SELF – Why Kirstie Alley’s Comments About Psychiatric Drugs Are So Problematic

As unanswered questions mount about last week’s deadly Las Vegas massacre, the role of psychotropic medication and mental illness are once again under scrutiny. Some people are targeting the shooter’s prescription for anti-anxiety medication as a cause of his heinous crime, and Kirstie Alley’s comments about psychiatric drugs have inflamed the debate.

Kirstie Alley via twitter last week blamed psychotropic medications for the steady increase in violence, noting a correlation based in statistical fact. But despite her claims, anti-anxiety medication has not been shown to cause increased violence in any scientific sample. While a single Finland study found a mild correlation between anti-anxiety medication use and violence, no studies have demonstrated a causal link.  There is simply no scientific evidence that anti-anxiety medication causes violent behavior.

The recent massacre leaves many painful unanswered questions, but the role of psychiatric medication in causing the shooter’s appalling violence shouldn’t be one of them. While mental illness is often blamed for violence, it is seldom the cause. More often people suffering mental illness are the victims of crimes, not the perpetrators. Continuing to vilify mental illness, and its proper pharmacological treatments, adds to the dangerous stigma that keeps people from getting the help they need, and burdens loved ones who are trying to help.

SELF set out to understand the possible role medication could have played in the recent Las Vegas shootings massacre, and I was very pleased to weigh in. To read the full article, click HERE.


And when you look at the mechanism of benzodiazepines, there’s nothing to suggest that they would inherently cause someone to become violent. “They deliver short-acting, relaxing results,” licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., tells SELF. “For somebody that’s really anxious, it can help them feel normal.” If someone suffers from anxiety that manifests in anger, a drug like diazepam can help calm them down, which is “180 degrees” from making someone act violently, she says.

“Psychotropic drugs, when properly evaluated, administered, and followed-up on, are miracles for people suffering emotional problems,” John Mayer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, tells SELF. “To blame such a heinous crime on these drugs may discourage people from seeking out and/or continuing the medications they need.” Psychiatric drugs can help people feel normal again, and often just work with a person’s body to help it operate more efficiently, Clark says.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD