question--it is frequently the case, so it definitely needs to be investigated. NaturalNews regurgitated this story without any vetting or ascertaining its verisimilitude (which NaturalNews is prone to doing).
    – Shon
    Jun 25, 2015 at 8:45
  • 5
    Clue #1: Author of the article states "Every mass shooting" in the title, and then immediately begins with, "Nearly every mass shooting". Clue #2: Article is published in "AmmoLand Gun News" which has a vested interest in deflecting the blame away from guns and onto something else. Clue #3: Article mentions "overwhelming evidence" and "multiple credible studies" without any citations/footnotes whatsoever. I'm not saying there is no correlation, but this claim sounds hyperbolic. Someone needs to seek out these alleged studies and so-called evidence for starters.
    – Shon
    Jun 25, 2015 at 8:46
  • 1
    @Sklivvz - I think it may be useful if you try to analyze backwards - what's the correllation between psychotropics and violence in general, which would increase the sample size dramatically. E.g. does taking said medications cause one to become more violent than not taking them, for the same condition (just to be clear, my - hopefully correct - assumption is that the claim attempts to blame the psychotropics, and NOT the underlying mental issue being treated with them)
    – user5341
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


David Healy, professor of psychiatry at Bangor University and authority on side effects of psychiatric medications who has testified in numerous court cases involving suicides and homicides whose perpetrators were ingesting antidepressants, is on record to say, "Data on antidepressants and violence are much more scarce than data on suicide," and under oath testified to a judge, "We would need to know much more details" (Healy is not opposed to psychiatric medications--he prescribes them to his own patients.). This suggests to me that the claims made in the question are false. The fact is, some studies show it makes some people twice as likely to have violent outbursts, but there is no real evidence and certainly no scientific studies linking them to the rise in mass shootings.

Their prior condition of mental illness greatly increases the probability that they will be or will have been on some form of medication, but it must be repeated, correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. These people had severe psychotic issues before they started taking meds, so the fact that they were on them or had a history of being on them may not be substantial. There are 30-40 million Americans who are prescribed antidepressants, and statistically speaking, virtually none of them commit mass murder-suicide.

  • 2
    Thanks for your answer. I recommend three edits: 1) include the title of the article in the hyperlink (i.e. "A Guide to Mass Shootings in America") 2) Copy-and-paste quotes from the reference into your answer, formatted as a quote using >, for example "A majority were mentally troubled—and many displayed signs of it before setting out to kill" 3) Add references to justify other claims you make (e.g. "Data are more scarce" is difficult to prove, "David Healy has testified" could use a ...
    – ChrisW
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:28
  • 1
    And thank you for working with me to refine this answer! You make good suggestions and will try to make the time today to incorporate them into a second draft.
    – Shon
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:34
  • 1
    The main reason for this site is to present evidence (referenced data) plus opinion about the data you referenced; conversely what this site is antagonistic towards is any personal opinion presented without corresponding evidence. The "Negative searches" section of this answer shows it's a bit difficult to say e.g. "data is scarce" (usually you'd do that by quoting an expert who has published a claim that data is scarce). Comments like "personally I'm highly skeptical" are completely off-topic without evidence to explain why.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:41
  • 3
    Also statements about "motive" (like "they attempt to take the spotlight off sensible gun control laws") are mostly off-topic in a question and therefore (because motive cannot be the subject/topic of the question on this site) equally irrelevant in an answer. E.g. the question is asking whether there's correlation, not asking for opinion about whether claiming that there's a correlation is intended to distract from gun-control etc.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:45
  • 2
    The "real issue" is whether there is a correlation between SSRIs and "mass-murder" as asked specifically. Simply browsing google will provide official side effects white sheets that include "severe changes in behavior", "homicidal and suicidal tendencies", "irrational thoughts", etc. Your answer is based on an study from an unscientific and often biased news outlet and the testimony from a single so-called expert that contradicts common knowledge in his related field - there is a well known link between SSRIs and violence, especially in individuals with undiagnosed or otherwise unknown issues.
    – JSON
    Feb 18, 2018 at 18:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .