Headlines > Effect of ‘happy pills’ on young people: are drugs really the answer?

Posted on June 29, 2017

Image by Yu Morita

Cara Wylie investigates the effectiveness of antidepressants in treating teenagers
Recent figures from the NHS have shown that between April 2015 and April 2016, “166,510 under 18s, including 10,500 seven to 12-year-olds” were prescribed anti-depressants. It appears that, in recent years, doctors are feeling more obliged to prescribe antidepressants to people much sooner, and to much younger patients.

However, the results of clinical trials undertaken in 2016 showed that most antidepressants are ineffective. Out of 14 types of antidepressant only fluoxetine (Prozac) was deemed more effective than a placebo in helping young people suffering from major depression.

One such antidepressant, venlafaxine (Effexor) could potentially increase the risk of suicide. In this case, it seems that the dangers outweigh the benefits of prescribing antidepressants to children.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advised that fluoxetine should be ‘cautiously considered’ for five to 11-year-olds.

The use of antidepressants by young people, in particular teens, is now so common that it’s become a normality to some, and this is resulting in more young people asking for antidepressants because that’s what their friends are taking.

In the light of these results, it looks as though antidepressants are not the most effective way to treat mental illness in young people.

What I think
I want to know why this is happening. Why has it become so easy to obtain these pills?

It might be that doctors are overprescribing, due to the underfunding of alternative methods of care for mental health, such as therapy. It could also be because mental health is still not regarded as important as physical health.

Either way, we need to find a solution, and we need to find it quick.

What do you think? Please comment below.

If you are experiencing mental health problems, information from the following website could be useful:



Cara Wylie
Cara is a student at Palmers Green High School. She’s interested in politics and media. In the future she would like to pursue a career in media.


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One Response to Effect of ‘happy pills’ on young people: are drugs really the answer?

  1. Shakira Dyer June 30, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    >clinical trials undertaken in 2016

    Which clinical trials were these? Someone more medically inclined might want to check the validity of these statements…

    LBC, a news station I listen to, is currently doing a call-in on this. I will post if they upload a video.

    https://beta.nhs.uk/medicines/venlafaxine/ – NHS facts on venlafaxine. According to this, it is an apparently newer antidepressent. It can help treat people with depression, and sometimes with anxiety or panic attacks. However it says that adults should take venlafaxine- I don’t know if this counts young people – aged 15-25…

    This is the antidepressant that, according to your article, trials found could increase the risk of suicide. According to this study by RTI Health Solution and the University of Warwick, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1790752/ – some users of this antidepressent had *already had* ‘risk factors of commiting suicide’ BEFORE they started taking venlafaxine.

    So it may not be the drug, but the fact that, unfortunately, the people who took venlafaxine were thinking of commiting suicide anyway. This could mean, however, that venlafaxine didn’t help them in ‘curing’ thier depression.

    I think that young people who do *not* have depression should NOT be taking these medical drugs. Why would they? If it really is ‘because that’s what their friends are taking.’ then they’re treating it like a so-called ‘recreational drug’ or like smoking – it’s a medicine, not something cool to do!

    I’m hearing on the radio that some adults who had depression were told to take so many antidepressants, and really they would have benefited more with counselling and therapy, someone helping them through. However it would be different for every person.

    I also don’t suffer from mental health issues myself, but I would think that counselling should be available as well as the antidepressants.

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