Antidepressants Are Not Safe for Children and Teenagers

Antidepressants are not safe for children and teenagers, researchers say. The pills taken to relieve depression symptoms are either ineffective or potentially dangerous. Severe depression affects approximately 3 percent of children aged 6 to 12, and 6 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 18.

According to a new study analyzing 14 antidepressants, only one has proven effective. Researchers ranked the antidepressants by efficiency, tolerability, acceptability, and associated serious harms (suicidal thoughts or attempts).

Fluoxetine (Prozac) is the only drug to treat depression in children and teenagers, research finds. Yet experts suggest that Prozac should only be given to young patients who don’t have access to psychotherapy or haven’t responded to it.

Investigators also came to know an alarming fact. Effexor (venlafaxine) can lead to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or attempts. Effexor was compared with placebo medicine and five other antidepressants.

"Antidepressants Are Not Safe for Children and Teenagers"

The findings were the result of experts reviewing 34 studies that included over 5,200 children and teenagers. Meta-analysis is a way to find consensus among multiple trials. Most of the trials were financed by drug companies, and about 90 percent of them had risks of being biased in favor of the medicines.

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delivered a black box warning – which it the strictest warning put in labeling drug products, about antidepressant use. Further proof that antidepressants are not safe for children and teenagers. The agency feared that these drugs could increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or attempts among children and teens.

However, FDA’s warning did not meet its aim. The use of antidepressants among children and teenagers almost doubled between 2005 and 2012. Data shows that the numbers have gone up from about 1 percent to nearly 2 percent in the seven-year period.

Experts are not surprised by the findings. There is little known about anti-depression medicines and their effects on developing brains. It is recommended that children and teens be treated with psychotherapy or Prozac in specific cases.

Researchers say that the quality of evidence in the study was quite low. Due to lack of reliable data, investigators can’t carry out a comprehensive analysis of the possibly damaging effects of antidepressants among children and teens. However, the study gives enough insight into the matter to suggest a limitation of anti-depression medicines among young people.

The study was published June 8 on The Lancet website.

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