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Are U.S. School Shootings Drug-Fueled?

US school shootings are nothing new – in fact, they’ve been happening since at least the mid-1800’s, with some of the deadliest occurring long before high-powered maximum capacity assault weapons were available. With perpetrators of many different types, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone of any age could shoot and kill innocent children. The depravity and sickness of it all has caused many people to seek out answers for this behavior, with some questioning whether US school shootings are drug-fueled.

When examining some of the most deadly US school shootings in recent history, we see that there are a number of striking similarities between the killers. This often includes a high level of intelligence hindered by social awkwardness, and little to no involvement in drugs or alcohol. We see this when examining the following US school shootings:

  • Charndon High School Shooting: 15 year old TJ Lane killed three students in February of 2012
  • Columbine High School Massacre: Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 34 people, killing 13 of them in April of 1999
  • Red Lake High School Shooting: 16 year old Jeffrey Weise kills 9 people and then himself in March 2005.
  • Virginia Tech Massacre: Seung-Hui Cho shot nearly 50 people in 2007, including students and teachers, killing 32 total.
  • Amish School Shooting: In 2006 Charles Roberts (not affiliated with the school in question) shot 10 young girls, killing 5 of them.

These recent shootings have sparked debate about gun control, mental illness and a number of other critical issues, prompting some to ask “What’s wrong with people today?” However, the fact of the matter is that this is nothing new.

Going back to the 80’s we see a spate of school shootings at the end of the decade: Laurie Dann kills 2 at her school in ’88, James Wilson also kills 2 at his school the same year, and a few months later in early 1989 Patrick Purdy kills 6.

The further back in history one looks, the more one sees this is the same old tired story. The question is always the same: Why? It’s difficult to believe that a sane person could carry out such acts, so many assume that drugs are involved. However, we see in case after case that this is not true; and there is potentially good reason for it.

People who are addicted to drugs are consumed by one primary focus: obtaining and using their substance of choice. For most this is a full time job, requiring a massive amount of time, effort, money and resources. Often addicts let their relationships, careers, education and health be destroyed while they continue to get high or drink. They have little time or resources to collect weapons and plan an attack, much less carry one out. Additionally, because committing such an act does not lead to more drugs, booze and substance abuse, there’s no benefit or reward.

In most cases US school shootings seem to be related to mental health issues or appear to have no cause whatsoever. Nevertheless, it is possible that pharmaceutical drugs contributed to some of the shootings. Consider the Columbine killings, perpetrated by Eric Harris and his friend Dylan Klebold. Harris was reportedly taking the anti-depressant drug Luvox, which some have theorized could have caused his psychotic behavior. (Eric David Harris A ColumbineSite.com)

Other than this connection to drugs, some of the killers have had parents or other close family that were drug abusers or alcoholics. However, overall we see almost no evidence of drug use among the killers – at least not during the time of the killings.

And now, just in the last week there has been another deadly US school shooting, with Adam Lanza killing 20 first graders and 6 teachers and school staff before committing suicide. Initial reports do not indicate drugs or alcohol were involved at all; instead, some reports have suggest that Lanza suffered from Asperger Disorder and, like many other school shooters, was socially withdrawn and awkward. (Maese, Rick and Hermann, Peter Portrait of Adam Lanza and his Family Begins to Emerge Washington Post 12/17/2012)

The fact that most US school shootings have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol tells us precisely where education and prevention efforts must be focused: on mental health.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More