Some are speculating that the evil, and thank God dead, Adam Lanza was on SSRIs, which are medications designed to mess with your mind (in the pleasantest of ways), and that these drugs somehow caused, or were instrumental in causing, his soulless rampage.
I say “thank God” he is dead for the sake of the parents and family of those murdered who will at least be spared the years of nauseating news reports of Lanza’s “alleged” crimes, and of his interminable trial where he would have been called a “suspect” and where his “sad” life story would have been repeated endlessly by a camera-mugging lawyer anxious for the publicity.
But back to a possible cause: was it drugs? I have no idea. It would be very difficult to tell. It is doubtful an autopsy would unambiguously reveal neural pathways corrupted by the meds that would have made Lanza become the embodiment of evil. Thus evidence of a different kind is needed. What would that be?
Well, we could look at the mall shootings in Oregon, the murders in the Colorado theater, the slayings at Virgina Tech, the horror of Columbine, the heartlessness of Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, the Amish school killings, and on and on, and check whether these men—for they were all men, mostly young—were taking these kinds of medications, for how long, and other information, which we discuss in a moment.
We could remark on the coincidence that an increase in the frequency of these mass murders matched an increase in the prescribing of these drugs (“Johnny won’t sit still in class. Here is a lovely pill.”). And recall that before the widespread use of these drugs was also a time when gun laws were much less onerous and crimes of this nature were exceedingly rare.
Though not nonexistent. The worst incident was in 1927 in a Michigan school (38 dead), done by a man with a knife and a car.
Incidentally, I recall, growing up in northern Michigan, well before the use of these drugs, people bringing guns to school or in their cars, especially near the opening of deer season. Nobody thought anything of it; certainly, nobody was ever shot. A gun in school now would be unthinkable.
But is this increase in drug use and the increase in shootings and the increase in restrictive gun laws coincidental or causative?
Again, it is very difficult to know. Certainly if every one of these evil murderers were found to be on similar medication regimes we would have strong, positive evidence the drugs were at least a contributing factor. This is because we would marry that information with the knowledge that, as stated above, these drugs are meant to mess with our minds.
The evidence would not be conclusive, though. For what if these drugs were as good as touted? I mean, what if doctors got to several, maybe many, young men and medicated them in time to stop them from going on a killing spree? To know that, we’d have to collect an astonishing amount of information on the enormously variable people who have been taking theses drugs. It must run to the hundreds of thousands by now, maybe even millions, with varying dosages, situations, medical histories, etc.
Even this wouldn’t be enough, because we would still be left with the counterfactual: if this set of young men were not given the drugs, they would have killed. That is just something that cannot be known with any kind of certainty. The same holds for the gun laws. We noted an increase in mass murders with an increase in gun laws, but what if gun laws prevented many more such incidents? That’s another counterfactual, and by definition we can never know a counterfactual with certainty.
Its possible to gain information probabilistically, though. We could collect gun law information and the medical histories of drug-taking mass murderers, drug-taking non-mass-murders, and a sample of non-drug-taking mass-murders and non-mass-murderers, and use that to tell us how likely it is the drugs were a cause, or whether the drugs and laws helped prevent crimes.
Just imagine the hurdles, the ambiguities, the differing ways to model such data, the unconscious biases the investigators who have secret wishes and agendas would bring (yes, even though they are scientists). This would be a project of immense proportion. I hope somebody who has the funds does it.
Meanwhile, please join me in praying for the families. May the Lord grant them peace.
Update Reports are now that Lanza was not taking drugs. How about divorce or just pure evil as a cause? This shows how difficult it is to pin something down.