Though not a lot of information about Paddock’s psychological health has been released, the newspaper stated that “records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program obtained Tuesday show Paddock was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam tablets by Henderson physician Dr. Steven Winkler on June 21.”
The brand name for diazepam is Valium, which runs the risk of causing aggressive behavior in some people according to benzo.org.uk, who cited examples of the drug and similar classes of medications in connection with aggression for those who were reportedly taking it.
Diazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines, often referred to as “benzos,” which include such drugs as Ativan, Xanax and Valium. According to Rxlist.com, benzodiazepines, prescribed for anxiety, seizures and sleeping problems, are described as the following:
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions. The exact mechanism of action of benzodiazepines is not known, but they appear to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that nerves release in order to communicate with other nearby nerves. One of these neurotransmitters is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that suppresses the activity of nerves. Scientists believe that excessive activity of nerves may be the cause of anxiety and other psychological disorders, and benzodiazepines reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of GABA.
Some of the examples of aggression and professional knowledge associated with benzodiazepines provided by Benzo.org include:
1980 – A woman stabbed her husband to death after taking prescribed doses of diazepam (Valium). After hearing expert medical evidence from Professor Michael Rawlins, that diazepam induces aggressive outbursts, the jury acquitted the defendant completely. Professor Michael Rawlins said that he believed the tragedy [murder] was probably precipitated by the excessive amount (30mg) of diazepam which the defendant had consumed in the preceding twelve-hour period before her husband’s death. -The Law Society Gazette, 22 July, 1987.
‘Aggressive behaviour towards self and others may be precipitated.’ Berk Pharmaceuticals, ABPI Data sheet re: Diazepam, 1991.
1995 – New South Wales, Australia Restriction of clonazepam (a benzodiazepine) prescription was implemented by the Corrections Health Service of New South Wales due to it causing emotionally reactive and aggressive behaviour with self-harm and suicide attempts in inmates.
‘Abnormal affects may develop such as hostility or depression; antisocial behaviour may supervene with rare cases of violence to persons or property.’ Professor M H Lader, OBE, DSc, PhD, MD, FRC Psych, Benefits and risks of benzodiazepines in anxiety and insomnia.
According to a 1984 study, ‘Extreme anger and hostile behavior emerged from eight of the first 80 patients we treated with alprazolam [Xanax]. The responses consisted of physical assaults by two patients, behavior potentially dangerous to others by two more, and verbal outbursts by the remaining four.’ A woman who had no history of violence before taking Xanax erupted with screams on the fourth day of alprazolam treatment, and held a steak knive to her mother’s throat for a few minutes.
Other health professionals argue that drugs such as Valium can be highly effective, especially if taken as prescribed or on a short-term basis.
“Benzodiazapines are very effective, particularly in the short term, for the treatment of acute anxiety and insomnia,” Larissa Mooney, an assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Addiction Medicine Clinic at the University of California-Los Angeles, told U.S. News & World Report. “They calm people down, and they help people fall asleep and stay asleep.”
Mooney also told the news publication that even long-term use of benzodiazepines can be effective for some people. “There are a subset of people who seem to respond very well to long-term benzodiazepines,” she said. “They may be maintained on a low dose and never need anything higher – meaning they don’t develop a tolerance. They may be intolerant to other classes of medications. And it seems to augment their treatment for anxiety.”
The circumstances of why Paddock was prescribed diazepam or if he took it the day of or leading up to the massacre are not known at this time. It is also unknown if the shooter was prescribed or on any other medications.