Although experts believe that, for many children with depression, the benefits of medicine outweigh the risks, research on antidepressant medicine in children is limited. The long-term effects and safety of medicines used to treat depression in children and teens are still unknown.
You may have heard about concerns regarding a possible connection between antidepressant medicines and suicidal behavior. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued advisories about this issue.
Especially during the
first few weeks of treatment with an antidepressant, there is a possible
increase in suicidal feelings or behavior. A child beginning antidepressant
treatment should be watched closely. But children with untreated depression
are also at an increased risk for suicide. So it is important to carefully
weigh all of the risks and benefits of antidepressant medicine.
Medicine choices include:
What to think about
Antidepressant medicines such as
fluoxetine (Prozac, for example) can be effective in treating depression, but
it may take 1 to 3 weeks before your child starts to feel better. It can take
as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. Make sure your child takes
antidepressant medicines as prescribed and keeps taking them so they have time
to work. If you have any questions or concerns about the medicine, or if you do
not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your child's doctor.
SSRIs may also be effective in treating other conditions such as
Your child may have to try
several medicines or different dosages before the most effective treatment is discovered. After the
right medicine and dosage is found, your child may need to continue taking the medicine
for several months or longer after the symptoms of depression have subsided, to
prevent depression from occurring again.
Some children who are
first diagnosed with depression are later diagnosed with
bipolar disorder, which has symptoms that cycle from
mania (very high energy, often with euphoria,
agitation, irritability, risk-taking behavior, or impulsiveness). If your child
or teen has bipolar disorder, a first episode of mania can happen
spontaneously. But it can also be triggered by certain medicines such as
stimulants or antidepressants. That is why it is very important to tell your
child's doctor about any family history of bipolar disorder and to watch your
child closely for signs of manic behavior. For more information about bipolar
disorder in young people, see the topic
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens.
- Depression: Should My Child Take Medicine to Treat Depression?
- Depression: Taking Antidepressants Safely
- Depression: Dealing With Medicine Side Effects