Growing up on antidepressants

The New York Times has an article on the increasing number of people who have been on antidepressants drugs since their childhood years and have experienced ‘growing up’ while medicated.

Still, what do we know about the effects of, say, 15 to 20 years of antidepressant drug treatment that begins in adolescence or childhood? Not enough.

The reason has to do with the way drugs are tested and approved. To get F.D.A. approval, a drug has to beat a placebo in two randomized clinical trials that typically involve a few hundred subjects who are treated for relatively short periods, usually 4 to 12 weeks.

So drugs are approved based on short-term studies for what turns out to be long-term — often lifelong — use in the world of clinical practice. The longest maintenance study to date of one of the newer antidepressants, Effexor, lasted only two years and showed the drug to be superior to a placebo in preventing relapses of depression.

In fact, there are no reliable long-term studies even of drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) that are widely used in children.

One of the most interesting things is the huge amount of comments the article has attracted, with many people sharing their own experiences of a medicated adolescence.

Link to NYT article ‘Coming of Age on Antidepressants’.
Link to ‘editors choice’ of comments.

2 thoughts on “Growing up on antidepressants”

  1. Comments are closed over at NYT, so I figured I’d throw this in here. (My story of an UN-medicated adolescence.)
    I had my first major episode of depression when I was fourteen. I feel it is appropriate to call it that despite the fact that I was not officially diagnosed until five years later (a few months ago), that episode was one of the most severe I have suffered. While I have had times where I was not depressed since I was fourteen, I have lost huge chunks of my life to the awful experience that is depression… a seriously screwed up relationship with sleep, self hatred, suicidal thoughts, and probably most notably, the constant tiredness and headaches. Those parts of my life, often whole semesters of school, are completely hazy in my memory–I know that despite the depression, a lot still happened during those times, but it is hard to remember specifics–all I remember is the general cloud of misery, and perhaps a time or two when I managed to rise above it. By the time I got to college, living with the threat of my next slide into depression over my head was deeply ingrained in who I was, and I never fully returned to “baseline” between episodes anymore. Now, at 19, I have found an antidepressant that works fairly well–it is the end of the semester and though my stress level is high I’m not slipping. But so much has happened to me since I started struggling with depression five years ago. Returning to the person I was at 13 doesn’t make sense, so I’m in the position of trying to figure out who I am, having grown up depressed but now finally gotten out on the other side. It is difficult, and rather unnerving to think that a pill has so greatly changed my personality. But back when I still completely “surfaced” between episodes, I would have these days or weeks, or maybe even months, where I thought–maybe this is who I would be if I wasn’t so screwed up. And the chance to be that person now, even if I’m not exactly sure who she is, is worth it to me.
    I’m not contradicting the article here or saying antidepressants are all good. Most of them are pretty damn scary, and the suppression of negative studies is, um, evil. I appreciate the questions that the article brings up, and I think they should be asked and pursued thoroughly. However, for my own personal purposes, I’m satisfied with my antidepressant as a solution. For now anyways.

  2. While I don’t want to discount the problems that young people can have with depression and other mental illness, I do believe that kids today are, as a group, overmedicated. Let’s face it: adolescence is a terrible time. Most kids face some levels of angst, depression, anger, etc.
    Much as I hate to use this phrase, in my day kids were just expected to cope. If we got out of line, we were likely to get a smack on the rear (NOT child abuse!) at home, or detention in school. For most of us, it worked. I’m not saying that there weren’t kids back then who should have been diagnosed and treated. There were, and unfortunately they didn’t get the help they needed. What I am saying is that many who would have received drugs today didn’t back then and turned out fine without them.

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