A new study suggests that over one-third of American adults take at least one drug with depression as a side effect. Those who use such drugs are more likely to suffer from depression than those who don’t.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large and nationally representative dataset, which contains information on the medications used by 26,00 American adults between 2005 and 2014. Among the medication used by the survey’s participants, the researchers found over 200 common prescription drugs that depression or suicidal symptoms listed as potential side effects. Some of these drugs include certain types of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), beta blockers, anxiety drugs, painkillers including ibuprofen, ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure), and anticonvulsant drugs.

More and more Americans are using such prescription drugs, according to the study published this week in the journal JAMA. In the year 2005-2006, 35 percent of the participants had been taking a prescription drug with depression listed as a potential side effect, but less decade a later, in 2013-2014, this figure jumped to 38.4 percent. What’s more, the fraction of American adults taking three or more prescription drugs with these side effects jumped from 6.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 9.5 percent in 2013-2014.

Some of the medication on the list are well known for their depression-like side effects, such as beta-blockers and interferon. However, the sheer number of drugs with similar effects was surprising even to the researchers. What’s more, some of the drugs singled out by the study are sold over-the-counter in pharmacies.

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Does this mean that these drugs are responsible for the surge in depression and suicide rates seen in the United States? Maybe, but that’s not what this study set out to do. The researchers have not established any causal relationship between the drugs they identified in the study and depression — they merely pointed out a correlation. So, just because these medications could potentially trigger depression in patients, that doesn’t mean they will in every situation.

On the other hand, there’s a worrisome dose-response pattern: the more of these drugs patients took concurrently, the higher their risk of depression. 

As such, the findings do warrant serious consideration and further research. Meanwhile, the authors recommend that physicians pay close attention to these side effects when prescribing medications.

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