German police have reportedly found antidepressants in the home of the co-pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings jet into the French Alps, killing himself and the other 149 people on board.
Initial reports said investigators seized a number of “medicines for the treatment of psychological illness” in the apartment of Andreas Lubitz, and found evidence that he had been treated by psychiatrists and neurologists. The psych drugs have now been identified as antidepressants.
Lubitz suffered a “severe depressive episode” six years ago, the German newspaper Bild reported, and spent 18 months in psychiatric treatment, which almost certainly involved antidepressants at that time.
Another report indicated Lubitz also had been treated for anxiety in 2010 with injections of an antipsychotic drug. Still other reports suggest other psychological problems and treatment.
Apparently after all the years in the hands of psychiatry, after their diagnoses and their treating him with psych drugs that included antidepressants, Lubitz had not even received enough help to prevent him from committing mass murder and suicide.
What’s more, the antidepressants he was prescribed could well have been a cause or contributing factor in this tragedy. Antidepressants are known to cause worsening depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, self-harm, anxiety, panic attacks, mania, delusional thinking, hostility, aggression, psychosis, violence, and even homicidal thoughts. The side effects can occur at any time during use or withdrawal from the drugs.
While the psychotropic (mind-altering) drug policies of Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, are not known, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows the use of antidepressants by pilots, a policy instituted in 2008. This is despite the fact there have been 134 warnings from regulatory authorities in 11 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Italy, cautioning that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts.
Not the first pilot to commit suicide by plane
If antidepressants were involved in Lubitz’s crash, it would be the latest in a growing number of such incidents.
In 2007, the FAA issued a report on the connection between U.S. fatal air crashes and the newer class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. It found that of the 61 fatal civilian aviation accidents between 1990-2001 in which the pilot was found to have taken this type of antidepressant, the “pilot’s psychological condition and/or SSRI use was reported to be the probable cause or a contributing factor in 31% (19/61) of the accidents.”
Nor would Lubitz be the first troubled commercial airline pilot to crash a plane intentionally while on antidepressants.
A suicide by plane is believed to have occurred in the 2008 crash in Mount Airy, North Carolina, which killed all six people on board. In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on the probable cause of the crash. With toxicology tests showing the pilot had the antidepressant Zoloft in his system at the time of the incident, the NTSB reported: “Officials say the pilot ‘displayed non-professional behavior’ and that a cockpit voice recording documented the pilot singing, ‘Save my life, I’m going down for the last time’” shortly before crashing the plane.
Former girlfriend feared Lubitz’s erratic behavior
Lubitz reportedly had been exhibiting more disturbed behavior than just depression, behavior that would be consistent with some of the serious behavioral side effects of antidepressants. Lubitz’s personal problems and erratic behavior had become so severe, according to a former girlfriend, a flight attendant, that she ended their relationship out of fear of his increasingly volatile temper.
“During conversations he’d suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me,” she said. “I was afraid. He even once locked me in the bathroom for a long time.”
The woman also described him as erratic and controlling, and said he frequently woke up with nightmares.
Whether or not Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz at the time of the crash was on antidepressants or in withdrawal from them, there is more than enough evidence of the dangerous behavioral side effects of antidepressants to justify a ban on their use by pilots, both in the U.S. and abroad.
This ban would be all the more justified in light of numerous studies that have shown that antidepressants are no more effective in treating depression than placebos (sugar pills). Recent research even suggests that antidepressants may actually make it harder to recover from depression.
If you or someone you know has been damaged by psychiatry or psychiatric drugs, we would be interested in hearing from you. Contact the Colorado chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. We welcome your comments on this article below.