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Postcards from Scotland

The long tem effect of antidepressants. Who am I?

Since the 1990s it has become much more common for young people to be prescribed medication for depression and anxiety, and this is more extreme in the States. Many young people are on these drugs for a long time. Do we know the long term effects of these drugs on young people?s development?

A recent article in the New York Times reports that some young people can?t remember what normality feels like because they have been on the drugs for so long.  These same people say that the only time they felt normal was when they were on antidepressants.

Compared to adults who have developed their sense of identity by the time they start taking antidepressants, young people are still growing.  This means that taking antidepressants may interfere with them developing a grounded sense of the self and so this begs the question as to whether it is a good thing to be prescribing these drugs to our young people.

The same article outlines the effects of long term prescribing of antidepressants.  The studies that have been carried out are fairly short randomised controlled trials (4-12 weeks) and there is certainly no evidence for what impact this will have beyond 2 years. The authors say that, even though some antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts, they reduce the actual lifetime risk of suicide, so in this sense antidepressant use seems more effective than not.

Though the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines recommends that young people should not be given antidepressants as a first option, around 631,000 young people in the UK are taking antidepressants compared to 146,000 in the mid 1990?s. This is worrying because we just don?t know how these drugs will affect young people and their development in the long term. To read the article click here

 
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