More than one-third of Americans are using prescription drugs that list risk of depression or “risk of suicide” as a possible side effect. These drugs are commonplace and not associated with depression. Few of the drugs come with warning labels, so millions of people are likely unaware of the risk.
A new study found that more than 200 commonly used prescription medications carry such risks – many of which are also available over the counter -including hormonal birth control, blood pressure. and heart medications and painkillers have depression or suicide listed as potential side effects.
The researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, led by Dima Qato, professor of pharmacy, analyzed data on drugs use impact of 26,000 American adults from 2005 to 2014, which were collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
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This study is the first to demonstrate that these drugs were associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing depression.
Approximately 15 percent of those who take three or more of these medications experienced depression while taking the drugs, compared with just 5 percent of those not using any drugs, 7 percent of those using one medication and 9 percent of those taking two drugs simultaneously.
“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,” said Prof. Dima Qato in a statement.
“People are not only increasingly using these medicines alone, but are increasingly using them simultaneously, yet very few of these drugs have warning labels, so until we have public or system-level solutions, it is left up to patients and health care professionals to be aware of the risks,” Qato said.
“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, and 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,” Qato said.
Earlier research from the same team showed that hormonal birth control is linked with a 70% higher risk of depression. Meaning if 10 women not taking the drugs develop depression, then 17 women on the medication will.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.