“CCHR has documented 103 incidents of senseless violent crimes committed by perpetrators taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, resulting in 532 deaths and 973 wounded. Approving psychedelics for mental health use will only exacerbate this.”
Mental health watchdog says adding psychedelics as approved mental health treatment will fuel more acts of drug-induced violence in the community.
By Jan Eastgate
President, CCHR International
November 10, 2023
As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the approval of prescription psychedelic drugs for addressing mental health issues, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International urges policymakers to exercise caution, emphasizing that such a move may further augment the array of psychiatric drugs already associated with inciting violent tendencies. The group’s compelling report, Psychiatric Drugs Create Violence and Suicide, meticulously referencing numerous studies linking psychotropic drugs to instances of violent and homicidal behavior, is undergoing an update to emphasize the potential risks associated with approving prescription psychedelics. The organization believes that such approval could contribute to the prevailing epidemic of acts of senseless violence, underscoring instances of illicit psychedelic use already linked to such acts or thwarted attempts.
CCHR has documented 103 incidents of senseless violent crimes committed by perpetrators taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, resulting in 532 deaths and 973 wounded. Approving psychedelics for mental health use will only exacerbate this.
Consider a recent incident where an off-duty pilot, Joseph David Emerson, 44, had taken psilocybin (magic mushrooms) because of his worsening mental health condition, 48 hours before boarding a flight. Flying in the crew’s jump seat, he suddenly announced, “I’m not OK,” and attempted to pull the handles to cut the plane’s engines. If not subdued by the crew, the plane would have gone into a glide and, if crashed, killed all 83 on board. After being subdued, court records report he calmly walked to the back of the plane and told a flight attendant, “You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad.” He believed he was having a nervous breakdown and felt like he was dreaming. The crew cuffed his wrists, and despite this, during the plane’s descent, he “turned towards an emergency exit door and tried to grab the handle.” On October 23, Emerson was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder. He is also facing 83 counts of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and one felony count of endangering an aircraft. A loving father of two sons, his wife said his actions were completely out of character.
In June 2023, another incident occurred in Washington State with psilocybin implicated. U.S. Army Specialist James Kelly, 26, shot and killed two and wounded three others at the Beyond Wonderland electronic dance music festival after ingesting psychedelic mushrooms, and started hallucinating. Kelly told police that psilocybin may have made him violent.
Pro-psychedelic proponents claim the drug psilocybin could not have been affecting Emerson several days after he’d taken it. However, psilocybin primarily affects the brain by interacting with serotonin receptors, as do antidepressants like Prozac. A hair test shows psilocybin can last in the body as long as 90 days. With Prozac, it can show up in the body for at least 25 days, but it’s possible to stay in the urine for around three months.
These enduring traces set the stage for psilocybin to potentially cause “derealization”—a side effect of the drug that gives one a feeling of detachment from one’s surroundings. People often describe the experience as feeling as though they’re in a movie or a dream. “Psychotic-like behavior” is also among the drug’s risks.
An October 2023 study published in the journal PLOS One, analyzed extended difficulties reported by 608 participants following psychedelic experiences. The “common forms of extended difficulty were feelings of anxiety and fear, existential struggle, social disconnection, depersonalization and derealization,” researchers from the U.S. and UK found. For approximately one-third of the participants, problems persisted for over a year, and for a sixth of them, they endured for more than three years. Transient visual distortions experienced after taking a psychedelic substance were reported by 40–60% of users.
Additionally, the study shows that 8% of U.S. adults ages 19–30 reported past-year usage of psychedelics in 2022, compared to 3% in 2012. U.S. adults aged 35–50 reported even higher growth in usage, from less than 1% in 2012 to 4% in 2022.
While largely referring to illicit uses of the drugs, the authors stated that the “variety of profoundly challenging experiences that can occur following the use of psychedelics” can also occur following use in guided settings.
In the 2020 Global Drug Survey of LSD and psilocybin, 22.5% of the total sample reported at least one negative outcome, with the most common being “mental confusion, memory problems, or racing thoughts.”
Meanwhile, clinical trials for psychedelic therapy are close to gaining FDA approval in the U.S., and therapy involving MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly), or psilocybin is already available in Australia as of 2023.
In Portland, Oregon, where psilocybin was legalized in a November 2020 election after a campaign that promised psychedelics as the solution to America’s mental health problem, Oregon’s Psilocybin Services (OPS) under the Oregon Health Authority has the power to license and regulate the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, sale, and purchase of psilocybin products and the provision of psilocybin services. Psilocybin service centers began to open their doors in the summer of 2023. “For roughly six hours, adults over 21 can experience what many users describe as vivid geometric shapes, a loss of identity and a oneness with the universe,” according to PBS. No prescription or referral is needed. A client can wind up paying over $2,000.
In addition to psychedelic-induced violence, there are also cases of violence linked to psychiatric drugs, either during their use or while the person is in withdrawal.
For example, while we do not know what drug Robert Card, the U.S. Army reservist accused of killing at least 18 people and wounding 13 in Maine in October was withdrawing from at the time, one of his family members reported that he had been “hospitalized for mental health issues and prescribed medication that he stopped taking.” In mid-July 2023, the Army officers became concerned that Card was acting erratically while the unit was training at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. Military commanders asked for the police to be called who took him to the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point for evaluation, where he was treated as an inpatient for several weeks. Keller Army Community Hospital website says it offers “behavioral Services” that include psychiatric drug management; psychiatric assessment; psychological testing; and crisis intervention. Despite his treatment, he recently threatened to shoot up a National Guard Base, according to an NBC report. On 27 October, Card was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, following a 2-day manhunt.
On October 3, 2023, a 14-year-old was arrested for going on a shooting spree at Siam Paragon, a major shopping and entertainment venue popular with tourists in Bangkok, Thailand. He had been receiving psychiatric treatment but had skipped his prescribed drug on the day of the incident. This means he would have been in the throes of a psychiatric drug withdrawal. If he was taking an SSRI antidepressant, post-withdrawal effects may last several months to years and include disturbed mood, emotional lability (excessive emotional reactions and frequent mood changes) and irritability, according to a study analyzing withdrawal symptoms reported by patients.
In January 2023, in Duxbury, Massachusetts, midwife Lindsay Clancy, 32, fatally strangled her three children (ages 5, 3, and 8 months) and then attempted suicide while her husband was out buying food. Mrs. Clancy survived a 20-foot fall. Her legal defense at the time was that she was grossly “overmedicated” and had been prescribed at least nine psychiatric drugs for post-partum depression between October 2022 and January 2023: fluoxetine (Prozac), zolpidem (Ambien), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lamotrigine (Lamictal), lorazepam (Ativan), mirtazapine (Remeron), quetiapine fumarate (Seroquel), and trazodone. This followed the birth of her third child. In meticulous daily journal entries, “she detailed that she had difficulties with each of the medications that were prescribed to her,” Assistant District Attorney Sprague told the court, who added: “She always took medications as prescribed.” On January 1, 2023, she checked herself into McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Belmont, Massachusetts. Her attorney says she was taken off one drug and put on another then discharged. On January 5, 2023, she was discharged from McLean Hospital. Not three weeks later, she allegedly killed her children. Dr. Paul Zeizel, a clinical psychologist, hired to evaluate Clancy, said she had been given an astonishing list of 13 different drugs over the course of eight months, which Zeizel said remained a “conundrum” on how this occurred. “This is not normal [this amount of drugs],” he said.
“Violence and other potentially criminal behavior caused by prescription drugs are medicine’s best kept secret,” says Prof. David Healy, an international expert on psychopharmaceuticals.
Now the FDA and psychiatry’s plan is to add psychedelic drugs to the mix. Any adverse effects will be explained away as another ‘mental disorder,’ obfuscating the drug effects. The latest American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-5 already outlined this in cases where adverse symptoms are prolonged and distressing, calling it “Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder.”
Ketamine, an anesthetic being used to treat depression and other so-called mental disorders, without FDA approval, is already being widely prescribed in ketamine infusion clinics throughout the U.S. Ketamine use is associated with numerous side effects, including flashbacks, amnesia, delirium, and aggressive or violent behavior, according to a study published in the Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology.
In May 2020, ketamine was at the center of two lawsuits alleging that prescriptions of the drug made people carry out extreme acts of violence. Vice reported, “the two lawsuits, which both involve ketamine prescribed for chronic pain, will serve as a warning to the rising number of clinics using potent, controlled drugs to treat highly vulnerable patients.” In the first case, it is alleged that ketamine given to an Albuquerque man by doctors caused him to set himself on fire. Gabriel Saenz was receiving ketamine infusion therapy for chronic migraines at the Injection and Infusion Clinic of Albuquerque. Two days after his final treatment, Saenz, 32, “stabbed himself multiple times, inhaled combustible fuel, and set himself on fire,” according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Albuquerque Journal.
In the second case, police were called to a “rape in progress” at the home of Joseph Branchflower, who had been prescribed a nasal spray of ketamine by his doctors at Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) to treat chronic pain in his lower back and groin. Branchflower took the drug every day for about three weeks. Police officers were called to his home because of a suspected rape of his wife. Upon their arrival, he made death threats to them and punched one officer in the face. He was charged with the attempted rape of his wife and assault against the responding officers and spent 45 days in jail.
“I don’t feel like I’m fully here.”
The above quote was from an article dated November 17, 2022, about “depersonalization after psychedelics,” noting, “post-psychedelic derealization has been in the news, due to the Alaska Airlines pilot who thought he was in a dream two days after taking magic mushrooms and tried to crash the plane he was on.”
The article by Jules Evans, one of the authors of the PLOS One study, detailed an account of a woman who experienced suicidal depression and insomnia after an ayahuasca trip, and who still reports the symptoms of depersonalization and derealization four years later. Ayahuasca (pronounced ‘eye-ah-WAH-ska’) is a plant-based psychedelic brew that can cause hallucinations.
Aisha is a Turkish-American lady in her mid-20s who lives in the U.S. and works in media. She has experienced depression and anxiety since her childhood. According to the article, “She heard that psychedelics can give people ’10 years of therapy in a night’ and decided to give it a go. Aisha researched the risks…. She says: ‘I read the first ten pages on Google about psychedelics and psychedelic therapy, and it was all about the benefits.’” She went to a two-night ayahuasca retreat in Peru, where she was given the brew under a nurse’s supervision.
After the second dose, she reported:
“It started to hit me. I started crying, screaming, shaking uncontrollably. I started having visual hallucinations. I tried to get out of there. I went to the restroom because that was the only place there was light. An overwhelming sadness and panic went through my body and I didn’t know where it was coming from, so I didn’t know how to fight it. I kept going to the restroom and they tried to calm me down and I said ‘can you please take me to a hospital?’ I forgot who I was, who my family was. I felt I was dumb for doing this, and now I’m dying…And then I lost all sense of time and space. I felt like I died and they left me there. I thought I was there for two months alone in the dark.”
Three days after leaving the retreat and back in the U.S., she recounted:
“I woke up crying, shaking. I couldn’t eat anything, and usually when I’m anxious I love to eat. I told my family I had gone to an ayahuasca retreat. My parents are doctors and usually they know what to do to help, but in this instance they didn’t. They were Googling ‘psychedelic side effects’ and there is very little research.”
Days later, matters worsened: She started feeling suicidal thoughts and felt in a “dream-like” state. She couldn’t sleep and “the suicidal thoughts became more insistent.” She went to the emergency department of a nearby hospital. “The doctor there listened to her for five minutes, diagnosed her with drug-induced psychosis, and recommended she be checked in to a psychiatric ward. This, she now feels, was a big mistake.” She was prescribed psychiatric drugs and felt she “was going insane.”
Her mother got her out of the facility and took her back to Turkey. It took seven months to recover, although she still felt “derealization.”
She described this: “It’s like everything is a dream. You know when you’re jet lagged, and you’re just a zombie. That’s my whole life. I don’t feel like I’m fully here.”
Evans refers to the PLOS One study described two examples of people’s accounts of “derealization” taking psychedelics:
• “I spent a long time looking at myself in the mirror, feeling like my soul was missing. Like I was a hollow shell of myself and like I had already died.”
• “I felt like my mind had been shattered into a million pieces, like my mind was no longer connected to my body, afraid that I was having a psychotic break, I’m still not 100% right but I’m so grateful just to be back in my own reality.”
Psychedelics and ketamine infusion clinics are a wrong and dangerous turn in the mental health system. There should be no FDA or official approval of any psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental disorders. It also stresses the need for mandatory toxicology testing of anyone involved in a violent crime, which should be recorded in a publicly accessible database on the findings.
 “Off-duty pilot charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for allegedly trying to shut off engines on Alaska Airlines flight,” ABC News, 23 Oct. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/alaska-airlines-flight-diverted-after-credible-security-threat/story?id=104223059; “Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot warned ‘I am not okay’ before alleged attempt to disable plane engines,” CNBC, 24 Oct. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/24/alaska-airlines-pilot-hit-with-federal-charge-in-alleged-attempts-to-shut-down-plane-engines-grab-emergency-exit-handle.html; “Off-duty pilot who tried to cut engines tried mushrooms as mental health worsened, complaint says,” Politico, 24 Oct. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/10/24/pilot-mushrooms-ap-00123388
 Pete Muntean, Cheri Mossburg, Josh Campbell and Lauren Mascarenhas, “Off-duty pilot accused of trying to shut off airliner’s engines mid-flight said he took ‘magic mushrooms’ 48 hours before the incident, court documents say,” CNN, 25 Oct. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/25/us/alaska-airlines-pilot-wednesday/index.html
 Amanda Maile, Clara McMichael, and Josh Margolin, “Off-duty pilot charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for allegedly trying to shut off engines on Alaska Airlines flight,” ABC News, 23 Oct. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/alaska-airlines-flight-diverted-after-credible-security-threat/story?id=104223059
 https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/26/us/off-duty-pilot-alaska-airlines-wife/index.html; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12663463/Alaska-Airlines-pilot-fantastic-father-Joseph-Emerson-attempted-murder-plane-engine.html
 “Man Accused in Fatal Shooting Spree at Beyond Wonderland Festival Pleads Not Guilty,” Billboard, 7 Jun. 2023, https://www.billboard.com/business/legal/beyond-wonderland-festival-shooting-suspect-pleads-not-guilty-1235367752/
 Linda Carroll, “Effects of psychedelic drugs can last for days or weeks, research finds,” NBC News, 29 Oct. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/psychedelics-mental-health-side-effects-experts-rcna122347; “Psilocybin (magic mushrooms): What it is, effects and risks,” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308850
 Jules Evans, et al., “Extended difficulties following the use of psychedelic drugs: A mixed methods study,” PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0293349
 Op. cit., Jules Evans, et al., PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023
 Op. cit., Jules Evans, et al., PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023
 Op. cit., Jules Evans, et al., PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023
 Op. cit., Jules Evans, et al., PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023
 Chris Roberts, “Oregon Legalizes Psilocybin Mushrooms and Decriminalizes All Drugs,” Forbes, 4 Nov 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisroberts/2020/11/04/oregon-legalizes-psilocybin-mushrooms-and-decriminalizes-all-drugs/?sh=7936891a4b51; Olivia Goodhill, “Oregon wrestles with how to offer psychedelics outside the health care system,” STAT, 10 Mar. 2020, https://www.statnews.com/2022/03/10/oregon-wrestles-with-offering-psychedelic-therapy-outside-health-care-system/
 Christopher Cann, “Arrest warrant reveals Robert Card’s possible motives in Maine mass shooting,” USA Today, 1 Nov. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/11/01/maine-mass-shooting-motive-robert-card/71405015007/
 “Robert Card, Maine shooting suspect, taken for evaluation by police after erratic behavior in July,” ABC 11 Eyewitness News, 26 Oct. 2023, https://abc11.com/robert-card-maine-lewiston-shooting-shooter/13975884/; Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein, Mark Berman, Alex Horton and Timothy Bella, “What we know about Robert Card, the shooter in the Maine mass killings,” The Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/10/26/robert-card-maine-shooting-suspect/
 Daniel Arkin, Melissa Chan and Jason Abbruzzese, “Lewiston police identify Robert Card as a suspect in fatal shootings,” NBC News, 25 Oct. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/lewiston-maine-shooting-robert-card-what-know-rcna122262
 Cara Tabachnick, Allison Elyse Gualtieri, Faris Tanyos, “Maine shooting gunman Robert Card found dead after 2-day manhunt, officials say,” CBS News, 28 Oct. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/robert-card-found-dead-maine-mass-shooting-suspect-lewiston/
 Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng, “Thailand shooting: teenage suspect arrested after two killed at luxury mall,” Reuters, 3 Oct. 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/thai-police-reports-shots-fired-inside-bangkok-way-site-2023-10-03/
 https://connect.springerpub.com/content/book/978-0-8261-0844-9/front-matter/fmatter6; “Siam Paragon shooter suffered a mental health episode: police,” Coconuts Bangkok, 3 Oct. 2023, https://coconuts.co/bangkok/news/siam-paragon-shooter-suffered-a-mental-health-episode-police/
 Carlotta Belaise, et al., “Patient Online Report of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor-Induced Persistent Postwithdrawal Anxiety and Mood Disorders,” https://karger.com/pps/article/81/6/386/282690/Patient-Online-Report-of-Selective-Serotonin .
 Liz Hardaway, “Attorney: Lindsay Clancy, a former CT resident, was ‘destroyed’ by medications leading up to children’s deaths,” CT Insider, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.ctinsider.com/news/article/lindsay-clancy-ct-children-deaths-medications-17772140.php; Abby Patkin, “Lindsay Clancy timeline: What court records, attorney statements reveal about the Duxbury mother’s mental health,” Boston Globe, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.boston.com/news/crime/2023/02/21/lindsay-clancy-timeline-duxbury-mother-mental-health-treatment/
 Ibid., Liz Hardaway, CT Insider, 8 Feb. 2023
 Jen Smith, “EXCLUSIVE: ‘She is wondering what’s going on’: Psychiatrist hired to monitor postpartum midwife mom Lindsay Clancy says she’s ‘flat as a board’ and ‘dulled’ by drugs and depression,” Daily Mail, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11728009/Lindsay-Clancy-psychiatrist-says-flat-board-wondering-whats-going-on.html
 Santiago Salazar, “Lindsay Clancy had ‘one of her best days’ before killing her children,” New York Post, 8 Feb. 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/02/08/lindsay-clancy-had-one-of-her-best-days-before-killing-kids/
 Op. cit., Jen Smith, Daily Mail, 8 Feb. 2023
 David Healy, “Prescription-drug-induced violence medicine’s best kept secret?” Rxisk, 12 Nov. 2012, https://rxisk.org/prescription-drug-induced-violence-medicines-best-kept-secret/
 Op. cit., Jules Evans, et al., PLOS One, 24 Oct. 2023
 Sang Yep Shin, et al., “Chronic administration of ketamine ameliorates the anxiety- and aggressive-like behavior in adolescent mice induced by neonatal maternal separation,” Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology, Jan 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315094/
 Troy Farah, “Prescribed Ketamine Turned These Men Violent, Allege Lawsuits,” Vice, 13 May 2020, https://www.vice.com/en/article/3azza8/prescribed-ketamine-turned-these-men-violent-allege-lawsuits