Depressing News: Antidepressants May Not Be Effective On Children And Teens, Possibly Even Harmful
It always seems like these days we have to make horrendous, widespread mistakes affecting millions of people before we wake up and figure out the harm we are doing: fracking, glyphosate, and Iraq are just a few examples.
These may seem like diverse and unrelated situations, but the pattern holds true: we are sold a bill of goods by slick marketing people assuring us that they and only they possess the sure-fire, can’t-miss cure-all for what ails us. A few months or years later, long after the salesmen have made their money and absconded for greener pastures, it becomes clear that they were hucksters all along.
Such appears to be the case when it comes to antidepressant use in teens and children. A new study shows that most antidepressants are not effective in children or adolescents, and that they may even be harmful.
The study, published in Lancet, involved researchers analyzing data culled from 34 trials involving over 5,000 participants who were between nine and 18 years old. Of the 14 antidepressant drugs they looked at, only fluoxetine–which sells under the brand name Prozac–was more effective than a placebo in ameliorating the symptoms of depression.
Perhaps most shocking was the report on venlafaxine, which sells under the brand names Effexor and Lanvexin. It appeared to actually be associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts as compared to a placebo. When it was measured against several other antidepressants it again came out to be the drug most associated with suicidal patterns. The teenaged patients taking imipramine, venlafaxine, and duloxetine in the various studies reported such negative effects that they were likely to stop taking the drugs altogether.
And while it was a limited study, its authors found that the results offered a clear path forward.
“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, with probably only the exception of fluoxetine,” said study co-author Peng Xie of Chongqing Medical University in China.
While stopping short of recommending that children and teens be taken off their antidepressants, the researchers did make a strong case for close monitoring of anyone in that age group who is prescribed antidepressants, especially when they first start taking them.
Researchers also faulted previous clinical trials on antidepressants and young patients, citing a dearth of such studies as well as disturbing inconsistencies that look a lot like selective reporting of results that favor drug-makers. Indeed, of the 34 trials they analyzed, 65 percent were funded by Big Pharma companies.
So think twice if you or someone you love has a doctor recommend they start on antidepressants before the age of 18.