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Tackling the rise in number of children on anti-depressants

Posted by shutah on August 12, 2007

This interesting article appears in today’s Independent on Sunday …. How do we tackle the rise in the number of children on anti-depressants?

Child Psychiatrist Dr Sammi Timini says the practice has become institutionalised. “If a GP is faced with a distressed adolescent and is used to prescribing anti-depressants and having them come back saying they feel better, then he’s going to carry on prescribing. It’s a triumph of marketing over science.

Not only do the drugs not work, there is ongoing controversy over the side-effects of some SSRIs, and over how much information the manufacturers have released about their own research into the dangers. “For some people, these drugs can actually make them suicidal,” says Dr Timini. ” The withdrawal symptoms can cause a manic reaction. The published results – let alone the unpublished ones – show these drugs are not effective, and are actually dangerous.”

Click the red link above to read the full article.

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3 Responses to “Tackling the rise in number of children on anti-depressants”

  1. Quick lesson in shoddy journalism:

    “New figures released last month show that in the past decade the number of prescriptions for mind-altering drugs, including anti-depressants such as Prozac, given to children under the age of 16 has more than quadrupled. Last year, there were more than 631,000 cases of drugs such as these given for mental health problems. In the mid 1990s, this figure was 146,000.”

    I haven’t been able to locate the source for these figures, but they seem to be for individual prescriptions, rather than for numbers of people. These are not the same thing at all, because people have multiple prescriptions for anti-depressants in a year. It may also be the case, though I’m not aware of any statistics, that the average length of each prescription has changed over the last decade.

    The actual figures are much lower than the numbers suggest. The most recent data I could find was for 2003/2004 and is from Prescribing Trends for SSRI’s and related Anti-Depressants (MHRA, 2004), which put the figures for individuals under 18 who were prescribed at least one antidepressant at just under 60,000. Presumably this has increased in the intervening couple of years, but not by a factor of 10. That works out as around 1.5% of people under 18 being prescribed SSRI’s in any given year.

    But that’s not as dramatic as giving the impression that there’s more than half a million youngsters on anti-depressants, so the journalist in question didn’t bother to mention it. The journalist also relays the tragic story of Sharise Gatchell’s suicide, but omits that she had been previously suicidal.

    The journalist goes on to give the spurious figure about suicides on paroxetine: “The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), revealed that GSK’s own studies showed the drug actually trebles the risk of suicidal thoughts in depressed children.” No they didn’t. They said that there was an increased risk of harmful outcomes, including episodes of self-harm and potentially suicidal behaviour. The ‘triple the risk’ figure seems to have sprung from Panorama’s own rather unique interpretation of the statistics, rather than from the report in question.

    Similarly, the journalist says that: “Four years ago, guidance was published that most anti-depressants, including Seroxat, should not be prescribed to under 18s. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), revealed that GSK’s own studies showed the drug actually trebles the risk of suicidal thoughts in depressed children. The recommendations did not, however, include Prozac, and appear to have had little impact on the rate at which anti-depressants are prescribed to youngsters.”

    What the journalist has omitted here is that the antidepressant most often prescribed to under 18’s is, indeed, Prozac (accounting for almost a third of all antidepressant prescriptions to under 18’s in 2003) And the reason the recommendations didn’t include it is that, unlike the others, it’s been shown to work in children. The journalist also makes no mention of the fact that Seroxat prescriptions have fallen dramatically for under-18’s.

    Of course, the report, even if it’s not the best piece of journalism I’ve ever seen, does highlight a serious issue. SSRI’s are over-prescribed. Even if the numbers of children aren’t as high as the report implies, the rise in prescriptions is concerning. The guidelines are in place: Drugs should not be the first line of treatment for mild and moderate depression. The problem is the lack of funding for and access to alternatives, along with inadequate monitoring and a general lack of expertise in many prescribers.

  2. alisongelfand said

    who cares that its not the greatest journalism.

    well done for writing an article that urgently needs consideration.
    that one child is given these ‘chemical coshes’ is one too many.

    our society is in danger of real collapse.
    children are our future.
    heaven help us.

  3. lawsathome said

    I’ve not read the article in question but just in response to Experimental Chimp here would like to add that “Depression” has not affected the numerous generations in the past who probably had a lot more in life to contend with than our own rather luxurious lifestyles these days and without anti-deressants and totally agree that the rise in prescriptions is very concerning and that surely with regards to children/teenagers drugs should by no means be the first consideration.

    Christ I lived through the divorce of my own parents; their subsequent 2 divorces thereafter during exams and horrible bullying at school all before I was 18 and I didn’t need the bloody things! Where has our strength of character gone!

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