What should I know before my child uses Paxil?

Before your child takes the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine), you should know that the drug has not been approved for use in children. However, doctors sometimes prescribe it "off label" to children and teens who are experiencing major depression or another mental health problem.

Paxil belongs to a category of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which treat depression and other mental disorders by adjusting the level of the chemical serotonin in the brain. One of serotonin's functions is to help your brain regulate your moods. Research shows that about 61% of children and teens suffering from depression will improve by taking an SSRI medication, and even more (about 71%) will improve with a combination of an SSRI and cognitive behavior therapy.

However, SSRI drugs may also cause side effects in children and teens, from nausea, stomach upset, headaches and trouble sleeping to potentially life-threatening changes in mood. In a review of clinical trials of children and teens who were being treated for mental issues, 4% of those being treated with an SSRI experienced suicidal thinking or behaviors, about twice the rate in those who took a placebo. Paxil carries a so-called black box warning -- the strongest caution available in drug labeling -- noting that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thinking or behavior in children, teens and young adults. If your child is prescribed Paxil, the doctor may ask you to monitor your child carefully not only for physical side effects but for changes in mood or personality such as extreme worry, irritability, aggressive behavior, restlessness or agitation.

In some children, Paxil may cause decreased appetite and weight loss. Your child's doctor may monitor your child's height and weight carefully during treatment with Paxil. Talk to your child's doctor about all of the potential risks and benefits to your child of taking Paxil.

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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.