Home > Health Library > Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Depression in Children and Teens
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRIs) can restore the balance of certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that regulate mood. When these
brain chemicals are in proper balance, the symptoms of
depression may be relieved.
Selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors are used to treat depression and
Fluoxetine can improve depression symptoms and prevent relapse in children and teens.1 Studies have also shown other SSRIs work for children and teens, such as citalopram and sertraline.2
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:
Call your doctor if your child has:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
SSRIs can trigger a
manic episode if the child actually has
bipolar disorder and not major depression.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is
not available in all systems.)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
Taking triptans, used for headaches, with SSRIs
(selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (selective
serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) can cause a very rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome.
Although fluoxetine and
escitalopram are often the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRI) used for the treatment of symptoms of depression in children and
teens, doctors also prescribe others. People respond to medicines differently.
For some children or teens, another SSRI for treatment of symptoms
of depression may be more effective than fluoxetine or escitalopram. If
another SSRI is not effective, sometimes doctors may use another type of
antidepressant to treat depression in children and teens.
child may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking an SSRI. But it
can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions
or concerns about the medicine, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3
weeks, talk to your child's doctor.
Do not suddenly stop taking antidepressants. The use of antidepressants should
be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a doctor. Abruptly
stopping antidepressant medicines can cause negative side effects or a relapse
into another depression episode.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health may be at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicines. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If your teen is pregnant or breast-feeding, do not use any medicines unless her doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm the baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all of your teen's doctors know that she is pregnant or breast-feeding.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Hazell P (2011). Depression in children and adolescents, search date July 2011. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Wagner KD, Brent DA (2009). Depressive disorders and suicide. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3652–3663. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Current as of:
May 3, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & David A. Axelson, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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