Medications That Cause Depression Could Be a Bigger Problem Than First Thought

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Findings from a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest more than one-third of American adults could be experiencing depression due to their prescription medications. The study evaluated 26,000 patients over a ten-year period and assessed more than 200 medicines.

Researchers found that patients taking one or more prescription drugs that listed depression as a potential side effect increased the likelihood of patients experiencing symptoms of depression. A similar pattern appeared in patients taking prescriptions that listed suicidal thoughts or actions as a potential side effect:

  • 15% of patients taking three or more drugs experienced depression.
  • 9% of patients taking two drugs experienced depression.
  • 7% of patients taking one drug experienced depression.
  • 5% of patients not taking any drugs experienced depression.

The Debate About Drug-Induced Depression

While the cause of clinical depression varies from person to person, the new study supports long-held beliefs by medical professionals that some prescription medications can cause depressive symptoms, a condition known as drug-induced depression. While the warning signs of drug-induced depression are similar to those for major depression, drugs that cause depression create a chemical change rather than the body creating the imbalance itself.

Risk Factors for Drug-Induced Depression
  • History of major depressive disorder
  • Prior depressive episodes
  • Family history of major depression
  • Prior episodes of drug-induced depression

Drug-induced depression has been a topic of debate in research circles for years, but the increased use of polypharmacy – multiple medicines taken by a single patient – in the last decade has raised more questions in this area. As polypharmacy has become more common, health care providers have also seen an increase in the potential for side effects and drug interactions to cause drug-induced depression. Patients may also be at greater risk for drug-induced depression due to their medical history.

Drugs Linked to Depression

A number of medicines used to treat medical conditions such as high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and acid reflux, have been linked to drug-induced depression in the new study.

Medications That Cause Depression

Drug ClassTreatsLink to Depression
AntidepressantsDepressionAffect neurotransmitters
BenzodiazepinesAnxietyCentral nervous system depressants; affect neurotransmitters
Beta BlockersHigh blood pressure and heart failureCause neurotransmitters to miscommunicate
ContraceptivesBirth ControlChange hormone levels
CorticosteroidsInflammation of blood vesselsLower serotonin levels
Parkinson’s medicinesParkinson’s disease symptomsAdjust levels of dopamine
Proton-Pump InhibitorsAcid refluxChange stomach pH altering CNS and brain function
StimulantsDaytime sleepiness, ADHD and fatigueIncrease dopamine levels
StatinsHigh cholesterolDeplete cholesterol levels in the brain affecting neurotransmitter release

One of the medications recently linked to depression and suicide in children, teens and adults, an ADHD medicine called Concerta, has led to lawsuits against its manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. If you or someone you know has suffered from depression or suicidal thoughts or actions while taking Concerta, you can talk to an attorney about your legal rights today.

Can Antidepressants Cause Depression?

While counterintuitive, antidepressants can have the inverse effect of increasing depression symptoms rather than reducing them. Since antidepressants work by changing neurotransmitter levels in the brain, it’s possible for the chemicals to become imbalanced, which can lead to more severe mood symptoms, including thoughts of suicide. Due to their high risk of severe side effects, antidepressants often have black box warnings.

Depression, like other mood disorders, is difficult to treat because it manifests differently in each person depending on their chemical makeup. In fact, many patients will try several medications before experiencing symptom relief. Antidepressants are also difficult to manage because they can create resistance in patients who take them for extended periods of time.

Is My Medicine Making Me Depressed?

When starting a new prescription, you should talk to your pharmacist about potential side effects and interactions with over-the-counter or prescription drugs you currently take so you know what to watch for after you add the new medicine.

It’s also important to track side effects you experience, including those related to major depression such as mood swings, sleeplessness, or feelings of hopelessness. If you experience depression symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor and see if a different medication might work better for you.

Seeking Assistance

Regardless of any depressive symptoms you may be experiencing, it’s important that you never stop taking a prescription drug without speaking to a medical professional first, as some medicines must be discontinued over time to prevent long-term health complications.

If your healthcare provider informs you this medication is the only treatment option for your current situation, you can seek other forms of symptom relief, such as psychiatric help. It’s also important if you believe you or a loved one had an adverse reaction to a drug, to know your legal rights and whether you’re entitled to compensation.

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