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The findings of a new report by federal health regulators indicates that more teens between the ages 12 and 19 are taking antidepressant medications than ever before, which raises concerns about potential side effects that continue to emerge among users of the medications.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on teen antidepressant use this month, compiling data from the recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Overall, antidepressant use among teens increased 5% from the last reporting period, 1999 to 2002, to the recent reporting period, 2011 to 2014, according to the findings.
Antidepressants are one of the three most commonly used therapeutic drug classes in the United States, second to blood pressure medications and closely followed by opioid painkillers. However, they do not come without risks, and new studies published in recent years have continued to highlight potential safety signals.
According to the CDC report, antidepressant use increased from 1999 to 2014 among teens, amid widespread use of popular medications like Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin and others.
Females were twice as likely as males to take antidepressants, with about 16.5% of teen females reported taking them and 8.6% of teen males reported taking the medications.
White teens, both male and female, were more likely to take antidepressants than black, Hispanic or Asian teens. In fact, white teens were five times more likely to take antidepressants than Asian teens, and three times as likely as Hispanic and black teens to be on the mood drugs.
A recent study raised concern regarding antidepressant use among children and teens, indicating they may not be effective to help treat depression in those age groups. Another study indicated teens with ADHD are often prescribed antidepressants unnecessarily, as the drugs don’t help that disorder.
Authors of the new study also note that there are interesting trends concerning the length of time teens used antidepressants. One-quarter of teens took antidepressants for 10 years or more. Nearly 70 percent of teens had been taking the medication for at least two years.
Researchers noted antidepressant use also increased with age. About 3% of teens aged 12 to 19 used antidepressants, while 19% of people over the age of 60 used antidepressants.
Most antidepressants are taken to treat depression; however they are also prescribed “off-label” to treat insomnia, anxiety disorders, and other conditions. A study published in February indicated “off-label” prescribing may not be effective, nor is it based on sound science 85% of the time, yet many doctors continue the practice.