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Study Finds Many Common Medications Could Increase Your Depression Risk

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There are plenty of medications Americans take each day, but researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago may have found a list of common medications that leave people at a higher risk of depression of suicide, especially if they take three or more of the medications.

Over one-third of Americans surveyed took at least one of the medication types listed in the study, including birth control pills, blood pressure and heart medications such as beta blockers, analgesics like ibuprofen and hydrocodone as well as proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers, which are used for acid reflux.

The researchers analyzed data from over 26,000 people who were surveyed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Each participant listed their medications and took the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which is commonly used to screen for depression.

From that data, researchers found over 200 medications with depression or suicide listed as a possible side effect. While depression and suicide were identified as side effects previously, this research found that the risk for depression increased if the person was taking more than one of these medication types.

Researchers found that 15 percent of those who took three or more of the medications on the list experienced depression while taking the drugs. Nine percent of those taking two medications experienced depression and 7 percent of those who took one of the medications had depression. Among those not taking any of the medications on the list, 5 percent experienced depression. Medications with suicide listed as a side effect found similar percentages to the data found for depression.

This pattern was consistent when the researchers restricted their analysis to people taking antidepressants, or those taking medications for hypertension, and others not taking psychotropic medications, such as antipsychotics or anticonvulsants.

Even though depression and suicide are listed as possible side effects of the studied medications, many of them are available over the counter, so people may not be aware of the side effects. It’s important that doctors relay potential side effects of a medication, Dima Qato, lead author on the study and assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at UIC, said in a statement, as very few of these drugs have warning labels.

“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, and may lead to a depression diagnosis,” Qato said.

The findings do not mean that the medications cause depression. Rather, there is a pattern — or correlation — between the medications and an increased chance of developing depression.

Researchers noted the relationship between medication and depression should be studied more. Possible solutions include updating drug safety software used by health care professionals and pharmacists to include depression as a potential interaction between medications as well as including medication use in depression screenings.

Out of the medications listed, many people who take birth control pills report feelings of depression, though research on whether or not there’s a relationship between the pill and depression is often conflicting.

Photo via Getty Images/Stas_V

Originally published: June 18, 2018
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