If you’ve ever had to take medication — over the counter or prescribed — you are probably quite familiar with the long list of side effects they can have. But look closely at the print out and its label because it could be among the more than 200 medicines that have been found to trigger depression. The common offenders that may put you at risk include hormonal birth control pills, blood pressure and heart meds, proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and pain killers.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than a third of Americans currently take drugs that can potentially affect our psyche. Researchers looked at patterns of medication use from more than 26,000 participants over a nine-year period and learned that for those taking three or more medications, the rate of depression tripled when compared to those taking drugs that carry no side effects. “The more of these medications you use, the more likely you are to report depressive symptoms,” says study author Dima Qato, PharmD, MPH, Ph.D., pharmacist and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy.
Qato emphasized that polypharmacy — the use of multiple medications by a single person for one or more conditions at the same time, many of which are over the counter meds — can lead to depression, particularly suicidal symptoms, making the need for awareness among patients and healthcare providers more urgent. Polypharmacy has become an ever-increasing problem among Americans; there has a significant increase of multiple medication use by a single person. That’s pretty worrisome, considering that as we age our bodies become more sensitive to medications, which can increase the risk of adverse drug interactions.
But the elderly aren’t the only ones at risk of suffering these double whammy adverse effects. Women experience depression at almost twice the rate of men and most frequently between the ages of 25 and 44 years old. Though there are several contributing factors that cause us to be more susceptible to depression, hormonal birth control and antidepressants were on the list of drugs noted by the study’s authors as being problematic. Currently 60 percent of women of reproductive age are on birth control and we are twice as likely to be on antidepressants. “The warning signs of depression include social isolation, decreased energy, sleep or appetite,” says Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Delphi Behavioral Health Group.
Since all the pharmaceuticals that can cause depression aren’t always obvious, you can check in with websites like Rxlist.com and the FDA for possible side effects, but your pharmacist might prove to be your most reliable source of information. If you notice any changes, don’t abruptly stop taking your medications. Instead, check in with your physician if you have any questions or are not feeling your best.