Our humble blog has published a number of excellent articles in the wake of the Newtown mass shooting, pointing out the lack of relationship to the killer's supposed autism diagnosis, and looking at whether the use of psychiatric drugs could have been a factor in his behavior. We still don't know what drugs, if any, he may have taken, but as several writers have pointed out, the link between such events and the kinds of medication being given routinely to troubled young men is indisputable.
Indisputable, but largely ignored by the mainstream media and medicine. In any one case, it is impossible to "prove" the drug played a role, so we are left with abstract discussions of adverse event labels. Then when we get down to cases like Newtown, we wait and wait for official reports, and are reminded that any evidence in this one instance is necessarily anecdotal. Meanwhile, senseless deaths pile up.
That's not good enough. We need a robust national discussion about whether any drug is acceptable that, as a "side effect," can lead to mass casualties among people not even taking it. And that's where my previous reporting on a totally different drug, called Lariam or mefloquine, remains instructive to me. That anti-malaria pill has been linked to psychosis, depression, suicide, and homicidal violence so many times and ways that there is really no question about its capacity to cause those things. And yet the drug rolls on, the denial continues, and when an inexplicable death or outburst occurs, no one even thinks to raise the queation. It's a familiar pattern, and I'm sure that's how Pharma likes it.
But here are two recent cases that ought to raise exactly those questions. You may have heard the reports that one of the most senior SEAL commanders, Job W. Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, committed suicide in Afghanistan last month.
To anyone familiar with the military's elite Special Forces, this sounds very strange. These highly trained operatives are used to stress and have been vetted for mental health problems. Of course, bad things happen, but before deciding this is one more casualty of frequent deployments or family stress, the question needs to be asked: Given that he is of an age to have served multiple tours in combat zones, and given that Afghanistan is one of the places where the military routinely prescribed mefloquine, did he take it? Did he exhibit any of the signs of toxicity like anxiety, troubled dreams, paranoia, etc.?
Sadly, the question is relevant even if he had not taken it recently. The drug is fat soluble and easily passes through the blood-brain barrier, where its half-life is exceptionally long. There are countless veterans who continue to suffer disabling mental and physical effects from the drug.
The military vows a full investigation, but that's a laugh. The Pentagon has a long and miserable record looking the other way when this drug, which it invented and licensed, is a plausible suspect in suicides or homicides, starting with its sickening coverup of the string or murder-suicides at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, among Special Forces soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan.
Now we have a top Special Forces officer killing himself a decade later. Meanwhile, the military's suicide rate has continued to rise to one a day despite all the therapy, awareness, and other interventions announced with great fanfare. In fact, environmental, not strictly emotional, factors are surely at work but resolutely ignored, including the massive over-medication of troops for everything from an imagined anthrax threat to psychiatric drugs to suppress anxiety.
The second case at first glance seems preposterous to speculate about in this context: The death of Jacintha Saldanha, who slashed her wrists and hung herself in what appeared to be humiliation after connecting a prank calerl pretending to be the Queen inquiring about Kate Middleton.
From the beginning this was obviously an out-of-proportion response to a mild embarrasment. The two radio deejays involved were mortified that a benign prank had been followed by a death; the head of the station pointed out that such a horrible outcome "could not have reasonably been anticipated."
It has subsequently been revealed that there was a good deal more to the story. Saldanha had tried suicide twice in the past year. According to The Australian:
"Indian and British media claim that Saldanha attempted suicide on December 30  with an overdose of pills during a family visit to India. The London Daily Mail reported yesterday that Saldanha survived after being rushed to hospital but tried to take her own life nine days later by jumping from a building.
"Saldanha was admitted to the Father Muller Medical College Hospital in Mangalore for treatment for head injuries and was then transferred to the psychiatric ward where she was treated for depression. On her release, she was given a nine-month course of anti-depressants."
So she was on anti-depressants, which may in some cases raise suicide risks. And her first attempt, as far as we know, came when she was visiting her family in a part of India where malaria is rampant. Was she taking mefloquine, or another in that family of anti-malaria drugs with known psychoactive properties? It's seems unusual to go visit your family in your homeland and try killing yourself when you get there.
It is easy to dismiss this line of inquiry as rampant speculation. But someone has to do it. Someone has to ask whether a veteran SEAL commander's suicide was triggered by a toxic drug, or whether a nurse who had recently traveled to a malarial area, and twice tried to kill herself there and in the days after, was still so fragile that even the small matter of a prank phone call could push her to the unthinkable.
The failure to ask, let alone answer, these questions is endemic to the drug-sponsored media and medical culture we're living in, as is the random acts of self-harm and violence that increasingly affect us all. But I think we all can sense a change is coming.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.