Testing Antidepressant Levels for Teens

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anti-depressants(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New research may explain why teenagers taking antidepressants become aggressive or kill themselves. Researchers tested hamsters to determine the link between teens, antidepressants, and suicidal tendencies.

Fluoxetine -- commonly known as Prozac -- is the only anti-depression medication approved to treat juveniles. However, controversy has arisen over claims that the drug actually increases suicidal behaviors in children and adolescents.

This seratonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is known to inhibit aggression in adult hamsters. However scientists have discovered that juvenile hamsters -- when given low doses of fluoxetine, or Prozac -- become more aggressive, as opposed to their older counterparts. When juveniles are given high doses of the drug, their behavior is less aggressive. Adult hamsters seem to calm down whether they were given a high or low dose of the drug.

Neuroscientists from the University of Texas in Austin injected both young and old hamsters with various doses of fluoxetine. They put other hamsters into the cages and documented the behavior for the first 10 minutes.

Adult hamsters treated with fluoxetine became more peaceful; regardless of what dosage they received. They attacked other hamsters in the cage less often and for shorter intervals.

Juvenile hamsters, however, responded aggressively to both high and low doses. The low doses reportedly made them even more aggressive, with more intense attacks on other hamsters that lasted significantly longer. The juveniles reacted aggressively to high doses, but not as dramatically as on lower doses.

Researchers concluded that fluoxetine consistently calmed the adult hamsters, but not the juveniles. This evidence can be compounded with the data that during puberty, the brain is still maturing and could "possibly react to drugs given to adults in different and potentially negative ways," according to lead author Kereshmeh Taravosh-Lahn, B.A.

The neuroscientists believe that because adolescents possibly have lower levels of seratonin than adults, there may not be enough seratonin in their systems for fluoxetine -- or other SSRIs to work effectively.

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