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This Is the Only Antidepressant That Works for Children

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Researchers studied how 14 regularly prescribed antidepressants affect children and adolescents and found that only one was more effective than a placebo: Prozac.

Generically called fluoxetine, Prozac was the only antidepressant was the only antidepressant in which the benefits outweighed harms. The study, which was published in the journal The Lancet earlier this month, reviewed 34 randomized controlled trials across 5,260 participants from ages 9 to 18. Each child or adolescent either took an antidepressant or a placebo for an average of eight weeks, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The use of antidepressants in youth and kids has been at issue for years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration even issued a warning in 2004 that antidepressants in anyone under 24 years of age could actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. That initially led to a drop in use of antidepressants among youth, but has slowly ticked up in the past decade. In 2012, about 1.6% of American children and adolescents took an antidepressant, up from 1.3% in 2005, according to a study in European Neuropsychopharmacology.

Nearly 3% of children between ages 6 and 12 suffer with some level of depression. Almost 6% of teenagers suffer the same. Depression in youth manifests itself different from adult forms. It’s usually marked by irritability, aggressiveness, and negative behavior at school. Adult symptoms are generally marked by mood swings and lower cognitive performance. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why depression manifests itself so different in the two age groups and why antidepressants have such different effects, though they predict that brain development has something to do with it.