Sep 04

That psychotropic drugs and other psychoactive drugs often have negative effects on behavior, is well-known to most. That their use can cause aggression, is known with antidepressants such as Prozac and Ritalin. However, there haven’t been any systematic examinations of these drugs and drug groups for their impact on violent behavior.

Now, U.S. scientists from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices published a study in the open access journal PLoS One based on data provided by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), in which for 31 of a total of 484 studied drugs they found an unusually strong coincidence with reports of violence against others. This does not mean that these drugs directly cause violence, but there could be a connection.

31 drugs of a total of 464 drugs evaluated were associated with 79 percent of cases of violence during a period of 69 months. This included 11 antidepressants, 3 drugs for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADD / ADHD), 5 sedatives and varenicline which is used during smoking cessation. Its active ingredient is sold under the name Champix and has numerous side effects, including suicidal behavior and aggression – therefore, the FDA has recently issued a warning for this substance. The use of varenicline has to be consiedered as highly questionable after this study and is at the top of the list of problematic drugs. One-fifth of the reports of violence were associated with this drug, the tendency to violence is 18 times higher with it than for the other drugs. Bupropion (in Germany acted as Elontril) which is also used for smoking cessation, has a smaller connection to violent behavior, but is primarily used as an antidepressant.

However, there are links to violence with all antidepressants: all ahead is fluoxetine (Prozac) with more than ten times likeliness of violent outbreaks, paroxetine is in third place. With all antidepressants, the connection to violence is 8.4 times more likely than for all other psychoactive drugs. There is also a high probability for amphetamines as Atomexitin (Strattera) and methylphenidate (Ritalin), which are used to treat ADHD and a 9 – and 3.4-fold higher risk of having connection to violence. Of the psychoactive drugs, there is the sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion) with a 8.7-fold and zolpidem with an 6.7-fold increased risk. Among the non-psychoactive drugs was mefloquine (Lariam), which is used for prophylaxis and treatment of malaria, with a 9.5-fold risk.

(Links to research papers and tables: “Medikamente und Gewalt” (German language; in: telepolis 12.01.2011)

May 03

Brain doping / drug abuseIt’s very simple now to order drugs over the Internet, and most pharmacies in Asia will sell medicines over the counter that are only available by prescription in the West. Most popular products in the online catalogs are amphetamines, potency pills and antidepressants. But self-medication is actually risky, particularly with amphetamines (such as Ritaline / methylphenidate),¬† which can enhance performance and concentration leading to dependency and requiring withdrawal treatment at specialized clinics or psychotherapists after months or years of abuse.

According to a study of U.S. pediatricians, the number of ‘doping’ students has increased by 75 percent over the last 8 years. Often the drugs are used incorrectly, like when the cause of poor concentration or erection problems lies somewhere else than where the drug attaches. Erectile dysfunction in men aged less than 55 years, for instance, mostly has purely psychological causes. Habitual intake often leads to overdosing and increased susceptibility to disease-causing side effects. At some point, the user might in fact just treat the withdrawal syndrome (for erectile dysfunction this is often fear of having sex without first taking the drug) – they feel no significant effect of the drug anymore but can not discontinue its use and thus enter a vicious circle. Multiple dependencies, like the use of amphetamines during the day and then in the evening intake of alcohol and / or tranquilizers or sleeping pills, makes everything even more complicated and dangerous. Abuse of prescribed medications causes more accidental deaths in the United States than anything else except automobile crashes, which kill more than 30,000 Americans every year.

The first signs of psychological dependence on drugs can be feelings of insecurity or fear if no intake is possible, or if there is an increase of the dose over time, but the effect of the drug doesn’t feel the same or is completely absent. Another alarm signal could be if over the years, more and more substances are taken in without consulting a medical doctor (this also includes food substitution drugs, injections of hormones, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, nose drops, etc.).

In most cases, drug dependence is admitted very late, after diseases of the organs have developed or accidents occured (often caused by a lack of concentration). For the psychological withdrawal, a combination of psychotherapy and support groups is very effective, but a medical checkup for possible physical damage is also essential.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

06.01.16