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Is Celexa safe for teenagers?

Doctors aren't sure whether Celexa (citalopram) is safe for use by teenagers. Celexa is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults. However, it is sometimes prescribed "off-label" for treating depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and other mental health issues in teenagers, although more research is needed on the safety and effectiveness of Celexa in this age group.

Celexa belongs to a category of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are thought to treat depression by adjusting the level of the chemical serotonin in the brain. In one review of the research on the use of SSRIs in children and teens, the FDA found that about 4% of children and teens who took SSRIs experienced suicidal thinking or behavior, compared to 2% of children and teens who took placebos ("sugar" pills that did not contain active ingredients). The FDA now requires that packages of Celexa carry a black box warning (the most serious type of warning in prescription drug labeling) stating that the drug may increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and adolescents.

People who take Celexa are also advised not to drink alcohol or to use any drugs recreationally, because doing so could worsen its side effects. Teens who take Celexa may need to be monitored especially closely to be sure they heed this advice and to be sure they are not exhibiting any signs of potentially harmful changes in their physical or mental health. In addition, sexually active teens may need to be advised to take measures to avoid pregnancy while they are taking Celexa, as the antidepressant could harm a developing fetus. Celexa can cause drowsiness and problems with concentration and decision making, so teens should avoid driving or operating machinery until they know how the drug will affect them.

You and your teen's doctor may need to monitor your teen closely for behavior changes such as agitation, sleeplessness or withdrawal from social situations while she is taking Celexa. Her doctor may also keep close track of her growth because Celexa may cause decreased appetite and weight loss in some children or teens. Research indicates that the best treatment for depression in children and teens is a combination of medication and psychotherapy, so your teen's doctor may recommend a therapist to treat your teen as well as the medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.