Straight, No Chaser: Do You Take Antidepressants? Learn About the "Black Box" Warning Label.
It’s important to note that most recent group of antidepressants known as SSRIs are a marked leap forward in safety from their predecessors. Even still, they retain undesired effects, particularly in adolescents and young adults. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a comprehensive review of controlled clinical research trials of antidepressants that involved nearly 4,400 children and adolescents. The review revealed that 4% of those taking antidepressants thought about or attempted suicide, compared to 2% of those receiving placebos (a simulated but medically inactive treatment).
In 2005, this information prompted the FDA to adopt its most serious level of warning on all prescription antidepressant drugs, known as a “black box” warning. This warning means to alert the public about the potential increased risk of suicidal thinking or attempts in children and adolescents taking antidepressants. Specifically, makers of all antidepressant medications must post the warning regarding users up through age 24.
What does this mean for you? Regardless of your age, during the initial treatment period (e.g., the first month), you should have a family member closely follow you and look for any abnormalities or changes in behavior. In particular, worsening depression, suicidal thoughts or action, insomnia, increased agitation or withdrawal should be noted and considered a prompt to receive immediate medical attention.
In the event you’re wondering why such drugs would still be available to the public, it’s basically the risk/benefit ratio. These considerations aren’t taken lightly. It’s a testament to positive benefits of these medications that they remain popular and continually used for children and young adults (in particular) with depression and anxiety. Just be sure to have a detailed conversation with your physician or psychiatrist prior to use. These are not medications that you should just receive a prescription for and walk out of the office.
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