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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 13:25 GMT
Teens 'still get antidepressants'
Prozac
Prozac is one antidepressant which is recommended for under-18s
Thousands of under-18s are being given antidepressants, despite warnings over their use, it has been revealed.

They show more than 84,000 children and teenagers were prescribed drugs such as Seroxat and Prozac in 2004-2005.

The government figures were published in response to a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats.

In 2003, experts said SSRI antidepressants should not be given to teenagers after experts' concerns they made some patients suicidal.

It's very worrying that these drugs are still being dispensed to under-18s
Sophie Corlett, Mind
The government's drugs advisers had also warned the medications could cause mood swings.

Prozac is still recommended for under-18s, as it is thought that the benefits of taking this particular drug outweigh any potential risk.

However, its use is only recommended for those with severe depression.

The figures show there were 27,349 prescriptions of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants last year to under 15s, and another 56,924 to teenagers aged 16 to 18 in full-time education.

There were 2,601 prescriptions of Seroxat to under 15s and 4,290 to 16 to 18s.

Prozac was dispensed 26,422 times to under-15s and 40,991 to the older teenagers.

'Alarm bells'

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman who tabled the question, said: "Despite warnings by experts that prescribing antidepressant medicines for children and young people can lead to an increased risk of suicide, these figures show doctors have carried on regardless.

"The shocking over-reliance on the use of these drugs demonstrates yet again the chronic shortage of talking therapies and the weakness of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services."

It is important to note that some of the drugs... are used for other disorders
Department of Health
He added: "These figures should be ringing alarm bells at the Department of Health and calling into question the way in which advice on medicines is monitored."

In a statement, the Department of Health said: "It is important to note that some of the drugs in the Parliamentary Question, while they may be classified as antidepressants, are used for other disorders such as bed-wetting, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and phobic states.

"Given the large range of antidepressants in the list, it cannot be assumed that they were all being used to treat depression in children."

But Sophie Corlett, of the mental health charity Mind, said: "It's very worrying that these drugs are still being dispensed to under-18s.

"While they may be appropriate for a few teenagers, guidelines recommend against their use because the risks generally outweigh the benefits.

"SSRIs have been associated with unpleasant and serious side effects, from headaches and weight loss to increased suicidal feelings and self-harming.

"Doctors are advised to refer children experiencing depression for therapy, but the waiting list for this is very long in many areas."


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