Is Ritalin the Root of Student Violence?

As communities reel from one massive act of student violence after another, the nation looks for answers. How many are looking at the schools themselves as the conduit through which millions of students are drugged with mind-altering drugs?

November 20, 1986: Rod Mathews, 14, beat a classmate to death with a bat in the woods near his house in Canton, Massachusetts. Though Rod was extremely bright, he was put on Ritalin when he was in third grade.

February 19, 1996: Timmy Becton, 10, grabbed his three-year-old niece as a shield and aimed a shotgun at a sheriff’s deputy who accompanied a truant officer to his Florida home. Becton had been taken to a psychiatrist in January to cure his dislike of school and was put on a psychiatric drug, Prozac. His parents said that when the dosage of the drug was increased, Timmy had violent mood swings and that he would “get really angry…”

May 21, 1998: Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 22. Kinkel had been prescribed both Ritalin and Prozac.

April 16, 1999: Shawn Cooper, a 15-year-old-sophomore at Notus Junior-Senior High School in Notus, Idaho, was taking Ritalin when he fired two shotgun rounds, narrowly missing students and school staff.

April 20, 1999: Eric Harris, an 18-year-old senior at Columbine High School, killed a dozen students and a teacher before taking his own life. Prior to the shooting rampage, he had been under the influence of Luvox.

May 20, 1999: T.J. Solomon, a 15-year-old at Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., was being treated with Ritalin for depression when he opened fire on and wounded six classmates.


A November 1997 medical report found: “The association between benzodiazephine use and attempted suicide is especially high for…the young, and for males…” In the April 1996 Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, a study found that “the older tricyclic antidepressants are a significant cause of suicide” and accounted for the majority of antidepressant deaths studied between 1986 and 1990.

A December 1996 French study entitled, “Suicide and psychotropic drugs,” established that “suicide attempts are more frequent among patients taking antidepressants…”

In Denmark, with a huge usage of psychotropic drugs, the suicide rate is twice the rate of that in the United States…

In the U.S., teen suicides have tripled since 1960; today, suicide is the second leading cause of death…

In Israel, between 1981 and 1994, the estimated suicide rate for 15- to 19-year-old Jewish boys increased by about 183 percent. (Tellingly, the suicide rate dropped 10 percent during a 1997 period when Israel’s psychologists went on strike.)

Australia’s suicide rate increased between 1960 and 1967 when legislation was passed to enable a person to obtain multiple prescriptions for sedatives. When the law was modified in 1967 to restrict the practice, there was a decrease in per capita sedative usage and a decline in suicide rates.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.