Did Psych Meds Cause the Fort Hood Shooting?

Another mass shooting is added to the list of violent acts linked to psychiatric drug use. The Fort Hood shooter, Ivan Lopez (shown), had prescriptions for various medications to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia, and he was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On April 2 he smuggled a semi-automatic handgun into Fort Hood, Texas, killing 3 and wounding 16 before taking his own life by turning the pistol on himself. In a statement following the tragedy, Fort Hood Base Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said that initial investigations revealed no relation between the shooting and any medical condition or dramatic combat experience. Rather, the precipitating factor seemed to have been an argument he had with fellow soldiers. Within a week Army criminal investigator Chris Grey confirmed the quarrel was related to Lopez’s request for leave to attend his mother’s funeral last November. Investigators do not believe he acted due to any ongoing mental problem.

Nevertheless, media reports harp on the possibility of Lopez’ PTSD causing the violence, prompting NPR’s Joseph Shapiro to answer in an April 3 report, Shooting Unfairly Links Violence with Mental Illness — Again. He points out that those with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Yet Shapiro barely mentions the role psych med side effects are known to play. He even makes the claim, “There are few factors that are more likely than others to be present among people who do become violent.”