Teenage Depression Treatment w/ Drugs? 3 Things You Need to Know

Somewhere along the way someone decided that teenage depression treatment using antidepressants was ok.  I understand that there are challenges and there may actually be a time and place for medicating our kids for psychological problems.

But certainly not at the rate we are medicating them today.  These drugs affect the way your brain functions.  YOUR BRAIN.  Yes–the center of who you or your child is.  YOUR BRAIN.

Any antidepressant drug is going to fundamentally change the way that an enzyme involved in a pathway in the brain performs.  And unless we choose to fool ourselves, we really have no idea whatsoever how our brains function.  Messing around in a developing brain just sounds like a bad idea.  But just how bad?  This particular article looks at just how much anti-depressants may effect a developing child’s brain.

First, a brief primer on the amygdala.

The amygdala is a region of the brain that is thought to be responsible for things like fear conditioning and the long term processing of memory.  Since it is responsible for fear conditioning, what do you think might happen if we blocked the action of receptors in the amygdala with antidepressants?  Of course you know where I’m going with this.

While this study was done on rats, the implications are pretty scary.  Basically, chronic use of antidepressants lowered the number of receptors on a certain region of the amygdala that receive the neurotransmitter NMDA.

Behaviorally, the chronic antidepressant rats lost the ability to learn fears needed to protect themselves.   We cannot directly transfer the results of this study to teenage depression treatment using antidepressants, but it should raise concern over just what we are doing to our kids’ brains when drugs that effect the neurotransmitters in the brain are given during a time of incredible brain development.

Further, consider the concerns over the tragedies that seem to occur at higher rates here in the US than other countries.  We like to vacation in Mexico, and yet we hear all the time about how dangerous it is in Mexico for tourists.  Do these people mean to say that in Mexico, with a much lower antidepressant use that the US, we hear stories of random teenagers shooting up schools, malls and movie theaters, killing absolutely innocent bystanders?

The answer is, of course, no.  The US clearly dominates the world in these types of random shootings.  At the same time, the US has a much higher (and climbing) rate of antidepressants use over other countries.  Now, we learn from this study that chronic antidepressant use has some type of effect on learning fear for self preservation.  To think that these thinks are NOT connected is wishful thinking.

If antidepressants seem to be a very bad idea for teenage depression treatment, what are some other options?  Here are some very powerful tools to help heal the brain:

  1. Exercise is likely the most powerful teenage depression treatment that we know of.
  2. Increase intake of healthier fats like wild caught fish, nuts and olive oil.
  3. Stress reduction via meditation, deep breathing, or tools such as the Resperate.

While there are never any promises, these simple steps can begin a process of healing the brain to get it to develop and function properly.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.