Antidepressants, Like Guns: Too Easy to Get

In the face of a tragedy as incomprehensible as The Virginia Tech shooting, perhaps it is best, simply, to pray for the victims and their families, including the family of Cho Leung Hui, the young creative writing student who was disturbed enough to commit this atrocity. The story has reignited debate over gun control. But if anyone in this country can obtain a gun, as Cho did at a local weapon shop, so can they obtain a prescription for an anti-depressant, which Cho was reportedly taking at the time of the shooting.   It would seem that Cho's condition merited far more than an antidepressant prescription. One of Cho's writing professors had noted that his writing was extremely graphic and suggestive of psychosis.  Just last week, word came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) of an "Early Detection and intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis," a program that the Foundation is funding, that is designed to find children at risk of becoming psychotic and give them the attention and treatment they need before it's too late. This important program has been introduced in several states.  Too bad it, or something like it, wasn't in place in time to help Cho, years ago, or at least when he started college. RWJF and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health funded a major study on the use of antidepressants to treat children, results of which were just released, which suggests the benefits of treating children with antidepressants outweigh the risks.  But, as experts have said, one doesn't simply prescribe the pills without monitoring the patient. Who was monitoring Cho, one wonders, or did he get the drugs illegally. There is no question that antidepressants have helped and do help many people, but research suggests that they may still be incorrectly and overprescribed. No doubt the details in this tragic case will soon come to light.  But this table (to be taken with a small boulder of salt, since the web site's author has an agenda to advance) summarizes past cases of erratic violence that have some connection to incorrect prescription/use of antidepressants. Better student support and monitoring systems are clearly needed, especially at colleges.