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Judges Reduce Sentences in Latest Paxil and Prozac Criminal Cases
In two recent criminal cases, judges have
reduced the sentences for violent crimes committed under influence of antidepressants.
In each case, the judges responded to expert testimony by psychiatrist Peter
R. Breggin, M.D. concerning the adverse mental and behavior effects of SSRI
antidepressants, specifically Prozac and Paxil. Both judges concluded
that the medications contributed to the crimes and in post-conviction hearings
they reduced the sentences of the two men.
A Case of Paxil-Induced Mania and Aggression
In November 2001 in Charlestown, South Carolina,
Dr. Breggin testified at a sentencing hearing before Judge Edward E. Cottinham.
A 27-year-old man with no prior history of violence pleaded guilty to charges
of rape. Dr. Breggin presented evidence that Paxil can cause mania
with disinhibition and aggressive sexuality, and that a Paxil-induced Mood
Disorder caused or contributed to the defendant's actions. Dr. Breggin
described the FDA approval process and related topics. Despite his
initial skepticism, the judge concluded that Paxil did contribute to the
man's crime. Instead of sentencing him to two consecutive life sentences
with no hope of parole, he gave him a more limited 21-year sentence with
actual release in 19 years.
A Case of Prozac-Induced Violence
SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa. Other antidepressants, such as Effexor, can also block the uptake of serotonin causing similar effects. These drugs can cause suicide, violence and other criminal acts through several mechanisms, including the following:
(1) SSRI-induced mania, sometimes (but not always) with psychotic features, such as hallucinations or delusions. During drug-induced mania, the individual can make elaborate plans, including robberies or embezzlement. However, the plans are often outlandish and doomed to failure due to obviously poor judgment. Drug-induced mania can cause many expressions of disinhibited or out-of-control behavior, including sexual acting out, road rage, buying sprees and shoplifting. Drug-induced mania, even when seemingly not intense, can ruin marriages and destroy careers.
All of the features of mania are not required in order to meet the diagnosis of Antidepressant-Induced Mood Disorder with Manic Features. If the individual's mood is "elevated, euphoric, or irritable," the necessary criteria are met.
(2) SSRI-induced depression or worsening of depression. In a seemingly paradoxical effect, antidepressants can cause or worsen depression. In controlled clinical trials for Prozac that were conducted by the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company, depressed patients taking Prozac attempted suicide more frequently than depressed patients taking placebo (sugar pill) or older antidepressants.
(3) SSRI-induced severe anxiety and agitation, especially in a patient already suffering from depression with anxiety and agitation;
(4) SSRI-induced obsessions and compulsions that motivate violence toward oneself or others.
(5) SSRI-induced akathisia, an internal sensation of agitation or discomfort that drives a person to move about, and also to lose impulse control. During akathisia, the inner experience of agitation includes many unusual physical feelings, such as electricity in the head or body. The person suffering from akathisia typically feels compelled to move the feet when sitting, to stand, or to pace. Akathisia is known to increase the risk of suicide and violence.
Dr. Breggin has been a medical expert in many malpractice, product liability and criminal cases involving SSRIs (see www.breggin.com for a limited selection). As a medical expert in 1994, Dr. Breggin provided the scientific basis for a large series of product liability cases alleging violence and suicide caused by Prozac. The court combined the cases in order to allow one organized effort at discovery. This facilitated the process of evaluating secret documents obtained from the company. In this lead role as the medical expert for the combined cases, Dr. Breggin reviewed internal documents from Eli Lilly & Company, the manufacturer of Prozac, and also examined FDA materials and the scientific literature. In a more recent product liability suit against Eli Lilly & Company, Dr. Breggin once again had the opportunity to examine internal documents, this time at the corporate headquarters. As far as Dr. Breggin is aware, all of the individual Prozac product liability suits in which he has agreed to be an expert have been settled or remain active.