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What Are the Pros and Cons of Fluoxetine for Children?

Fluoxetine may cause a loss of appetite in children.
Headaches and anxiety are common side effects of fluoxetine for children.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
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The use of fluoxetine for children has many different positive and negative points. The most prominent positive point is that it has been proven to be effective for treating moderate to severe depression in children, as well as other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Negative points include the drug's side effects, such as nausea, headaches, anxiety, and loss of appetite. One particularly serious negative point of using fluoxetine for children is the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior. The drug should only be prescribed to children who have not responded to psychotherapy after four to six sessions.

The main action of fluoxetine for children is the primary positive point associated with the use of the drug: treating depression. Doctors believe depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals within the brain, called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are messengers which stimulate different nerves and dictate a person’s moods. Fluoxetine is classed as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which stops nerves within the brain from taking up serotonin, an important mood-related neurotransmitter. This enables the chemical to roam around the brain and improve the child’s mood for longer.

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Most parents will be concerned about the increased risk of suicidal behavior in children who use fluoxetine. This is a major concern for many regulatory drug agencies, and has prompted many to put prominent warnings on all antidepressant medications. Research has shown that the rates of suicidal thinking and behavior in depressed children taking a placebo treatment are at around 2 percent. This figure doubles to 4 percent for patients taking fluoxetine.

Other negative effects of fluoxetine for children are the side effects the drug can cause in all patients. This includes those related to possible allergic reactions, such as itching or a rash, and other common side effects such as dry mouth, abnormal dreams, vomiting, and frequent urination. More than one in ten patients taking fluoxetine will experience headaches, insomnia, diarrhea, and fatigue. The most serious and least likely side effects of fluoxetine for children include hallucinations, panic attacks, and mania.

Parents should consider all of the pros and cons of using fluoxetine for children before making a decision. The potential risks may discourage parents from advocating treatment, but it is important to remember the effects depression can have on a child’s life. The most severe possible effect of the treatment is the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior, but it is important to note that no children studied took their own lives. Parents should also remember that depression can cause suicidal thoughts and behavior as well, and children suffering from the condition may need some additional help to overcome it. Parents should discuss their concerns regarding the treatment with a doctor.

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Discuss this Article

croydon
Post 3

@Mor - Kids can have extremely stressful lives though, which is something that adults often conveniently forget. If a medication can afford relief from severe depression or anxiety, I think children should be given access in some cases.

Fluoxetine tends to make my concentration levels go way down though, so I don't know if it's the best option for kids.

Mor
Post 2

@Fa5t3r - I would be very hesitant to put children on psychoactive medication, just because they are still developing and doctors really still have no idea how the medication works. I doubt very much that there is enough documentation about how antidepressants might affect them as they grow.

And even from a spiritual level, I think it's a bad idea, because when you are a child, you have your best chance to learn how to live with mental illness without medication. You are supported and don't have to worry about money or a job or a partner. If you can't learn in those conditions, when will you ever be able to do it?

Fa5t3r
Post 1

I'm on fluoxetine right now and it has done wonders for my depression. I know not everyone works in the same way, but I did experience some of the symptoms (like headaches) and they eventually went away.

I also had a few of the worse symptoms, like suicidal thoughts, which also went away when I was put on a higher dose. It took a while for everything to settle, so make sure that you give it a good, long chance to work.

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