WHO Study Finds “Worrying” Increase in Prescribing of Antidepressants to Youth


A World Health Organization (WHO) study released online by the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology yesterday, finds a “worrying” increase in rates of antidepressant prescriptions to children and adolescents. Denmark’s increase of 60% topped the study. WHO director of mental health Shekhar Saxena stated; ““Anti-depressant use amongst young people is and has been a matter of concern because of two reasons. One, are more people being prescribed anti-depressants without sufficient reason? And second, can anti-depressants do any major harm?”

New Europe →

Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and adolescents from five western countries, 2005–2012European Neuropsychopharmacology, published online February 08, 2016. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.02.001

From the study:


  • From 2005–2012, antidepressant (ATD) use increased markedly in all studied countries.
  • In 2012, ATD prevalence was 1.6% (US), 1.1% (UK), 1.0% (DK), 0.6% (NL) and 0.5% (DE).
  • Increase was greatest in 10−14 year olds (NL, UK) and 15−19 year olds (DK, DE, US).
  • SSRIs were most popular in DK (81.8% of all ATDs), and tricyclics in DE (23.0%).
  • Top-ranking drugs were citalopram (DK, NL), fluoxetine (DE, UK) and sertraline (US).


Following the FDA black box warning in 2004, substantial reductions in antidepressant (ATD) use were observed within 2 years in children and adolescents in several countries. However, whether these reductions were sustained is not known. The objective of this study was to assess more recent trends in ATD use in youth (0−19 years) for the calendar years 2005/6–2012 using data extracted from regional or national databases of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US). In a repeated cross-sectional design, the annual prevalence of ATD use was calculated and stratified by age, sex, and according to subclass and specific drug. Across the years, the prevalence of ATD use increased from 1.3% to 1.6% in the US data (+26.1%); 0.7% to 1.1% in the UK data (+54.4%); 0.6% to 1.0% in Denmark data (+60.5%); 0.5% to 0.6% in the Netherlands data (+17.6%); and 0.3% to 0.5% in Germany data (+49.2%). The relative growth was greatest for 15−19 year olds in Denmark, Germany and UK cohorts, and for 10−14 year olds in Netherlands and US cohorts. While SSRIs were the most commonly used ATDs, particularly in Denmark (81.8% of all ATDs), Germany and the UK still displayed notable proportions of tricyclic antidepressant use (23.0% and 19.5%, respectively). Despite the sudden decline in ATD use in the wake of government warnings, this trend did not persist, and by contrast, in recent years, ATD use in children and adolescents has increased substantially in youth cohorts from five Western countries.

From New Europe:

“The debate about the usefulness of the psychiatric drugs in general is still on. In May 2015, Peter Gøtzsche, professor at Nordic Cochrane Centre in Rigshospitalet claimed that “we could stop almost all psychotropic drug use without deleterious effect.”

“Gøtzsche claimed in a debate at the British Medical Journal , that psychiatric drugs do more harm than good. “Psychiatric drugs are responsible for the deaths of more than half a million people aged 65 and older each year in the Western world…Their benefits would need to be colossal to justify this, but they are minimal,” he stressed, referring to some of his studies.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. “The publisher regrets that this article has been temporarily removed. A replacement will appear as soon as possible in which the reason for the removal of the article will be specified, or the article will be reinstated.”

    Hope someone captured a screen shot.

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  2. “… The safeguards imposed by the regulatory agencies ‘work to insure the drugs available do more harm than good.'” There is a problem with the medical community not knowing the common adverse and withdrawal symptoms of the antidepressants, however. And, rather than taking people who suffer the adverse effects of the antidepressants off them, or properly diagnosing antidepressant discontuation syndrome for what it actually is, the doctors are misdiagnosing those who do not react well to the antidepressants as “bipolar.”

    And when this results in the addition of an antipsychotic, as is recommended by today’s “bipolar” treatment guidelines, to “cure” the adverse effects of an antidepressant. This can result in “psychosis,” via the central symptoms of poly pharmacy induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. The symptoms of which are almost identical to the symptoms of “schizophrenia,” thus are also almost always misdiagnosed, too. And all these medical misdiagnoses, albeit highly profitable for the medical community, are doing more harm than good to the patients.

    I do hope the medical community will stop turning children (and adults) into “bipolar” / “schizophrenics” with the psychiatric drugs some day soon.

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