How antidepressants affect the brain and make people more likely to kill
Thinking back to all the different mass shooting cases we’ve covered over the years, you may have noticed that there almost always seems to be one common denominator: the use of psychotropic medications by the perpetrators. Brain-altering antidepressant drugs are so often linked to cases of extreme violence these days that these drug-induced stupors, if you will, have been officially pathologized under the name “akathisia.”
In Greek, the term literally means “inability to sit,” and is a neuropsychiatric syndrome characterized by “subjective and objective psychomotor restlessness,” according to Dr. Fernando Espi Forcen, M.D., a Fellow of Psychosomatic Medicine at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Put simply, akathisia is an unusually altered state of mind that, in some extreme cases, can cause an individual to become preoccupied with thoughts of violence, whether against himself or someone else.
The ongoing trial of Richard Henry Bain is a great example of how akathisia is gaining legal precedence as a trigger of violent crime. Though he’s being accused of first-degree murder in the infamous election night shooting in Quebec back in 2012, Bain’s lawyers say that his use of antidepressant drugs is to blame for the crime, and thus Bain shouldn’t be held legally liable.
Whether or not this is a valid defense is up to the judge in this particular case to decide. But the fact that akathisia is now a “thing” in the realm of the criminal justice system begs the question: what exactly is it? And more precisely, how is it possible for antidepressant drugs to so alter someone’s state of mind that he becomes unable to control a sudden urge to harm himself or others?