Treating children and adolescents with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: how long is appropriate?

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. Fall 2002;12(3):189-203. doi: 10.1089/104454602760386888.


This article addresses a key question on the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) among children and adolescents. As briefly reviewed, recent randomized controlled trials have established the safety and efficacy of SSRIs in the acute treatment of major depression and anxiety disorders among children and adolescents. Major questions emerge in light of these data concerning the potential risks and benefits of long-term SSRI use among children and adolescents who receive significant short-term benefits from SSRI treatment. The current review summarizes research on longitudinal outcomes, neuroscience, and psychopharmacology to formulate a set of preliminary recommendations on long-term SSRI use. A review of data in these areas supports three conclusions. First, for children who achieve marked reduction in anxiety or depressive symptoms on an SSRI, clinicians should consider recommending a medication-free trial. Second, when indicated, this medication-free trial should coincide with the first low-stress period occurring after 1 year of continual SSRI treatment. Third, SSRI treatment should be reinitiated in children who exhibit signs of relapse during this medication-free trial.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors