Antidepressants Are Not Useful for Kids

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
November 09, 2017

Only Prozac is effective for kids and teens — and not by much. And common drugs — Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Cymbalta — don't beat a placebo.

Nearly 20 percent of American girls ages 12 to 17 are thought to go through a spell of depression any year, according to government statistics. Some 5 percent of girls ages 12 to 19 take an antidepressant.

Less than 6 percent of American boys have a spell of depression in any year, and less than 2 percent take an antidepressant.


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But a study in the prestigious journal The Lancet concluded that out of 14 common drugs, only Prozac was effective enough to give to younger people.

Common drugs — Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Cymbalta — didn’t beat a placebo.

Questions about antidepressants for kids and teens aren’t new. The Food and Drug Administration added a black-box warning to several antidepressants more than a decade ago, saying that they might increase suicidal thinking in patients up to the age of 25.

The Lancet paper pooled together the results of 34 studies that included more than 5,200 volunteers taking the drugs for 8 weeks, on average.

The placebo effect — feeling better because you are taking a pill — is powerful for people with depression. So it would take a big study to tease out any extra help that comes from the medication itself.


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA