Archives for Teenagers


How long is too long for antidepressants?

Young people spend too long on antidepressants without examining whether they still need them, a Duke psychiatrist argued in a recent New York Times post.

The psychiatrist, Doris Iarovici, is almost certainly right that more young adults are taking these meds for longer these days than in the past. The problem is that we don't have a very good idea of how many - or for how long. As a result, it's hard to know how much concern is justified.
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Atypical Antipsychotics

Too Early To Link Sandy Hook Shooting With Psych Meds

Tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary aren't just agonizing and heart-wrenching for millions of people - they're frustrating.

We keep asking ourselves "how?" and "why?" And, with authorities still trying to piece together evidence, the public has to make do with limited - and often incorrect - information.

First came reports that the shooter, Adam Lanza, might have Asperger's. To my knowledge, no authoritative source has yet confirmed Lanza had a formal diagnosis of that or any other emotional, behavioral or developmental condition.

But that lack of evidence - as well as expert consensus that Asperger's was extremely unlike to have triggered a shooting rampage - didn't stop an army of commentators from weighing in.

Now, comes the speculation about whether Lanza might have a history of taking mood or behavior-altering medication.

Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not blaming journalists, bloggers, pundits, Twitter users, and the general public from wondering if Lanza might be taking psychiatric meds.

In fact, it's one of the first questions that came to my mind - even before I heard the reports of his possible Asperger's.

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ADHD drugs

Think Kids Are “Overmedicated”? First Consider This.

I've argued before that declaring American kids and teens to be "overmedicated" is something of a cop-out.

How can people say what constitutes overmedication when they can't - or won't - specify what would constitute an acceptable number or percentage of kids taking psychiatric meds?

Still, I do care about the numbers, because they can give us clues as to which kids and how many are getting appropriate treatment for emotional and behavioral problems.

A recent and widely publicized study by researchers from The National Institute of Mental Health provides data on some -but not all - key measurements of youth medication use.

Its main finding: Just one in seven teens with a diagnosable psychiatric conditions have recently taken medications to treat it.

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ADHD drugs

Study Finds Autistic Kids With Psychiatric Disorders More Likely To Be Medicated

Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) take psychotropic medications to treat associated symptoms of their conditions, such as irritability and anxiety. Usage has increased in recent years, and some recent studies have questioned the evidence base supporting the drugs' effectiveness in young people with ASD.

A new study, published in a supplement to the November issue of Pediatrics, suggests that coexisting psychiatric conditions and problem behaviors might...
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Abuse and diversion

Mixing Meds and Alcohol: Just How Dangerous Is It?

Most psychiatric drugs bear some version of the warning: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages when taking this medication."

In reality, though, many people taking psych meds drink anyway. They have various reasons: not wanting to curtail their fun, not putting much stock in the warnings, or simply thinking it's easier to take a proffered drink than explain why they're turning it down.

Doctors oftentimes don't bother to talk to patients about potential dangers. Or they tell patients not to drink, but don't explain why. To make matters worse, because of a lack of studies on the subject, patients inclined to do their own research will have a hard time just how risky it is to drink while taking various kinds of psychiatric medications (I've written elsewhere about this troubling lack of evidence).

A widely publicized study that came out last month in the journal Neurology underscores the problem. The findings, which pooled data from 16 studies, showed that people taking SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft or Celexa were 40 percent more likely to suffer a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain and 50 percent more likely to suffer any bleeding in the skull.

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Can You Be Too Attuned to Symptoms and Side Effects?

Doctors and mental health professionals have long encouraged patients to keep track of their moods and behaviors to gauge how they respond to psychiatric treatment.

With the explosion of mobile apps and websites such as PatientsLikeMe, which help people chart symptoms, medications and side effects, we've entered a new era of unprecedented medical self-monitoring.

Is this a good thing when it comes to psychiatric medications and mental health?
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Can Meds Transform Mental Illness Into Mental Health?

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I've been thinking a lot about the terms "mental health" and "mental illness" ever since reading a recent post post on the topic by blogger Natasha Tracy.

Natasha contends that using the politically-correct, cheerier-sounding term "mental health" trivializes psychiatric disorders and ends up shortchanging those who suffer from mental illness. That got me thinking again about a question I've often pondered: Can long-term, maintenance treatment with psychiatric medication take someone with a "mental illness" and restore him or her to "mental health?"

The answer isn't as obvious as it might seem.
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Waiting Until You’re “Old Enough” for Antidepressants

What's it like to suffer from severe depression for as long as you can remember - and to be too scared to ask for help until age 18?

Today I’m featuring the story of Allie, a 21-year-old college senior in Wisconsin who was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Allie kept her unhappiness a secret and didn't begin taking medication when she was old enough to ask for it without her parents finding out.

Allie's story is interesting, because it shows how kids can suffer from severe depression from a very young age. It also shows how in a culture where psychiatric drugs seem ubiquitous kids can come to focus on medication as a source of salvation.

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ADHD drugs

Medicating Class Cut-Ups But Overlooking the Rest

This weekend a mother published a New York Times column about how her son came to be diagnosed with ADHD and became a member of the ballooning "Ritalin Generation."

"Just a little medication," the teacher told the boy's mother, "could really turn things around" for the boy, who was having trouble focusing on class worksheets and lining up quietly for transitions between classes.

When the mother firmly responded that she and her husband weren't going to medicate their son, the teacher backtracked, sounding mock-horrified.

She wasn't explicitly suggesting medication, she said. The law prohibited such a thing. She just didn't want him to fall through the cracks - and thus was was merely suggesting the boy's parents have him evaluated by a psychologist.

The boy was evaluated, and sure enough, he ended up on Ritalin for a short-time, though he quit it on his own a year later, matured out of his former inattentiveness, and eventually ended up a well-adjusted, school-loving honor-roll student - and medication-free.

Such stories are commonly invoked as cautionary tales about the alleged over-diagnosis of ADHD and other behavior disorders and over-prescribing of drugs like Ritalin to keep children's behavior in check. Teachers recommending meds for disruptive students often feature prominently. In fact, the debate over school involvement in medicating disruptive children showed up as early as the early 1970s.
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