In Part 1, we explored the unverifiable nature of anti-depressants, as well as some pretty extreme potential side-effects. Now, we’ll look at the issues of long-term dependence as well as addictive tendencies and withdrawal. Just when it seems like the situation is hopeless, we’ll consider some alternative therapies that carry none of the negatives that accompany antidepressant drugs.
Long-term Dependence and Addiction
Even if you realize no apparent negative results of the drugs, what will they mean for your teen’s future? Even if the drugs don’t truly help (and, again, the actual results cannot be measured), your teen may feel as if they need these drugs to cope with life. The effects of taking anti-depressants over many years is admittedly unknown, even by proponents of anti-depressants.
As frightening as some of the long-term effects may be, the alternative may be even worse. Discontinuing use has been reported to produce severe withdrawal symptoms in some patients. Slowly tapering off the drugs is rarely accompanied by extreme symptoms—such as vomiting, electric-shock-like symptoms, time-space confusion, fatigue, and suicidal impulses—yet they can be present.
Even without obvious signs of withdrawal, discontinuing use of many of these drugs bring side effects similar to a relapse of depression. According to Dr. Glenmullen , the author of Prozac Backlash, “Thousands and thousands of people have tried to go off SSRIs, and their doctors have mistaken it for a relapse [into depression].”
Alternative Depression Therapy
Like Glenmullen, many counselors are skeptical about the apparent over-prescribing of anti-depressant medications. Especially if symptoms are new or mild, you can try helping your teen with many natural and side-effect-free coping mechanisms, first. Examples include the following:
Of course, counseling can also be a key component in helping your teen understand and learn how to deal with difficult relationships and feelings. While a professional counselor can certainly be an excellent resource, there’s also some counseling you can do at home. Good counseling isn’t focused on telling your teen how to feel, but trying to explore the feelings and whether they have an obvious trigger, or source and encouraging positive coping techniques. For instance, many report feelings of depression related to circumstances that understandably warrant negative feelings. Situational depression is different from clinical depression, in that its cause is clear and understandable; however, the distinction is not often considered. Situations that may prompt this kind of depression include major life changes or difficulties, such as deaths, health problems, break-ups, moving, or even positive transitions such as graduation. In addition, some moodiness and negative emotions are perfectly normal, especially during adolescence.
If you need help with figuring out whether your teen’s depression can be handled without medication or whether medical intervention is necessary, a good counselor can help you explore your options.