Do all antidepressants cause teens to have suicidal thoughts?

While antidepressants remain the #1 class of drugs prescribed in the United States, some studies have reported that some young adults experience negative side effects when taking them. The biggest concern revolves around whether antidepressants lead to greater suicidal thoughts.

As a result of some studies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that antidepressant manufacturers include a "black box" on their products. The black box warned people that antidepressants could cause an increase in suicidal thoughts among those aged 10-24. Up until that point, the suicide rate in that population had dropped. Many attributed this decrease to the increased use of antidepressants.

After the "black box" was added to antidepressant labeling, antidepressant use dropped off and the teen suicide rate rose. Some blamed the decreased use of antidepressants for this uptick.

Most doctors and researchers agree that antidepressants do more good than harm in the adolescent population. The key is to "start low, go slow"; in other words, start at a low dose, go in for monitoring by the doctor regularly, and increase the dosage slowly. All doctors will want to see a teen or anyone just starting a new medication once each week or two. Also, it's important to inform your teen that suicidal thoughts may crop up. Reassure him or her that these may occur and that they are simply a result of the medication, a side effect so to speak. They are not "real." Encourage your teen to tell you if they're having these feelings.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Suicidal thoughts are a risk for depressed teenagers who take any antidepressant. But certain antidepressants are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in teenagers. Talk to your child's doctor and/or psychiatrist about which medication is best for your teen. Also learn the warning signs of suicide, such as giving away possessions and being highly interested in death.

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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.