Depression Home > Treatment for Teenage Depression

Antidepressants as a Treatment Option

While several types of depression medications (antidepressants) can be effective at treating adults with depression, these medications may not be as effective at treating teenage depression. Care must be used in prescribing and monitoring all medication. Therefore, a teenager with depression should be carefully and thoroughly evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine if medication is appropriate.
 
For teenagers, the most widely prescribed depression drugs come from a class of medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There are several different types of SSRIs, including:
 
Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another class of antidepressant medications often prescribed for teen depression. These medicines are similar to SSRIs and include venlafaxine (Effexor®, Effexor XR®) and duloxetine (Cymbalta®).
 
Prozac is the only SSRI approved for the treatment of depression in people ages eight and older. The other SSRI medications and the SSRI-related antidepressant venlafaxine have not been approved for treatment of depression in children or adolescents; but doctors still sometimes prescribe them to teenagers on an "off-label" basis. In June 2003, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that paroxetine not be used in children and adolescents for treating depression.
 
Those who are prescribed an SSRI medication should receive ongoing medical monitoring. Teenagers already taking an SSRI medication should remain on the medication if it has been helpful, but should be carefully monitored by a doctor for side effects. Parents should promptly seek medical advice and evaluation if any of the following side effects either emerge or worsen during treatment with SSRI medications: suicidal thinking or behavior, nervousness, agitation, irritability, mood instability, or sleeplessness.
 
Once started, treatment with these depression medicines should not be abruptly stopped. Although they are not habit-forming or addictive, abruptly ending treatment with an antidepressant can cause withdrawal symptoms or lead to a relapse. A family should not discontinue treatment without consulting their healthcare provider.
 
Any treatment for teenage depression can have side effects. Families and doctors should carefully weigh the risks and benefits, and maintain appropriate follow-up and monitoring to help control for the risks.
 
(Click Antidepressants in Children for more information about using depression medications in children and adolescents.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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