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Antidepressants

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It tells you about antidepressants, a treatment used for ADHD.

We haven't looked at the research on antidepressants in the same detail we have for the other treatments we cover. (To read more, see Our method.) But we've included some information because you may be interested.

What are they?

Antidepressants are drugs that are usually used to treat depression. Some of them have been tried as a treatment for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But antidepressants are not usually used in the UK for the treatment of ADHD.

  • Antidepressants might be used if a child has anxiety or depression as well as ADHD. [139]

  • The only antidepressant that is recommended in the UK to treat depression in children is a drug called fluoxetine (brand name Prozac). [140] Fluoxetine is a type of antidepressant called an SSRI.

  • Imipramine is another antidepressant your doctor may suggest. Imipramine and drugs like it (such as desipramine, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and clomipramine) may help more with behaviour problems than with problems concentrating. [6]

  • At the moment, antidepressants are considered an experimental treatment for ADHD. This means they should be prescribed only by specialists in ADHD. And they should probably be used only after other treatments haven't helped.

Side effects

Thoughts of suicide and self-harm

Doctors in the UK now think that many SSRIs do more harm than good when used to treat depression in children. This is because antidepressants increase the risk of self-harm and thoughts about suicide in children and teenagers. [140]

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which checks the safety of drugs, has warned that all antidepressants can increase the risk of children and teenagers thinking about or trying to commit suicide. [141]

Because of this risk, doctors and parents are advised to keep a careful check on children and young people taking antidepressants for signs of suicidal thoughts. Feeling more depressed or thinking about suicide are most likely to happen during the first months of treatment, or when the dose is changed.

Withdrawal symptoms

Children or young people who are taking antidepressants should not suddenly stop or reduce their dose, because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms. These can include chills, stomach ache, and flu-like symptoms. Gradually reducing the dose can lessen the chance of these symptoms.

Citations

For references related to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder click here.
Last Updated: September 27, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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