Treating Depressed Children With Antidepressants: More Harm than Benefit?

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Abstract

Since the FDA held hearings in February 2004 on the safety of antidepressants in children, there has been a great deal of controversy regarding the use of antidepressants in children, culminating in the well publicized black box warnings about increased risk of suicidal behavior in children and young adults (up to age 25) caused by these medications. Using questions that a parent might ask, the current article attempts to summarize the efficacy and safety data on the use of antidepressants in children so that psychologists, with or without prescription privileges, may be able to inform parents of young patients about the science behind this treatment. This article is based on a presentation at the 2007 American Psychological Association conference by the author in acceptance of the 2006 APAHC Bud Orgel Award for Distinguished Achievement in Research. Much of the information described in this article is drawn from the recent APA Report of the Working Group on Psychoactive Medications for Children and Adolescents. (Brown et al. 2006; available at www.apa.org/pi/cyf/childmeds.pdf) culminating in a book by the same authors (Brown et al., Childhood mental health disorders: Evidence base and contextual factors for psychosocial, psychopharmacological, and combined interventions 2007).

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