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Antidepressants, Parents Should Be Aware

Aug 18, 2004 | www.capitalnews9.com

Though you haven't heard it from the FDA, depressed children who take some antidepressants are more likely to exhibit suicidal behavior than depressed children who avoid those medications.

Dr. Steve Hyman of Harvard University said, "We don't want treatments that are meant to help, inadvertently harm."

But they do sometimes appear to cause harm by increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts by almost two times, according to Dr. Hyman, former Director of the National Institute for Mental Health. The alarm bells were sounded in Britain a year ago. Here in the United States, the FDA is going to release results of its own studies next month. The studies are done, and Dr. Hyman has seen preliminary results.

"We have data now which raises the possibility that with a variety of SSRI antidepressants, some children have an increased likelihood of suicide related behaviors. And I think this data has never been available before," he said.

The data shows the very drugs that treat depression can sometimes also lead to the most tragic outcome of depression. No one really knows why this happens, but Dr. Hyman has a theory.

He said, "There has long been concern that for a certain number of people, soon after starting treatment, they might gain the energy or have side effects which might lead them to suicide."

And therefore, the riskiest times are at the beginning of treatment or when a dose is being changed. Interestingly, Prozac appeared to be the safest with regards to suicidal tendencies.

"In fact, based on the current data, one should probably begin treatment with Prozac and only use other drugs if Prozac isn't tolerated by that child," said Hyman.

Depression can be treated effectively in adults and children, but when starting or changing medications, close monitoring is always a must.


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