As part of our treatment of young people, medication is sometimes offered, with the decision as to whether it should be given resting with the young people themselves or with their parents, depending on their age and their understanding of the potential risks and benefits.

The decision to give medication is never made lightly and as a general rule, if there is another way, we would normally recommend that the other way be tried first, before turning to medication.

Medication can be very effective in relieving symptoms and by and large there are not too many side effects from it. Perhaps more importantly it can be much easier to make a decision to start using medication than it can to stop using it. Although very few of our medications are physically addictive, they can be psychologically addictive, which means that you might feel like you need to keep taking them even if your body doesn't actually need to.

At the end of the day, the decision to use medication rests with young people and their parents and is never done without permission.

There are four main kinds of medication we tend to use:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Sleep medication
  • Medication to target over-activity, inattention and impulsivity (ADHD).

Each of these categories of medication contain a number of different drugs, but within each category the drugs are often quite similar, with slightly different ranges of side effects, speeds of action, and other properties.


These are used to target symptoms of very low mood, where they are not thought to be caused by life circumstances, and can also be used in young people who have very high levels of anxiety, high levels of panic, or who have obsessive and compulsive tendencies.


These are sometimes offered where a young person has developed problems with psychosis, but are also used when mood is very intense or unstable. These kinds of medication are probably the most serious in terms of side effects and our hope is for young people to be on them for as short a time as possible.

Sleep medication

Usually Melatonin, this is sometimes given where it has become clear that a more normal sleep pattern will cause a series of knock on positive effects for the young person during their waking hours.

Medication targeting ADHD

These can be incredibly effective at reducing levels of over-activity, attention problems and impulse control problems, but if they are going to be taken, they usually need to be taken for quite long periods of time, since they are not curing anything, but are masking the effects of a brain wired in a different way.

The internet is full of information about the kinds of drugs that are used by child mental health professionals, some positive about it, some negative about it. The information sheets we use are found on the Solent choice and medication website which details each particular drug that is used, why it is used, what the side effects and risks might be, and what the benefits might be.

Young minds has also produced a great website full of information about the most common medications prescribed to young people

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