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Zoloft, therapy help anxious children

October 31, 2008
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CHICAGO - A popular antidepressant plus three months of psychotherapy dramatically helped children with anxiety disorders, the most common psychiatric illnesses in the young, the biggest study of its kind found.

The research also offers comfort to parents worried about putting their children on powerful drugs - therapy alone did a lot of good, too.

Combining the drug sertraline, available as a generic and under the brand name Zoloft, with therapy worked best. But each method alone also had significant benefits, said Dr. John Walkup, lead author of the government-funded research. It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect as many as 20 percent of US children and teens.

In many cases, symptoms almost disappeared in children previously so anxious that they wouldn't leave home, sleep alone, or hang out with friends, said Walkup, a Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatrist. "What we're saying is we've got three good treatments," he said.

Sertraline is among antidepressants that have been linked with suicidal thoughts and behavior in children with depression.

In this study, only a handful of the more than 200 children using it had suicide-related thoughts and there were no suicide attempts, Walkup said.

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