Depression may be a potential side-effect from medications

Written by Natalie Morton, Future Science Group

Researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC; IL, USA) have revealed that approximately 37.2% of adults in the USA could be using prescription medications in which depression may be an adverse side-effect. As this includes over-the-counter drugs and medications that are for ailments not linked to mental health, consumers may be unaware of the potential side-effects.
This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, retrospectively examined the use of over 200 commonly used medications, including birth control, painkillers and blood pressure medicines, amongst others, and discovered that many of them listed depression and suicide as potential side effects.

Polypharmacy – the practice of taking several drugs concurrently – appeared to have the greatest effect on depression, with an estimated 15% of adults suffering from depression whilst taking three different medications alongside one another.

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“The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and healthcare providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs – many of which are available over the counter,” commented lead author Dima Qato (UIC).

As the number of medications taken concurrently increased, so did the incidence of depression. Often, healthcare providers and patients are unaware of the risks to mental health.

Qato explained: “Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.”

Over the course of the 5-year section of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey studied, the use of prescription medications with depression as a potential side-effect had risen from 35% to 38% of the population, and the use of at least three drugs concurrently had increased to approximately 10%.

Qato highlighted the importance of updating drug safety systems and software to include depression, and to recognize it as a potential, and serious, drug–drug interaction. This would help healthcare professionals to inform patients about the risks and to allow mental health to be monitored closer if necessary.

“This study provides evidence that patterns of medication use should be considered in strategies that seek to eliminate, reduce or minimize the impact of depression in our daily lives,” concluded Qato.

“With depression as one of the leading causes of disability, and increasing national suicide rates, we need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue.”

Sources: Qato DM, Ozenberger K, Olfson M. Prevalence of prescription medications with depression as a potential adverse effect among adults in the United States. JAMA 319(22), 2289–2298 (2018);