The myth of school shooters and psychotropic medications

Behav Sci Law. 2019 Sep;37(5):540-558. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2429. Epub 2019 Sep 12.


There has been an assertion in certain parts of the media, especially social media, that the majority of individuals who have engaged in a school shooting were prescribed psychotropic medications prior to the event. To determine if there is any validity to this assertion, the authors of this article reviewed publicly available information regarding individuals involved in "educational shootings" per FBI publications for active shooters from 2000 to 2017. Sources of information included news reports with official citations, official reports regarding events, available court records, and FBI Freedom of Information Act requests. Secondary data-points were also collected, such as location, number of weapons used, number of victims, legal outcome, and whether the shooter committed suicide. From the information obtained, it appears that most school shooters were not previously treated with psychotropic medications - and even when they were, no direct or causal association was found.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data
  • Gun Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs