The debate over youth and antidepressants is a rich one, and Benedict Carey, the Times reporter who wrote a front-page story earlier this week about the spike in diagnosis of bipolar disorder among teens, is doing a fine job of keeping the debate fresh. In today’s paper Carey reports on a new CDC finding that suicide rates among Americans ages 10-24 shot up an estimated 8-10 percent from 2003 to 2004–with a noticeable overrepresentation of teenage girls. This was precisely the moment when the possible connection between antidepressants and suicide was seeping into the public imagination; parents, teachers and medical professionals were beginning to wonder publicly if prescribing Prozac and related SSRIs to adolescents was helpful or harmful to their health. Some experts, upon hearing this new finding, suggest that the spike in suicides was related to the drop in prescriptions that year prompted by safety concerns. Others are writing it off as a statistical anomaly.
As I wrote earlier in the week, I think young sufferers should be entitled to benefit from such medications, if the medical community is confident that the pills are, on balance, helpful. To ensure their safety, I would prescribe healthy doses of federal regulation and careful research.