FDA suggests changes to anti-depressant labels

Some worry that the drugs aren’t safe for use under the age of 24; student opinions vary

By Nick Massie

As adolescents in the United States are dealing with more pressure and stress, recent government regulations on anti-depressants may make it more difficult for them to receive treatment.

In late 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a black box warning label on a particular type of anti-depressants known as SSRIs. Then in December 2006, the FDA proposed new regulations regarding warning labels on anti-depressants.

Research suggests that these drugs are increasing the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts in patients under the age of 24 that are prescribed to these drugs.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are used to boost the amounts of serotonin to bind with the postsynaptic receptor, which receives messages from the nervous system.

Many SSRIs are prescribed to adolescents in order to balance their depression.

According to Flagler College’s contracted Dr. Dudley Baringer, people, especially teenagers, are bred to be consumers. He said that advertisers have learned that the more advertisements people are exposed to, the higher their anxiety levels.

Beringer said anti-depressants are the most successful and resourceful way to help with anxiety and depression.

“I use these drugs as a facilitator of change,” he said. “It’s crucial to screen and ask patients about suicidal thoughts. Research has shown that there is a marginal increase in suicidal tendencies in people under the age of 24 that are just starting to take these drugs. Patient selection is important in preventing these things from happening.”

Baringer said that anti-depressants are helpful tools that are safe to prescribe to college students.

“Modern society is placing a large amounts of stress on young adults with out giving them the proper tools to deal with the work load,” he said. “Anti-depressants are simply tools. If used right they will help to fix the problem. It’s like using the right tool for the right job.”

In over 15 years of working with Flagler College, Baringer said he has no knowledge of any students that he has prescribed these drugs to harming themselves as a result of the medication.

Associate Dean of Counseling Mary Tinlan said that anti-depressants are safe, and should be prescribed if a student has a clinical condition.

“They are required to do follow-ups with not only myself, but with the [prescribing] physician as well,” she said.

Flagler College sophomore Julia Howland was prescribed an anti-depressant medication for about 5 months.

“While on anti-depressants for anxiety, the medication made me much more focused and motivated. I would say the drugs were definitely helpful,” Howland said.

Sophomore Catherine McGlinchy said, “I think these drugs are safe for adolescents as long as your physician is completely aware of your full situation. Lexapro literally helps me pass negative experiences without sorrow. It quote on quote ‘fills in the valleys.'”

Lexapro, a SSRI, is used to treat patients with severe or clinical depression. According to drug manufacturer Forest Laboratories, Lexapro has been prescribed to over 15 million people world wide.

Senior Nate Palm, formerly prescribed to the medication Rameron, had negative experiences while on the drug.

“I was drugged out of my mind,” Palm said. “I was drugged to the point that I barely remember my sophomore year. What really bothered me about the drug is that I had no thoughts. It altered my reality so much I was physically there, but not mentally. I may have had suicidal thoughts, but I was too drugged to recognize them.”

Palm blamed Rameron for causing him to fail his sophomore year. “I couldn’t get out of bed to go to class. Even with my friends shaking me, I just physically couldn’t wake up. The withdrawal period after I stopped taking the medication was a little over 4 months. I have had better success academically and in life in general since I have stopped taking the drug.”

The FDA is now worried after updating the labels on anti-depression medication in mid December 2006 that the labels, based towards adolescents under the age of 24, will deter parents, patients, and physicians from prescribing these medications. Many physicians feel as though by adding this label it will only make the problems worse. The labels deterrent from prescriptions will potentially scare off people that the drugs would actually help.

Some physicians speculate that the new label is a way to clear the manufacturers name from lawsuits. Nothing has actually changed in the drug since the beginning.

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