Increase in children prescribed anti-depressants over 7 year

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A new study, “Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and adolescents from five western countries, 2005-2012,” published in the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, has found that doctors are increasingly prescribing psychiatric drugs to children.

By Allianz Worldwide Care | March 16, 2016

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From 2005 to 2012, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of young people prescribed anti-depressants in Denmark. The UK followed with 54 percent, Germany with 49 percent, the US with 26 percent and the Netherlands with 17 percent.

Director of mental health in the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Shekhar Saxena described the survey findings as worrying.

“Anti-depressant use amongst young people is and has been a matter of concern because of two reasons.” said Dr Saxena, “one, are more people being prescribed anti-depressants without sufficient reason? And second, can anti-depressants do any major harm?“

The WHO also expressed concern that young people were being given drugs not licensed for under-18s. According to Dr Saxena, "These are medicines which have not been tried amongst young people, have no justification for being used widely in young people. There are legal regulations and professional guidelines and off-label use of drugs many times crosses both of them. That's something the World Health Organization is very concerned about."

Anti-depressants are a recognised treatment for managing depression in children but National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidelines state they should not be offered initially for symptoms of mild depression.

Even when they are used to treat a child with moderate to severe depression, they should not be used except in combination with a concurrent psychological therapy.

Dr Saxena said further studies were needed to look at how and when anti-depressants are being used with children, and for how long.

"There is no reason for many years of prescriptions being continuously given," said Dr Saxena. "Adolescents and young people are in the phase of development. They develop out of everything, including their own depression."

Source: European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

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