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Youth Anti-Depressant Use Avoidable

Youth Anti-Depressant Use Avoidable

New Zealand First is calling on the Government to increase mental health services for children and young persons in the up-coming budget to avoid the over-prescribing of anti-depressant drugs.

Health spokesperson Barbara Stewart says that the grave shortage of counselling services for children and teenagers in New Zealand means doctors have few options other than to prescribe potentially dangerous drugs.

“The fact that the number of anti-depressants prescribed for six to 18-year-olds climbed from 14,963 “items dispensed” in 1998, to 24,597 in 2002 must be of great concern to the Minister of Health,” said Mrs Stewart.

“The World Health Organisation recommends a ratio of one child and adolescent psychiatrist per 50,000 of population but New Zealand has a ratio of one per 156,000. Counselling services are in short supply and at the most basic level even the local GP is not sufficiently funded to spend time with patients.

“According to Medsafe SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors) are not registered for use in children but doctors are permitted to prescribe them under specialist advice. The American Food and Drug Administration has warned that SSRIs should not be used in most circumstances and Britain has banned their use for teenagers which raises the question of why their use seems to be increasing in this country.

“There is also the potential for future problems arising from the long term use of medication on the 1,800 children and young people currently being prescribed anti-depressants.

“This is a problem which can be solved by money and the provision of increased services for children and young people in the up-coming budget would be the first step in the right direction. The remedy lies in the Government’s hands,” said Mrs Stewart.

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