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07-08 Debating the use of antidepressants in the young

Debating the use of antidepressants in the young

Last year, major depressive disorders affected roughly 700,000 children between the ages of six and 12, and about 1.5 million teenagers from 13 to 18. Population stats from year 2015 estimate; using percentages thru 2015 seen here: “The researchers conducted a systematic review of all published and unpublished trials looking at the effects of 14 antidepressants in young people with major depression up to the end of May 2015.”

A newly published clinical trial on adolescents and antidepressants demonstrated most available prescriptions for depression gloss over the mental health problems in youth and may actually be inhibiting our children.

What antidepressants are doing in our kids

Researchers from Europe, China, Australia and North America ranked and compared the efficacy of 14 popular antidepressants against a placebo.

Professor Peng Xie and his colleagues concluded, “The balance of risks and benefits of antidepressants for the treatment of major depression does not seem to offer a clear advantage in children and teenagers” over placebo pills given in the study, with the probable exception of Prozac.

They also noted Venlafaxine, another of the 14 tested drugs, was associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts in young people.

Vice caught up with some adults who took antidepressants as children. Their reflections are undeniable.

Cady, now 20, said of the commonly reported symptom of feeling numb, “When you’re on Prozac, your emotions are very leveled-out; if you want to cry, you can’t cry because it flattens you out a bit,” She adds, “When I was younger, I was really zombified, and that’s not just me – that was everyone in the ward who was on them, so I wouldn’t recommend it for younger people.”

Bob, now 33, took a different perspective, saying, “I think it’s almost irresponsible to recommend that people stay off these things when they’re in a really bad way.” Bob says breathing exercises and the like can’t reset a chemical imbalance within the brain. He stresses the necessity of antidepressants for severe cases of mental illness. “It saved my life, and it didn’t stifle my creativity. The only things that have stifled my creativity have been illegal drugs and alcohol.”

In the back of many parents’ minds is the worry antidepressants will suppress all natural regulation of emotions and nullify any creativity their child has in these formative years. It’s almost like being afraid the cement will dry before getting a chance to pen in lasting notes.

It’s a question of goals

There may be no hard and fast answer for children and antidepressant use. For parents, it should be a matter of what the severity of mental discord is and the family’s goals.

If the depression and suicide ideation is strong, the goal may be to keep the child alive and well enough to reach an age where he or she is mature enough to utilize wellness tools to join parents’ and psychiatrists’ efforts to restore sanity.

If depression is a low-thrumming constant and the child seems to be willfully using psychotic episodes as a weapon, or meandering in a zombie-like haze, it may be time to supplement antidepressant use with cognitive and edifying therapies. In this case, the goal may be to empower a child with a healthy decision-making toolset and provide a circle of support with other teens overcoming the same struggles.

Sovereign Health in Rancho San Diego is focused on teens aged 12-17. We are a nationwide leader in cutting-edge treatment and holistic modalities for rehabilitation from mental disorder, in all its manifestations: substance use, eating disorder and mental health issues. Call our 24/7 helpline for enrollment details.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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