Health Note/Drug Caution

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CURWOOD: Just ahead: the private lives of bears. First, this Environmental Health Note from Cynthia Graber.
GRABER: Recent reports have linked the use of anti-depressants by children and teenagers to an increased risk for suicide. So, the Food and Drug Administration is recommending that certain drugs not be used by adolescents because of this risk. Now, a new study shows just how much is at stake.
According to a report published in this month's issue of Psychiatric Services, the number of kids taking antidepressants grew by almost fifty percent from 1998 to 2002. Preschoolers were the fastest-growing group of all, with use among girls doubling and use among boys up by sixty-four percent. Researchers also say that the number of children taking antidepressants increased by almost 10 percent each year over the past five years, and they expect this trend to continue even though studies show that the drugs are only modestly effective at treating depression within this group.
The scientists involved in the study had no conclusive reason for the increase in drug use. They point to increasing rates of childhood depression, a growing awareness of depression by doctors, and a shift away from mental health services like psychotherapy in favor of pharmaceutical treatments as possible factors. But the researchers were clear on one conclusion: they say more work is needed to determine the appropriateness of prescribing antidepressants to youngsters, one of the most vulnerable patient populations. That's this week's Health Note, I'm Cynthia Graber.
CURWOOD: And you're listening to NPR's Living on Earth.
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[MUSIC: L.S. Gelik "Jeruk Manis" THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF INDONESIA (World Music Network  ? 2000)]