Prozac May Lead to Aggression in Teenagers

A new study of the antidepressant Prozac may have significant ramifications as to how the drug is prescribed to teenagers. In a study involving adolescent and adult hamsters, researchers discovered that pubescent hamsters who received low doses of the medication turned aggressive toward their cage mates. Adult hamsters did not display aggressive behavior under low or high dosage, and young hamsters given higher doses also seemed calmer. The findings may offer new insight into why some teenagers who take <"">Prozac turn aggressive or even suicidal.

The difference in reactions may relate to the specific brain receptors affected. Prozac, or fluoxetine, seeks to regulate a patient’s mood by increasing the amount of serotonin that the individual produces. However, serotonin can bind with a range of different receptors in the brain. The study suggests that a person’s behavior is affected by which receptors are being used and that those variables may relate to the patient’s age.
“We underestimate the differences between the juvenile brain and the adult brain,” says researcher Kereshmeh Taravosh-Lahn of the University of Texas. “It seems there needs to be more research on the effects of antidepressants on kids.”

Since the fall of 2004, Prozac has come with a “black box” warning about the potential for suicidal behavior in some children who take it. Yet, little is known about that apparent connection. The new study highlights important links between aggressive behavior in Prozac patients, their age, and their dosage, and paves the way for further research about the effects of antidepressants on nervous systems that may still be developing and maturing.

The findings are included in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

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