Dear Dr. Heller,

Hi, I have a couple questions about the drug Celexa.  My boyfriend is only 15 and he has been taking it since January.  His doctor recently took him off of it.  We watched a special on 20/20 about anti-depressant drugs and the side effects that have very negative effects on people.  He is now worried about any side effects that may show up once he stopped taking the pill.  If you could give me a list of them, that would be very much appreciated.  Also, anymore information you have about this drug and mainly the effects of not taking it anymore.

Thank you


There may be long term risks for all medications.  No one knows.  This includes birth control pills, Tylenol, antidepressants, antibiotics, etc.  We can only go with what we do know for sure and make value judgements. Most people who take Celexa and other SSRI’s have no long term problems.  Not only is it usually the best, the Prozac has been around the longest in the US and is the most studied medication.  It is now considered safe in pregnancy.  Celexa doesn’t have the long term US safety data yet, and a withdrawal syndrome may develop – which interestingly is treated with Prozac.  The side effects of untreated depression are devastating including premature heart disease, cancer, strokes, and particularly substance abuse.  We know for a fact that alcohol, cigarettes or other forms of nicotine, cocaine, intravenous drugs and marijuana are damaging long term.  Evaluating risks is a lot like choosing to drive a car – there are risks, but do the benefits outweigh the risks.  If the individual will self-medicate with alcohol or the other drugs mentioned above, Celexa clearly is safer. I often tell my patients that if it’s more dangerous to drive to the drug store to get the medicine than it is to take the medicine, that to me the medicine is safe.

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