“Worrying” sharp rise in youth antidepressant use

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The number of young people aged 21 and younger using antidepressant SSRI increased by 40 percent since 2007, according to television program Zembla based on figures from the foundation of pharmaceutical statistics SFK. Experts call the growing use of SSRI "worrying", because the drug could have suicidal behavior as a side effect, NU reports. 

SSRI is the newest generation of antidepressants. A massive 17 thousand young people in the Netherlands were using this drug last year. The increase in use was particularly high last year, the highest among young people between the ages of 15 and 19 years - an increase of 6 percent compared to 2014.

One possible explanation for the increased use is the length of the waiting lists in youth mental health care, according to Zembla. "If you have to wait several weeks or months for a therapist, I can imagine that you start antidepressants earlier", Catrien Reichart, child psychiatrist at the Leiden University Medical Center, said on the television program. Clinical psychologist Jan Derksen of the Radboud University in Nijmegen adds to that: "The arsenal of psychological support that should be available has become smaller. As a result, aid workers are so much busier. And then medication is a much quicker intervention."

All informational leaflets for antidepressants warn that the drugs can cause suicidal behavior. But according to Zebla, such warnings are missing in GP's guidelines. And the SFK figures show that half of the first antidepressant prescriptions for young people come from a GP.