The subject of gun control versus gun freedom has been one quite argued lately. In light of mass shootings abounding, our country is gripped with argument and contention on the value of our gun rights, or the lack thereof. Some believe it is time to buckle down and really focus on regulating gun ownership. Others believe that we need our gun freedoms now more so than ever.
When a mass shooting occurs, the nation’s focus goes towards gun control and mental health. However, there is little focus applied to substance use, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse. This is a mistake. This is a mistake because substance abuse strongly influences one’s completely broken, completely insane mindset that would obviously have to be present to inspire them to commit a mass shooting.
Oxford Academic did a study on the relationship between gun violence, substance abuse, and mental health. The study located and combined findings from sixty-six studies from 1992 to 2014 that all focused on gun violence and substance abuse. Most of these studies showed a powerful association between substance abuse and drug violence. The two almost always go hand-in-hand. It is very rare for gun violence to occur on the part of a fully sober person who has not had any controlled substances.
A significant fault in our approach to mental health in the United States is our incessant need to medicate practically every incidence of mental health. The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a psychiatric tome published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists hundreds of mental disorders. The text held two dozen mental disorders in 1978. Now the text holds more than two-hundred and sixty-five disorders today. The text is updated every year.
Our country’s proclivity to label and medicate more and more mental disorders has partially contributed to the crisis of mass shootings. When people are put on powerful, mind-altering pharmaceuticals that actually say on the bottle that they inspire violence and suicidal ideation it comes as little surprise when such patients act on the very compulsions that they get from those drugs.
The unreported, unseen, and undiscussed link between gun violence and mental health often holds its roots in addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse comes in all faces, and patients’ abuse and self-medicating of their anti-psychotics may be the most underreported and ignored aspect of the substance abuse scene in the U.S. In reality, mental health patients who are addicted to their meds are likely a huge majority of those who engage in gun violence.
The media rarely reports on this factor of gun violence and the perpetrator’s chemical and psychological reliance on drugs and alcohol. But according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, eighty percent of incarcerated inmates in the U.S. are there because of drug or alcohol-related crime. Sixty percent of criminals arrested for gun violence actually test positive for substances in their bloodstream, detectable for up to forty-eight hours prior to the test being done.
Most human beings do not seek violence naturally with or without guns. This is not in our nature. However, enter powerful, mind-altering drugs and alcohol into the mind of an already troubled individual and it may be enough to tip them over the edge and induce a serious act of violence. Potent medications, prescribed from a loose diagnosis and insufficient science backing the drugs’ efficacy create a dangerous cocktail, a risky scenario for those who take these medicines.
The list of side effects that come from taking psychiatric drugs for mental health is far longer than the list of negative traits in a patient that they do address. When we enter the risk of gun violence and the proclivity for drug users to commit shootings as additional, newly discovered side effects, we start to really comprehend why we need to approach mental health treatment from an entirely different perspective. We need solutions that are counseling and therapy-based, not drug-based.
In a way, this is asking the wrong question. Really, we should be focused on reducing the number of drug users in this country. Then we won’t have to argue about whether or not drug users should be allowed to buy guns, because drug users won’t be such a prevalent percentage of our population. Some experts estimate that sixty million to one-hundred million Americans suffer with a mental illness. Tens of millions are medicated on powerful anti-psychotics that specifically state they can cause violence and suicidal ideation. If we start inhibiting this demographic’s gun rights, we start walking a slippery slope.
Gun control could stand some reform. It could. But pharmaceutical medicating and how we address mental health in the U.S. needs a complete overhaul.