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What was Behind the Tragic Sandy Hook School Shooting?

I was in shock, as you likely were, when you heard about the Sandy Hook school shooting that took place on Friday. Ugh!  Another one, and this time—twenty of the twenty-six victims were young children. They, along with the shooter’s mother, were shot by what seemed to be a very mentally disturbed young man.

Herein lies the topic of my blog today.

sandy-hook-school-shooting

photo credit: ValleyIndy.org via photopin cc

My friend and learning expert Pat Wyman reminds us, “virtually all of those who responsible in the last two decades for mass shootings in the U.S. were taking some form of medication. For some it was Ritalin, for some it was anti-depressants, for others anti-psychotics and for several it was a combination of many drugs.”

“What could cause that kind of rage? Could this school shooting be a side effect of medication? Police say 20-year old Adam Lanza committed the crime and so far, there are indicators he had personality disorders. These are the very type that lead to taking controlled substance medication. Just a couple of the many side-effects of these drugs are suicidal and homicidal tendencies.”

I’ve been warning parents and educators for years that kids today are often over-medicated, or perhaps given prescription drugs when what they really need is wise leadership in their home and at school. My own son, Jonathan showed all the signs of being ADHD at age eight, but my wife and I decided to make drugs our last resort. I am glad we did. After adapting our parenting style at home, we all endured that season and Jonathan never took any drugs. He’s now a well-adjusted adult at 20.

Stephen Guffanti, M.D. (practicing physician and author of the book, Does Your Child Really Have ADHD, says, “Students in today’s schools are practically required to belong into the “one size fits all” curriculum club. When they don’t and they struggle, we label them, blame the label and the drug the label,” he continued. “These kids take the drugs we give them and while they are children, many seem to do ok. But when they turn 18, the drugs can only go so far to make them behave as we want them to. Drugs have a maximum dosage and by the time a child is an adult, the problems are still there, but the dosage doesn’t seem to work well any more.”

“In other words, the adults have the same set of problems we drugged them for as kids, but now have 5 year old coping skills as an adult. The drugs did not solve the problems behind their behavior – they simply masked them. As adults, they either take even more drugs in the wrong combination, stop taking them, or mix them with all sorts of things that cause horrific side effects given the combination,” he continued in almost an angry tone. “It is no wonder that the shooter today experienced such rage that he actually shot his mother in the face. And then he went on to shoot innocent little children deliberately while wearing a gun vest. How much worse does this medication problem have to get before we take it more seriously and require better physician care management and warnings,” he asked.

So, here’s my question to you:

If drugs were part of the rage of last week’s Sandy Hook school shooting, what kind of steps can we take to prevent this kind of outrage? Drugs are obviously not going away—but are there steps we can take if they’re part of the problem?

19 Comments

  1. Stephen Grcevich MD on December 17, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Tim,

    I’m a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry…our practice participates in a research network based out of Duke University (original funding from National Institute of Mental Health) to carry out large scale studies examining the safety of medications given to children and teens. I’m also Board President of an organization (www.keyministry.org) that provides free training and support to churches around the U.S. and the world seeking to welcome kids with disabilities and their families. I thought your comments today were unfair and may help reinforce some common misperceptions in the church about kids with mental illnesses and their families.

    While I certainly share your misgivings about kids being inappropriately exposed to medication (I’m often in a situation in which I’m taking kids off medications prescribed by other physicians with problems from unrecognized side effects), on the whole, there are FAR more kids who are able to lead more normal lives because of the benefits of available medications then there are kids harmed. Families of kids with the issues you describe often experience great difficulty in attending or maintaining an active involvement in church because the behaviors their kids display present barriers to church attendance. Way too many kids who could benefit from non-medical treatments for mental illness can’t access those treatments because of the lack of well-qualified professionals and insurance policies that don’t adequately reimburse for counseling/therapy, paying only for all too brief medication visits…the majority of which are with primary care physicians, not specialists.

    I think a better question is to look at how the church can more effectively serve and build influence with families of teens struggling with these types of conditions. Our organization…and others like ours…could certainly use folks like you with your platform to help churches become more effective in supporting families of teens with significant mental illness. That’s the subject of my blog today.

    http://drgrcevich.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/how-would-your-church-help-michael-and-his-anarchist-soccer-mom/

    Enjoy reading your stuff…just felt I had to comment today!

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You certainly added to the conversation. I appreciate your viewpoint and the work you do.

  2. Doug Smith on December 17, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Tim,

    Interesting insight. Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t thought of that before.

    Doug

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks for taking time to comment.

  3. Dale Goodman on December 17, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I keep hearing of other possible causes like mental illness and guns, too. Let’s face it; anyone who would do this is mentally ill and guns seem to be a weapon of choice.

    But, could there be something else influencing these young men to towards irrational anger, hatred, violence and murder?

    Could it possibly be found in one’s soul trampled upon as early as infancy and childhood, then stock piling through adolescence?

    Could the roots of this depravity find its etiology in the ongoing woundedness from broken and unhealthy marriages, families; dads, moms, siblings,extended family, neighbors, peers; verbal, physical, emotional, sexual and cultural abuse?

    Could it be trapped boys to men with toys that can kill. Trapped souls. Caged. Imprisoned. Angry. Embittered. No hope, faith, love. No God of love, forgiveness and healing? What’s to lose? Getting even. It’s over. The end…

    President Obama stated yesterday, “We are not doing enough to keep our children safe from harm.” I agree. One suggestion it to develop a proactive, cultural mindset for equipping, empowering and enriching life-long, healthy, principled, biblically-based, nurturing, caring, respectful and disciplined marriages and families.

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Darry Nagel on December 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Dear Tim,

    I have always enjoyed your messages at Northridge and this one is no exception. I think a deeper look at the problem from a cultural perspective is in order. Throughout their lives, our children are taught by the world that they are not created in the image of God but have ‘evolved’ and are just another animal. They are also taught that it is perfectly fine to murder an unborn child in the womb. Life isn’t sacred, it’s expendable and cheap! Then when you heap on top of that mind altering drugs, the result is the kind of thing that happened last Friday. AND we never hear about all the suicides which take place from mind altering substances. I know from experience as we lost a family member earlier this year due to Ambien!

    Everything in the Bible is there for a reason and it is no coincidence that the term witchcraft in Scripture comes from the Greek word Pharmakeia from which we derive the term Pharmacy!

    The answer from the church needs to be practical Biblical discipline which is considered taboo in our society. There is definitely a drug problem in our nation when 63% of the people are or have recently been on mind altering drugs. While, certainly, there is a place for ‘proper’ use of prescription medication, it’s time to turn back to the Lord America!

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts!

  5. Danny on December 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Darry,

    This information on the relationship with the word Pharmacy and Pharmakeia is so eye opening. The bible says, “For lack of knowledge, my people perish..”. Thank you for the insight.

    Tim,
    Thank you for the updates. I agree with what you said and believe we could bring our voices together, and call for a change in ‘gun laws’. These are the last days, and Satan is using every possible ways to take the lives of as many people he could. Let’s influence a change; lets be a voice!

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Danny.

  6. Donna on December 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Very interesting information. We all know that the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour. He devoured Adam Lanza. Is it because no one told him about Jesus? We as Christians need to go out of our comfort zones and search out the Adam Lanza’s of our communities. As we learn more about him it seems his life was so full of despair. A loner, no friends. It’s so sad. I wonder if Adam knew how much God loved him.

  7. Julie on December 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    and what about the mentally ill? for those who have to live with a child, and who have searched for help throughout their life…who fear them when they become teens because of the rage that explodes in them. I am a believer in Jesus, and am thankful that my children are walking in the Lord along with their spouses. adhd can indeed be controlled by foods, and good values, and parents who follow Christ’s teachings. I have known of others who have had Christ in their life, and still struggle with the mental illness. I am not saying that Adam had an excuse for what he did. He was indeed very wrong!!! I just think that kids now need help more than ever. however we put them in prisons which do more harm to their spirituality, or institutions that are overcrowded. I pray that society will put prayer and Jesus back into schools, and not just when something like this happens. My heart bleeds for the parents and the ones who have lost their loved ones in this horrific crime. May our government see with their own eyes that we NEED God back in everything!!! and that it would not be only when something like this happens!

    • Tim Elmore on December 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      This is definitely a reminder that we need to lead our kids well.

  8. Roger Nielsen on December 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Tim, Thanks for sharing at a deeper level, not just surface. Love how you and your dad both get to the issues not just the syptoms and actions taken. God bless and thank you.

  9. Tracy on December 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    There is a diet called GAPS, gut and psychology syndrome, which was created for autistic children. It explains how the modern “American” diet and medications have destroyed people’s digestive systems which causes the body to become very toxic and malnourished. Depending on the person this can cause mental illness, depression, add, allergies, eczema and more. Each baby is exposed to his/her mother’s intestinal flora, yeast overgrowth, etc… This explains why you often see multiple children in one family with such symptoms. I believe the theory behind the diet is correct and, if so, drugs of any kind will do further damage making a person more depressed or anxious overtime. I’m not saying people should just take their children off medication or that it never offers benefit, but they should be feeding them foods and supplements that can heal the digestive system, especially if they are on medication. It is also true that counseling is very beneficial and very expensive for many people. There are other diets with similar ideas, such as scd (breaking the vicious cycle) and body ecology.

  10. D C Ross on December 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Respectfully disagree with the Dr below/above. There is plenty of evidence calling in to question the efficacy and safety of psychiatric “medications” for children and adult. Both in the short term and certainly in the long term. Any shortages we face of non-drug options for our youngsters is due directly to the rise in the power of the pharmaceutical companies and American Psychiatric Association. But don’t take my word on it, read Robert Whitaker’s ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ visit the madinamerica.com website. The original post was spot on; drugging a child or adult teaches nothing. So-called mental illnesses are constructs, culturally bound/determined, not real diseases with specific etiologies. That some people may judge a drugged child as “doing better” begs the question, “better than what? and from whose perspective?”

    Appreciate the dialogue here.

  11. jonette on January 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    It would be very unusual for anyone to medicate “personality disorders”. Your premise falls on very thin ince.

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What was Behind the Tragic Sandy Hook School Shooting?