Antidepressants Require Close Monitoring

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“Dear Pharmacist,

My 16-year-old daughter has been taking an antidepressant drug for depression for 10 months. She was doing better and enjoying life but in the past few weeks her sadness has set back in. She isolates herself and I hear her crying all the time. She’s irritable and refuses to participate in family activities. Her doctor wants to increase her drug dosage again. Do you think this will help?”

–K.T., Sacramento, California

Answer: It’s hard to say; this might work for a short time. Generally speaking, however, the higher the dosage, the greater her risk for side effects such as insomnia, headache, dizziness, low appetite and confusion. I’m not a psychiatrist, but it’s clear that the doctor thinks your daughter is slipping backward, so he’s prescribing a higher dosage again. This may very well be the case, but I have to warn you that this change in your daughter’s behavior could be due to her medication, not a relapse into depression.

I surmise that because antidepressants have been linked to thoughts of self harm and even suicidal thoughts (and yes, suicides have occurred!) in children and teens, although it’s unusual catastrophic side effect. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently requires that antidepressant drugs carry a special ‘black box’ warning about these dangers. Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for with antidepressant therapy include worsening depression, anger and thoughts of worthlessness, hopelessness or talk of suicide and how life would be without them.

I offer natural ways to ease depression, as well as safety tips if you take prescribed antidepressants in Chapter 5 of my book, “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” As a caring mom, you need to ask your daughter whether or not she’s experimenting with other drugs like alcohol or cocaine – another reason for emotional disorders. Combining these substances with antidepressants is extremely dangerous. Learn more about her lifestyle (could she be pregnant?) and also talk to her doctor(s). Finally, consider the following safe and natural remedies to take with her medication: essential fatty acids, magnesium chelate, B-complex, vitamin C, Panax ginseng and green tea.