Drugs not the answer for depressed youth

By on July 26, 2013
ForumOpinion

Most toddlers are full of energy and love playing around. Getting a 4-year-old to stop talking can be next to impossible because they love telling you about all of their new observations. Some kids, however, tend to be quieter and do not partake in the same activities as their peers of the same age group. These children are usually not as outgoing. Can that mean they are depressed? When most people think of depression, a preschooler is definitely not the first image that comes to mind. However, new studies show that 84,000 out of 6 million preschoolers are depressed in the United States.

Depression is defined as severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy or a condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Adults can usually explain to a psychologist or psychiatrist that they are experiencing the symptoms of depression because they have heard of them and understand the disorder. However, the diagnosis of preschool depression is harder than diagnosing regular depression because these young children are not capable of communicating at the same level as adults and have not yet fully grasped the different levels of emotions they can experience or how to fully express what they feel.

Anti-depressants are usually not considered safe to use in young children, especially since they have harmful side effects on adults. Yet, estimates show that some 4.5 million children were taking antidepressants in 2010. Somehow, I cannot justify prescribing anti-depressants to children. When they are barely considered safe to give to adults, why let our toddlers take them? Their minds are still in the early stages of development and any powerful drug can have a negative impact on them.

The truth is that drug companies are a multi-billion dollar industry that markets its product as a magic potion of sorts, while downplaying the risks and side effects. When we see commercials and advertisements showing the lives that anti-depressants change, the companies are subtly luring us to buy their product. They fail to mention that side effects include nausea, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, dizziness, tremors, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea and withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the medication.

Sadly, we are paying these companies billions of dollars to experience the dangerous side effects of drugs when studies show that placebo pills are just as effective as antidepressant drugs. Of course, the placebo pill does not have any dangerous side effects. However, there are many ethical issues involved with giving patients placebos when they think they are taking anti-depressants.
Instead of anti-depressants or placebos, though, we can place children in group therapy with their families so they can learn to talk about their feelings. In addition to talking about their feelings, they can rest assured that their parents understand how they feel. Also, parents can learn from the therapists how to keep their children thinking positive.

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