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Dr. Rath Health Foundation

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Painkillers and sedatives associated with increased risk of committing homicide

Image: By Leonardo D'Amico [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via flickr.com

With 70 million Americans known to be taking mind-altering pharmaceuticals and the number of mass shootings in the United States having risen sharply in recent years, speculation has been rife for some time now that certain classes of prescription drugs may be a contributory cause in homicidal behaviour. Further attention was drawn to this thought-provoking hypothesis just recently when the co-pilot responsible for the deliberate crashing of Germanwings flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain was subsequently found to have been taking antidepressants. Now, for the first time, a study published in the World Psychiatry journal has found that painkillers and sedatives are associated with a significantly increased risk of committing homicide.

Analyzing data on 959 people aged between 13 and 88, all of whom had been convicted of homicide between 2003 and 2011, researchers in Finland looked at records from the country’s nationwide drug registry. Police reports were also studied in order to ascertain whether the assailants were considered drunk or high on illicit narcotics at the time they committed the murders. For a control group, the researchers compared each person who committed homicide with 10 who had not, but were the same age and sex, and lived in the same town.

To the researchers’ surprise, the greatest risk was found to come from the use of common anti-inflammatory painkillers such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen, which increased the likelihood of committing homicide by over 200%. Similarly, opiate pain relievers raised the risk by 92%, benzodiazepine sedatives by 45% and antidepressant use by 31%. Notably, while 79% of the homicides involved alcohol, the connection between homicide risk and the various categories of pharmaceutical drugs remained statistically significant.   

As this study reminds us therefore, there’s no such thing as a “safe drug”. If you doubt this, consider the fact that a recent scientific review examined the health risks of taking paracetamol on a long-term basis and concluded that its dangers are underestimated even by doctors. Contrary to the general impression given by the pharma industry and its stakeholders that paracetamol is a safe “cure-all” drug, the study showed that long term use of it raises the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, renal failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and early death.

Ultimately, however, with painkillers being its third highest grossing sales category at almost $60 billion per year, the reality is that the drug industry doesn’t care about the damage caused by its toxic products. Driven by the profits it has to make for its shareholders, improving human health is not its driving force. Artificially created and strategically developed over an entire century by the same investment groups that control the global chemical and petrochemical industries, the pharma industry’s trillion-dollar-a-year sales are based on the patenting of new drugs. These patents essentially allow drug companies to arbitrarily define the profits for their products.

But with the global mass media now earning a significant portion of its income from drug advertising, it would clearly be naive to expect to see headline news reports containing the whole unvarnished truth about the pharma industry. Instead, so far as this latest link between drugs and homicide is concerned, we predict that many news outlets will essentially either ignore it, or, if they do report it, accompany it with reassuring caveats that “more research is needed.” Tragically, therefore, until such time as the fraudulent “business with disease” is finally brought to an end, many more lives yet will be wrecked and countless innocent people will continue to die.

11 June, 2015

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