Did Psychiatric Meds Cause Navy Yard Tragedy?

By:  Rebecca Terrell
Did Psychiatric Meds Cause Navy Yard Tragedy?

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs is investigating whether psychiatric medications such as Trazodone played a role in last week's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, where former reservist-turned-military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and injured three.

Congress is investigating whether prescription medications played a role in last week's massacre at the Washington Navy Yard when former reservist-turned-military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and injured three. U.S. Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs told Washington, D.C.-area radio station WTOP, "One of the medications that [Alexis] received does have a side effect that could in fact have been a problem." He said his committee has directed the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to save all records relating to the 34-year-old mass murderer. "We want to make sure everything that could have been done was done, and that the VA does not do something to change the storyline."

The drug in question is apparently Trazodone, which the New York Times reported Alexis received for insomnia August 23 at a VA hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. He had the prescription refilled on August 28 at the VA in Washington, D.C. Trazodone is an antidepressant often used to treat insomnia but proven to cause suicidal thinking, panic attacks, mania, and aggressive behavior. This psychotherapeutic is directly linked with several murder cases in the past six years, including a 2011 mass shooting at a salon in Seal Beach, California, and a 2009 incident in Maine that left a father dead and a mother injured after Perley Goodrich, Jr. was injected with Trazodone at a psychiatric hospital. Goodrich complained the medication was dangerous and made him feel violent.

Many media such as USA Today reacted to the Navy Yard tragedy with reports that Alexis suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, but the Navy Times said the VA issued a statement in response to these claims denying it ever diagnosed Alexis with or treated him for mental health issues. The September 18 statement confirmed he was treated twice in August for insomnia. "On both occasions, Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented," reads the report. It adds that he "was asked by VA doctors if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied."

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