Prescription Medications May Be Making Americans Depressed, Study Shows

Grant Boone
June 16, 2018

The researchers found that the risk of depression was highest in people taking more than one drug with depression among its possible side effects.

Over one-third of adults in the USA are taking prescription medicines which could increase their risk of depression.

These common drugs include birth control and hormonal pills, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors, painkillers, and even the simple antacids.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for depression in the general adult population.

Common treatments like antacids, hormonal birth control, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors and painkillers are among 200 of the most commonly prescribed medications that carry list depression and suicide as risk factors, researchers from the University of IL at Chicago and Columbia University concluded. As part of the survey, participants listed all the medications they were taking and completed a questionnaire created to screen for depression.

And almost 5 percent of US adults are estimated to have depression symptoms.

Researchers found adults using multiple medications were more likely to admit to having depression. It's a complicated medical issue with no singular, universal cause - and that's all the more reason scientists are still searching for potential factors for depression. "The use of multiple medications has increased over the decades, and we really need to be aware of the negative effects of these medications being used together". However, they often come with side effects.

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"The more of these medications you're taking, the more likely you are to report depression", says study author Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. About 15% of adults who took three or more of such medications experienced depression compared to 7% for those only taking one.

"Even if the same doctor is prescribing drugs, the fact is that it's really hard - there's no software that tells a doctor, 'your patient is on three drugs that predispose them or are associated potentially with depression or suicidal symptoms", Qato said.

The report cautioned that "Product labeling for over-the-counter medications does not include comprehensive information on adverse side effects including depression". The research didn't consider, however, whether the patients had a medical history of depression or if the condition they were being treated for contributed to their depression.

The study is based on the medication patterns of over 26,000 adults between 2005 and 2014. It was 5 percent among those not taking the drugs, 7 percent among those taking only one drug, and 9 percent among those taking two drugs at the same time.

"For some patients, this may involve revising their medication regimen before initiating an antidepressant or psychotherapy", she said.

"So until we have public or system-level solutions, it is left up to patients and health care professionals to be aware of the risks".

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