The Germanwings Crash:  Flying Under the Influence

On March 24, 2015, a twenty-seven-year-old German pilot named Andreas Lubitz flew an Airbus A 320 into a French mountainside, killing himself and the 149 other people on board.  Mr. Lubitz was co-piloting the flight, and he caused the aircraft to crash by locking the pilot out of the flight deck and setting the autopilot to descend to 100 feet.

During the descent, he was contacted by civilian and military traffic controllers, and by the crew of another aircraft, but he made no response.  He also ignored repeated and increasingly urgent requests from the captain to be readmitted to the flight deck.

In an earlier flight on the same day, Mr. Lubitz had set the autopilot to descend from 35,000 feet to 100 feet, and returned it to the original setting after three seconds.  Investigators suggested that this earlier maneuver may have been a rehearsal for the subsequent murder/suicide.

INVESTIGATION REPORT

The crash was investigated by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA), who issued their final report on March 13, 2016.  Here are some of the findings from this report.

Mr. Lubitz had become depressed in August 2008 and had received psychiatric treatment, including psychiatric drugs, between November 2008 and July 2009.

Mr. Lubitz had been rated “above standard” on professionalism and skill by his instructors and examiners.

Mr. Lubitz’s private physicians refused to be interviewed by the BEA.

On February 24, 2015, four weeks before the murder/suicide, Mr. Lubitz received his first prescription of mirtazapine from his psychiatrist.  Mirtazapine, which is marketed in the US as Remeron, is an antidepressant with serotonergic activity.  Adverse effects include suicide risk, apathy, and aggression (RxList).  In the US, mirtazapine carries a suicide risk black box warning.

On March 16, 2015, eight days before the murder/suicide, Mr. Lubitz received further prescriptions of Escitalopram, Dominal, and Zolpidem from his psychiatrist.  Escitalopram, which is marketed in the US as Lexapro, is an SSRI antidepressant, and also carries a suicide black box warning.  Dominal (prothipendyl) is described as having a weak anti-psychotic potency (Wikipedia, translation from German), and is used to reduce restlessness and agitation.  Zolpidem (marketed as Ambien) is a sleeping pill.

In an email sent to his psychiatrist in March 2015, Mr. Lubitz stated that he had taken additional drugs:  Mirtazapine (15mg) and Lorazepam (1 mg).

Toxicological examination of the co-pilot’s human tissue found at the crash site detected the presence of citalopram and mirtazapine (both anti-depressants), and zopiclone (a sleeping pill).

EXPRESSIONS OF CONCERN

Since the publication of the BEA Final Report, concerns have been expressed by various individuals and groups, including bereaved relatives of the victims.  In general, these concerns have focused on the following issues:

  • That Lufthansa (the parent airline) should have done more to protect their customers.
  • That because of medical confidentiality, Mr. Lubitz was able to hide his depression and his use of antidepressant drugs from his employer.
  • That several of the doctors involved in Mr. Lubitz’s care refused to provide information to the BEA investigators.
  • That Mr. Lubitz had managed to keep his pilot’s license, despite his history with depression and psychiatric drugs.

But there has been relatively little attention focused on what is, at least in my view, the most glaring and pertinent aspect of the matter:

That Mr. Lubitz was flying a commercial aircraft under the influence of powerful psychiatric drugs that have long been associated with murder/suicides.

LINKS BETWEEN MURDER/SUICIDE AND SEROTONIN DISRUPTIVE DRUGS

On September 14, 1989, a few weeks after he had started taking Prozac (the first SSRI), Joseph Wesbecker, of Louisville, Kentucky, went on a rampage at his place of employment, killing eight and wounding twelve others, before taking his own life.  Eli Lilly, the makers of Prozac, settled the subsequent litigation for an undisclosed sum that was said to be “mind boggling” (Joseph Glenmullen, Prozac Backlash, 2000, p. 176).  In the interim years, there have been numerous similar incidents.

It is now 36 years since Drs. Teicher, Glod, and Cole wrote:

“Six depressed patients free of recent serious suicidal ideation developed intense, violent suicidal preoccupation after 2-7 weeks of fluoxetine treatment. This state persisted for as little as 3 days to as long as 3 months after discontinuation of fluoxetine. None of these patients had ever experienced a similar state during treatment with any other psychotropic drug.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 1990. [Fluoxetine, marketed as Prozac, is an SSRI]

Over the next two years, similar reports appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (here) and (here), Journal of Family Practice, American Journal of Psychiatry (here) and (here), Archives of General Psychiatry, Human Psychopharmacology, and the Lancet.

And similar tragic incidents have occurred with more recent drugs that tamper with the brain’s serotonin systems.

Nevertheless, psychiatry, to its eternal shame, has made no attempt to study definitively the role that psychiatric drugs play in these matters.  Instead, there has been spin:  more “treatment” is needed for “mental illness”; these drugs are safe when “properly prescribed”; the benefits outweigh the risks; etc…

It was even stated, by Connecticut Assistant Attorney General, Patrick B. Kwanashie, in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders/suicide that it would not be wise to divulge the drugs found in the shooter’s post-mortem examination, for fear that it would “… cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”

Even the horrific events of March 24, 2015, in the French Alps have been insufficient to jar psychiatry from its sordidly self-serving, guild-defensive silence into something resembling common decency.  It took ten minutes for the Airbus to descend from 38,000 feet to its crash site on a French mountain; ten minutes of indescribable terror for 149 innocent men, women, and children.  It is time – indeed it is long past time – for psychiatry to acknowledge the role that these pills are playing in these tragedies, to conduct a definitive study of this matter, and to publicize the problem honestly and prominently.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On February 26, 2016, David Jolly, a member of the US House from Florida’s 13th District, introduced a bill directing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to complete a publicly available review of the deaths of all veterans who died by suicide during the preceding five years.  The review would include a list of all medications prescribed to, and found in the system of, such veterans at the time of their deaths.

On March 7, the bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Health.  It will be interesting to watch its progress or lack thereof.  It will be interesting to see if politicians have more courage to buck their pharma paymasters than psychiatrists.  They certainly couldn’t have less.

  • Sarah

    Yes, I have noticed that mass murders, the killers are always being prescribed medications with dangerous side-effects.

    In the UK I remember when ‘many’ people were hanging themselves in a place called ‘Bridgend’. There were repeated new articles surrounding the suicides. Then suddenly the story vanished, no more was said. Then I stumbled across this article – http://davidhealy.org/left-hanging-suicide-in-bridgend – and was truly shocked!

    It would appear that these poor people who were committing suicide, were experiencing fatal side-effects to the medications they were being prescribed.

    Many years ago, when I was prescribed a drug called ‘Paroxatine’ I suffered with suicidal/morbid thinking. I self harmed, and even overdosed on my medication. I had never before felt suicidal.

    I am disgusted that thousands, millions, of society’s most vulnerable people are being harmed in this way. And that the mainstream media is not talking about this.

    Thanks for writing this article, and helping to shine-a-light-on what is happening!

  • Phil_Hickey

    Sarah,

    Thanks for coming in. Psychiatry-pharma is investing enormous amounts of energy and money to keep this story under wraps. But the issue keeps cropping up. There are so many people who have experienced what you describe. Joseph Glenmullen’s book “Prozac Backlash” (2000) describes the situation very clearly.

    Best wishes.

  • all too easy

    Bless your heart, Sarah. You should be committing suicide any minute now. It would appear that you are destined to join those poor folks who were deliberately induced to end it all through the murderous actions of those big mean doctors. Paroxatine is the clandestine assisted suicide drug developed by greedy capitalists. Sorry you didn’t realize you too are about to breathe your last. Thanks for the reminder. Bye-bye

  • all too easy

    As a website dedicated to the truth, let me thank you for including only peer-reviewed facts from the literature. Golly, without that type of filtering, we could have complete idiots, like Paladapus and little Stevie wonderboy, saying things like, “it appears all psychiatrists are whores!”

  • doppelganger

    ADHD amphetamines are clandestine drugs developed by the greedy psycho-pharma industry to legally create “med” dependent meth heads. Thanks for the reminder. Bless your heart.
    https://cdn.meme.am/instances/49640567.jpg

  • Cledwyn Lord of Misrule

    To confide the potential felo-de-se to the charge of psychiatrists is kind of like entrusting a hare to the care of hounds, or somewhat like sending rape-victims to their own rapists for “therapy”, a comparison that may not hold good in all particulars, but nevertheless offers a fair measure of the absurdity and cruelty of abandoning such people to the predations of these quacks and their lackeys in these so-called “hospitals”, de facto hunting grounds for predators, poncing about the place in borrowed plumage.

    In this regards especially, psychiatry is the problem to which it proffers a solution. Not only that, it has recast what is essentially a solution to the insurmountable problems of life as a problem itself, and as a symptom of madness in anything other than circumstances wherein proof is forthcoming of either the most unmanageable physical pain, or a progressive disease process culminating in the death of the individual.

    To borrow from Goffman (in a slight variation of Voltaire’s dictum, “if god didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him”); if there wasn’t such a thing as madness, we would have to have invented it.

    It is incredible to what an extremity of credulity the desperate scramble for control, power, and loot in every age will drive a man, to which ends the related concepts of “madness” and “mental illness” are eminently serviceable, pressed into service by lay people and professionals alike in a variety of different institutional and interpersonal contexts as weapons, weapons most effectively wielded by the powerful over the powerless, and often as tools to forge and fasten their fetters.

    Perhaps the most common usage to which the lexicon of lunacy is as rhetorical devices against victims of institutionalized injustice and conventionalized vileness. For example, casting aspersions on the sanity or “mental health” of others is often used in lieu of the prescription not to listen to those whose expressions implicate our involvement in some crime or misdemeanor, though this prescriptive usage extends to just about any and all injustice and the inevitable attempt to evade responsibility.

    Nevertheless, allowance must be made here for the fact that anything bearing not the imprimatur of custom and convention seems mad to the average man, who takes such an ovine pride in being normal, any irregularity of thought, appearance, expression or behavior, any deviation from his own example, is apt to be attributed to madness.

    In the case of the labeling as “mad” the potential felo-de-se, the effect, if not the intention, is to shut down inquiry into the long chain of antecedent circumstances, or the unfortunate turn of events, that brings a man to such a pitch of hopelessness and helplessness, it ushers in a desire for peace that at its strongest offsets the will to live.

    Yet no-one is mad because they are suicidal, but simply because they are human, that is, homo lunaticus.

    I would argue that, on the contrary, it is at such times that men attain to a state of uncommon lucidity, whose chill blast disperses like mist the illusions of men, revealing the dark heart of human existence and the vanity of all our struggles.

    What could be more sane than the desire for resettlement in the graveyard, those bastions of sanity, tolerance, and peace against the babel and insanity of this wretched planet, throwing into sharp relief the chaos and confusion we’ve created?

  • Cledwyn Laureate of pus poetry

    That should be “lexicon of lunacy is put”

  • Cledwyn o the D’Urbervilles

    No, “lexicon of lunacy is put is as..”

  • Rob Bishop

    Thank you for brightening my day.

  • all too easy

    LOL

  • Sarah

    Thanks for the reply, and recommendation, I’ll give that a read when I get chance.

  • bulbous1

    By what right does society presume to intervene treacherously in the life of he who tries to jump the queue in this morgue antechamber for prospective corpses we call the world; he who seeks to escape the unreasonable demands of society and the world? By what right do we presume to pull the poor sod back from the penumbral borderland at which consciousness mercifully shades into its opposite?

    Not only must men abide by the rules of the game as formulated by those who run it, but their participation therein has been made compulsory, including those to whose detriment the game is played and against whom it is rigged, who perforce must play the part of the social leper in the human comedy, to ownership over whose existence society can certainly make no legitimate claim.

  • all too easy

    “…against whom it is rigged…” dodo bird paladapus

    Pray tell, dearly beloved, whilst thou hast the opportunity, if the mood shall so strike you, who art they who perchance art responsible for said rigging, you enormous idiot? LOL!

    This certifiable wacko is so critically important, she finds those plotting to interfere with her existence everywhere. Get back on your meds! Return to the hospital wherein the full staff art charged with your recovery from 13,013 distinct sub-types of mental, emotional and psychic insanity. You can do it Paladdy! Persevere. Don’t give up all hope. Renew your medication therapy. Just increase it five hundred fold.

    Don’t forget that scientists are creating new chemical formulations all the time. Although none of the tens of thousands you’ve been forced to take have eased your symptoms to the point wherein thou art allowed outside unsupervised, thousands of new compounds art available that could trigger a split second of healthy thinking. Not a cure mind you. You just never know which ones may relieve your suffering momentarily. You can do it, Paladapus! A sane, non-paranoid, non-hysterical, non-conspiratorial thought might make its way to thine consciousness, yet! All your friends are with you, beloved.

  • doppelganger

    As Cledwyn continues to ignore this crybaby fangirl, her desperate bid for attention goes on and on and on ad nauseam. Listen up, dingbat, you have a brain so dilapidated that no one can take you seriously… keep taking the pills. Now go upstairs and tidy your room else I will confiscate your x-box.

  • all too easy

    “Fellating the mass phallus” PALADAPUS

    Don’t know exactly where she has been institutionalized, but she needs to go to another hospital where the entire staff can devote all their resources just to see if they can stabilize her before they perform another lobotomy. Hold on Palady. It won’t be long! You can do it. This time they’ll make sure to remove what’s left if anything of your neocortex. Don’t drink any more Draino until you are thoroughly sedated. No sniffing gasoline, either, my love.

  • doppelganger

    Golly, bombarding your crush with boring and juvenile insults isn’t getting you the attention you crave. Hmm. Try something more mature – like holding your breath till you pass out.

  • all too easy

    Depressed people are at a greater risk for suicide than non-depressed people. Any type of intervention used to relieve depression that isn’t successful is therefore considered to be the cause of the depressed person’s suicide by the wacky haters club. They are fellating the mass phallus.

  • doppelganger

    WRONG – AS USUAL. The FDA is hardly a “wacky haters club.” Because ingesting antidepressants INCREASES the risk of suicide, the FDA mandates that antidepressants carry a BLACK BOX WARNING. Get a clue. Look up akathisia.

  • all too easy

    “The FDA is hardly a “wacky haters club.” Because ingesting antidepressants INCREASES the risk of suicide, the FDA mandates that antidepressants carry a BLACK BOX WARNING.” Paladapus

    Got to love these clowns. Whichever way the wind blows, thar they be. Ahoy matey. Now they are dear friends with the FDA, their one time worst nightmare. Of all the evil lurking behind every thing that exists, and ever did, and everything that doesn’t, and never did, these bozos detest the FDA almost as much as syctrists and Pfizer!

    Removing tonsils carries a serious risk of numerous severe and life threatening consequences. Aspirin kills thousands annually. Booze kills and maims hundreds of thousands. Driving a vehicle is extremely hazardous. Living results in death 100 percent of the time. Grow up. No. Forget that. You kids are stuck right where you be. Stay stuck.

    Please. No responses. I ain’t trolling but when you try to be clever, you do. Just obey Phil and ignore me. Do not read my boring comments like Paladapus does. She can’t stand them so much, she makes sure she doesn’t miss reading every single one. Little robbiesteviewonder, too. I am so sorry I force you fellas to read these disgusting, empty, shallow rants.

  • all too easy

    “Fellating the mass phallus” PALADAPUS

    No siree Bob. Palady ain’t no troll.

    Love u P

  • all too easy

    pray tell, dearest Paladapus, who art these predators, these purveyors of pernicious conspiratorial plots to prevent you from queueing for sarnies at the office canteen? name two. one?
    none, aye matey, NONE. GET BACK ON YOUR MEDS, child.

    “Not only must men abide by the rules of the game as formulated by those who run it…” palady

    Lock her up judge, perforce, and the rules rigged and formulated to her detriment. LOL

  • bulbous1

    The question is, why would anyone want to play out their part in this depressing farce we call human existence to the end?

    “Whereas I think: I’m lying here in a haystack… The tiny space I occupy is so infinitesimal in comparison with the rest of space, which I don’t occupy and which has no relation to me. And the period of time in which I’m fated to live is so insignificant beside the eternity in which I haven’t existed and won’t exist.. And yet in this atom, this mathematical point, blood is circulating, a brain is working, desiring something… What chaos! What a farce!”

    Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

  • all too easy

    Depressed and suicidal folks are saved from such drastic actions millions of times per year by the marvelous intervention of these kinds of woodworking drugs.

  • all too easy

    Wonderworking drugs, not woodworking. Right palady? Duh!

  • all too easy

    i crave only yours honey and you follow through every time

    fellate the mass phallus

  • all too easy

    oh Dopey, you just can’t resist me. you naughty boy. stay tuned darling. you don’t want to miss a single syllable from yours truly. glad you monitor palady’s online activities, too. what excitement.

    fellate the mass phallus

  • doppelganger

    You should know plenty about fellating the phallus. Isn’t that what you ADHD prostitutes do to get money for your next hit of Desoxyn (generic name: METHAMPHETAMINE for ADHD zealots)? Yes, yes, that must be why you’re so weirdly obsessed with the phrase “fellate the mass phallus.”

    Give it a rest. Try a new line there, honey.

    Poor little ADHD prostitute.

  • Cledwyn Gallows Buffoon

    Some people say suicide is cowardice, but cowardice, in the conflict embodied in Hamlet’s question, “to be or not to be?”, almost always intercedes in favor of life, which intercession we dignify with words such as “courage” and “heroism”.

    In truth it is only our cowardice that stops us from killing ourselves; not that it is always courage to commit suicide, just that sometimes we are thrust by circumstances into the orbit of such extreme adversity, it tilts the scales of desire in death’s favor.

    Everyone comes to a point now and then when, like the protagonist in Beckett’s “The Unnamable”, one says “I can’t go on”, only then to say, “I’ll go on”. What is this but cowardice?

    Upon this foundation of cowardice men have erected an edifice of nonsense, a vast and indestructible structure of interconnected absurdities, remaining somehow strong under the continued assaults of logic and experience.

    Making a creed of their cowardice, they frame life as a good, say that it is heroism to go on living, etc., etc..

    They erect their pusillanimity into a virtue, denounce suicide as immoral, cowardly.

    They fulminate objurgations against “the whingers”; yet if a worker is not properly remunerated for his services, he rightly complains, and if something is rotten, it is not right to remain silent, to turn a blind eye.

    Such people are mugs, and many of them scoundrels to boot, for if it is wrong to extol an evil such as Nazism, how much more so the source of all evil, as happens when men talk of how beautiful life and the world is!