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Antidepressants: In children and adolescents, they show little effect

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to appreciate your own just,
as much as somebody else’s, feelings.
©: alephnull - Fotolia

One could assume that antidepressants should also help children and young people to overcome their depression. But now a study shows the opposite is true: Those antidepressants available have no effect on children; and if, they are sometimes harmful.

A study published in the international journal "The Lancet", shows that the current drugs are ineffective; at least in children and adolescents who suffer from severe depression. In some cases, they may even increase the suicidal tendencies. For this study, scientists evaluated the findings of 34 clinical trials which have been carried out in 5,000 patients between 9 and 18 years.

Do all antidepressants have a negative effect?

Depression in children and adolescents
Depression in children and adolescents | ©: Kwest - Fotolia

The study has shown above all, the importance of which drug is used; and whether it will have an effect in children and adolescents. For example, while the antidepressant Fluoxetine has a positive effect, the drug Venlafaxine, on the other hand, increases suicidal tendencies in young people, while others have no effect at all.

The risks and benefits of drugs

Researchers came to the conclusion that there is little to no point to treat severely depressed children and young people with commonly available antidepressants. However, if minors are treated with any of those medications they have to observed closely. This observation is important because so far there is still a lack of sufficient reliable results about the impact of antidepressants in children and adolescents.

How big is this group of affected children and young people?

Around three per cent of children between 6 and 12 years and about six percent of young people between 13 to 18 years suffer from severe depression. In the US, the tendency is even growing: And so is the proportion of young people. Between 2005 – 2015 the percentage of young people and children treated with antidepressants rose from 1.3% to 1.6%

What does this mean for the future?

Already in the past, scientists and paediatricians had their doubts about the usefulness of antidepressants in children and young people. Therefore, further studies are needed to find out whether there is any antidepressant medication at all that will work for young people and what side effects they may have. However, that implicates a risk too: Often, kids and young people who would need antidepressants do not get them prescribed often. This is also true the other way around.

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The best solution, of course, would be, if we could do completely without antidepressants. The problem is that this medication is administered rashly at times to calm the child, while the underlying problem remains unaddressed. Another factor would be, that children and young people are still in midst their development. Therefore it can be hard to discern what symptoms are developmental and which are actually signs of depression. Many things have to be factored in. In any case, it is important to get advice whenever you are in doubt whether your child shows depressive symptoms. This advice you can get in Youth- and Counselling Centres, the School Psychologist or any other institution which can give valuable and informed advice.

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