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Focus needs to be on psych drugs, too

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By Ben Carlson

Column as I see ’em …
Let’s steer the mass murder conversation away from gun control and put it where it belongs: drugs.
Specifically psychotropic drugs — you know, the ones advertised on television that include a full slate of nightmarish side effects, including delusional acts and suicide.
Yet the reporting on the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut are virtually bereft of any discussion about these types of drugs, despite the constant references to both shooters having serious ongoing mental health issues.
And in neither case has it been disclosed, nor will it be, which of the panoply of psychotropic drugs these obviously psychotic young men were on when they murdered dozens of people.
One major reason for the silence is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known by the acronym, HIPPA.
Enacted in the mid-1990s, HIPPA was designed to do a lot of things, including forbiding healthcare providers from releasing medical information without a patient’s consent.
No one wants their personal medical information bruited all over town, so in that sense the act works as designed.
But, if memory serves, that was also around the time pharmaceutical companies began to sidestep physicians and began marketing their products to the masses. Their emphasis then and now is to convince as many people as possible that they are either depressed, deprived of sleep, sexually impotent or have children who are entirely too active and need a pill to calm down.
The rare side effects such as nightmares, psychotic episodes, rectal bleeding and suicide, just to name a few, are mentioned during the onslaught of TV commercials, but appear like the fine print on the back of a lottery ticket so as not to discourage too many users.
But like the lottery, someone’s going to win or, in the case of these pills, lose, and go absolutely bonkers on a schoolroom filled with children or a movie theater filled with Batman fans.
Yet when the obvious question of why someone would do such a hideous thing surfaces, the pills these people have taken are immediately removed from the equation, leaving investigators to mull other possible solutions, including the fact that they had, or had access to, guns.
Meanwhile the pill factories — held harmless thanks to HIPPA — tirelessly continue to push their dope while hoping no one notices the connection.
Think I’m nuts and should be taking some pills of my own? Perhaps, but for every dollar the National Rifle Association uses to keep state and federal lawmakers in line, the pharmaceutical companies donate 100 or more.
Does that mean the pharmaceutical companies are to blame for these mass shootings? No, it wasn’t their intent to drive people loony, just as it isn’t Smith & Wesson’s intent that someone use its products to commit murder.
But it does mean that gun control legislation that does not include restricting ownership for those incapable of managing life without the help of psychotropic drugs will be meaningless, whether folks like me have an AR 15 with a 30-round magazine, or not.

Speaking of intent … I’ve written plenty in the past few months about the county’s recycling saga, and need to make amends for an oversight.
I have lobbied long and hard, albeit in vain, for the fiscal court to adopt mandatory trash and recycling, and have credited on several occasions Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway and Magistrate David Ruggles for attempting to get it enacted.
I only recently found out that Magistrate Juretta Wells supported it, too.
While I normally don’t like to ask magistrates how they intend to vote on an issue, mandatory collection was never brought to a vote and, in retrospect, I should have sought opinions from each magistrate, including Wells.
I’ve already apologized to her for not doing so, and I apologize to you, our readers, as well.