As many of us still work to make sense of the horrifically tragic shooting that happened Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip, details continue to emerge that may offer some insight into what could have led Stephen Paddock to commit such a heinous act. It is now reported that in June he received a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program on Tuesday that show on June 21, Dr. Steven Winkler of Henderson, Nev., prescribed 50 10-milligram tablets of diazepam to Paddock.
Paddock, who was supposed to take one tablet per day, reportedly filled the prescription the same day at a Walgreens store in Reno, Nev.
Diazepam is known under the brand name Valium and is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol-withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms.
Paddock also received a prescription for the drug from Winkler in 2016, which was also filled the same day.
The specific reason Paddock was taking the drug is unknown.
While many have questioned whether psychiatric drugs are linked to mass shootings in the United States, there is also the question of whether the stigmatization of such drugs—or mental illness itself—can lead those who suffer to stop taking their medication altogether, which could also lead to devastating and destructive results.
It is also worth noting that chronic abuse of diazepam can lead to aggressive behavior.
Dr. Mel Pohl, chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, told the Review-Journal: “If somebody has an underlying aggression problem and you sedate them with that drug, they can become aggressive. It can disinhibit an underlying emotional state. … It is much like what happens when you give alcohol to some people … they become aggressive instead of going to sleep.”
The Review-Journal cites a 2014 study published by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in which the authors wrote, “It appears that benzodiazepine use is moderately associated with subsequent aggressive behavior.”
Dr. Michael First, a clinical psychiatry professor at Columbia University and an expert on benzodiazepines, told the Review-Journal on Tuesday that he believes the drugs would be more likely to fuel impulsive aggression than premeditated behavior.
Referring to earlier reports that Paddock was able to sneak an arsenal of weapons into the Mandalay Bay hotel and placed cameras inside and outside his room before launching his attack, First said, “What this man in Las Vegas did was very planned.”
Paddock’s motive for Sunday night’s massacre, which left 58 people dead and hundreds more wounded, is still unknown, but it is well worth considering every possible angle in this case.
Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.