Paragraphs 13 & 14 read: "Friends said Mr. Albrecht, 34, was normally a laid-back guy who never became violent when drunk. He and his girlfriend had been taking Chantix for about a week and planned to stop smoking Monday. They had started having vivid sleep experiences that users have nicknamed 'Chantix dreams.' "
"'It was giving them awful, strange nightmares,' said bandmate Ward Williams."
Fourth paragraph from the end reads: "That's when he began to hit her, she said. 'He didn't even realize he was hurting me. He had no idea. He was saying the same kinds of stuff that didn't make sense. It was like he was in a dream.'"
Girlfriend of slain musician cites anti-smoking drug
08:05 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 5, 2007By MICHAEL GRABELL and TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News
Friends of a popular Dallas musician killed early Monday are at a loss to explain what caused him to spin out of control, beat up his girlfriend and try to kick in her neighbor's door after a night of heavy drinking.
Now they're wondering whether a pill that Carter Albrecht had recently started taking to quit smoking may have sent him over the edge. But there is no hard evidence that the drug causes bouts of rage.
"I really believe it was the drug," said his girlfriend, Ryann Rathbone. "He would have never been abusive toward me, never, ever. He and I had a very peaceful, loving relationship. He and I loved each other so much."
While some users of the drug Chantix have reported symptoms of anger on Internet blogs, no studies released by the Food and Drug Administration, the manufacturer Pfizer or other researchers have linked the drug to violent outbursts.
"When there's something new put in the mixture, it's natural to wonder, 'Might this have made a difference?' " said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, an addiction expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "There may be truth to it, but we don't know and we likely may never know."
Mr. Albrecht, who played guitar and keyboard for the bands Sorta and Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, was fatally shot as he tried to kick in the neighbor's door in the 9000 block of Santa Clara Drive, just east of White Rock Lake.
Dallas police said the neighbor shot one time at the top of the door to scare him away, but instead struck the 6-foot-4 musician in the head.
The case will be reviewed by a Dallas County grand jury to determine whether there will be charges against the neighbor, whose name has not been released.
But the shooter will probably be protected under state laws allowing Texans to use deadly force to prevent someone from breaking into their homes at night. A new law that took effect Saturday, known as the "Castle Doctrine," strengthens those rights by eliminating the requirement that people try to flee before shooting in self-defense.
One neighbor, Natalee Morse, said she and others who live nearby brought groceries to the homeowner in sympathy.
"We wanted to do something to show we support them," she said. "It's a terrible position to be in. All of us thought we'd do the same thing if we were in that position."
According to police reports, there have been 15 burglaries on the 1 ½-mile stretch of Santa Clara Drive since January 2006. Four of those burglaries took place in vacant houses, and one occurred in a backyard storage shed. No reports of robberies could be found during that time.
Friends said Mr. Albrecht, 34, was normally a laid-back guy who never became violent when drunk. He and his girlfriend had been taking Chantix for about a week and planned to stop smoking Monday. They had started having vivid sleep experiences that users have nicknamed "Chantix dreams."
"It was giving them awful, strange nightmares," said bandmate Ward Williams.
Changes in dreaming, along with nausea and constipation, are common reactions to the drug, according to Pfizer and the FDA. But they are also symptoms of withdrawal.
Chantix is a prescription medicine that works by blocking nicotine from attaching to the brain receptors that produce feelings of pleasure. It was approved by the FDA in May 2006 after studies showed it to be far superior to other anti-smoking drugs without any major side effects.
"While we haven't had an opportunity to review the details of this case, clinical studies do not suggest a causal relationship between Chantix use and rage," said Pfizer spokesman Francisco Gebauer.
An FDA spokeswoman said the agency would look into the matter but didn't have enough information to say whether the drug could have contributed to Mr. Albrecht's violent outburst.
But Dr. Adinoff said it's possible that heavy drinking on top of the Chantix might have triggered a strange reaction. That's why most drugs bear warnings against taking them with alcohol.
"Both of them interact with some of the same regions of the brain," he said. "You mix alcohol with another drug that affects the central nervous system and you can easily get some unpredictable effects."
Ms. Rathbone said she met Mr. Albrecht about 1 a.m. Monday at a bar on Greenville Avenue. He had taken a dose of the drug just before going to the bar and didn't seem drunk when she got there, she said.
But as they left the bar shortly after 2 a.m., Mr. Albrecht started acting bizarrely, she said. He began quoting a book about the oppression of the Jews called Constantine's Sword, which he had recently been reading.
"He was saying weird, off-the-wall stuff that didn't match our conversation," Ms. Rathbone said. "I think because I didn't understand, he started to get mad at me. It didn't make sense."
She said they were home about 10 minutes when he became out of control.
"He wanted to leave, and I didn't want him to drive," she said. "He already didn't know who I was at that point. I didn't want him going anywhere."
That's when he began to hit her, she said. "He didn't even realize he was hurting me. He had no idea. He was saying the same kinds of stuff that didn't make sense. It was like he was in a dream."
Mr. Albrecht chased Ms. Rathbone outside, and she ran back in, locking him out, the police report said. Mr. Albrecht then went to the back of the neighbor's home and started banging.
The Dallas County medical examiner's office will conduct toxicology tests to determine what was in Mr. Albrecht's system. But that will probably take several weeks.
"We're not by any means scientists or chemists," said Sgt. Larry Lewis, a Dallas homicide supervisor. "We'll look at anything and everything."
Staff writer Holly Yan contributed to this report.
Carter Albrecht's music remembered, 1E