A Central Florida man will be a prime witness during an upcoming government hearing on antidepressants.
The Food and Drug Administration wants to learn if the medication can cause children to become violent, even to the point where they kill themselves or other people. The witness is Joe Pittman, a Sumter County dad who says his son, Christopher, 14, was turned into a killer by antidepressants. The boy is charged with killing his grandparents, Joe Pittman’s parents.
“My mom and dad were my best friends in the whole world,” Pittman said. “It has been heart-wrenching.”
Pitman’s son is accused of shooting the couple to death in their South Carolina retirement home, then setting the house on fire. It was destroyed in the blaze.
“Christopher told me when he did what he did, it was like he was watching TV and there was nothing he could do to change the outcome of it,” Pittman said.
Pittman doesn’t blame his son, but rather the antidepressant drugs Paxil and Zoloft that a family doctor put Christopher on just weeks before the murders.
“It’s definitely the medicine. I know 100 percent in my heart that it’s the medicine,” Pittman said.
And he isn’t the only one who thinks that. Researchers are now questioning whether that type of antidepressant can cause more harm than good in children. One study showed that 25 percent of all children on drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft become dangerously violent or suicidal.
On Tuesday, the FDA sent out a warning recommending that doctors and parents not put children on those types of drugs.
“Children are not little adults, and this sort of solidifies that,” said Dr. Jodi Star, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “Medications that work for adults do not necessarily work for children.”
The dangers of Paxil, Zoloft and other antidepressants were first recognized in Britain and Ireland, where the governments warned doctors not to prescribe them for children. With the warning from the FDA, the U.S. government has now joined in that recommendation.
Drug manufacturers did not respond to requests from WESH NewsChannel 2 for a comment on this story.