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World J Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;12 Suppl 1:11-5. doi: 10.3109/15622975.2011.600295.

Pharmacotherapy in depressed children and adolescents.

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Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


In children and adolescents, antidepressants are used in the treatment of depressive symptoms and several other psychiatric conditions. In the treatment of mild and moderate depressive symptoms, non-pharmacological approaches such as psychotherapy play a major role, a severe symptomatology may demand a combination with antidepressants. As first-choice medication for the treatment of juvenile depression, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine is recommended, due to its efficacy and approval. As second-choice antidepressants the SSRIs sertraline, escitalopram and citalopram might be used. Other antidepressants - such as tricyclic antidepressants, α(2)-adrenoceptor antagonists, selective noradrenalin reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) - may be alternatively used, but not as first- or second-choice medications. In the case of "off-label" use, patients and parents have to be carefully informed prior to the start of medication, after a thorough risk-benefit analysis. In the following overview we address a general framework, therapeutic strategies and the issues of antidepressant pharmacotherapy for the treatment of unipolar depression in childhood and adolescence.

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