Kat writes: My 13 y/o niece was just started on Prozac. She seems to have some anxiety and maybe OCD. What are your thoughts on young teenagers taking antidepressants?
Dear Kat, Prozac is approved for use in pediatric patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can restore the balance of certain brain chemicals that regulate mood. When these brain chemicals are in proper balance, the symptoms MDD and OCD may be relieved. Antidepressants are used to relieve the obsessive thoughts and subsequent compulsive behaviors in those who have OCD. By increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, antidepressants help to regulate the communication between different parts of the brain. One thing to keep in mind is that there is the following black box warning with Prozac: Suicidality in Children and Adolescents— Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in short-term studies in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of Prozac or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk with the clinical need. With that said, In one 13-week clinical trial in pediatric patients (N=103). Prozac produced a statistically significantly greater mean change from baseline to endpoint than did placebo as measured by the Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS). I suggest that you and your niece work closely with a child psychiatrist in setting up an appropriate treatment plan that may include some therapeutic element.