Apparently, the big drop in antidepressant drug use among the young is
the direct result of the new black box warnings mandated by the Food and
Drug Administration in the spring of 2004.
That labeling alert had previously been reserved for only the deadliest
of drugs. But given the mounting evidence of the damage these drugs have
done to young people, the recommendation was a wholly appropriate one.
Earlier that same year, experts told the FDA what many parents had
already learned from bitter, personal experience. When it comes to
children, antidepressants can actually trigger the suicidal impulses
their use is designed to prevent.
Indeed, it was an apparent pattern of suicidal behavior in pediatric
studies of Paxil, a popular antidepressant, that prompted the FDA to
order an analysis of a whole array of antidepressant medications.
The preliminary results of that study confirmed the rise in suicidal
In a recent report, the FDA notes that, at its peak in 2002, nearly
11 million antidepressant prescriptions were written for American
Since the agency began issuing advisories about the possible adverse
effects of such drugs, culminating in the black box warnings, pediatric
prescriptions for antidepressants have plummeted 25 percent. An overall
decline of 20 percent has been seen since March 2004.
In Tennessee, where residents' drug use is a shocking 58 percent above
average - the highest drug use in the nation - that national decline in
antidepressant prescriptions at least invites the hope that a similar
drop will occur here as well. That's because, in addition to drug use,
Tennessee also has a higher than average rate of suicide.
According to a report from the Tennessee Commission on Children and
Youth, the east south central states - Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and
Mississippi - have the third highest suicide rate among the nine regions
in the United States, and Tennessee leads the region. Among young adults
15 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death behind only
accidents and homicides. The deadly mix of a medication- prone state
with an already high suicide rate is, of course, glaringly obvious.