Medical drugs have undeniably changed our lives. However, they often come with side effects. And when those side effects are downplayed or ignored, it might create new problems while attempting to fix something else. Depression is potentially one of these problems.
According to a new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one-third of US adults may unknowingly be taking meds that have depression or suicide as a side effect. The team showed that the risk became worse if several of these drugs were taken at once. The likelihood of experiencing depression while taking one drug was about 7 percent compared to 5 percent if no drugs were taken. Polypharmacy (taking more than one drug) increased the risk to 9 percent for two drugs and 15 percent for three drugs taken at once.
The study is based on the medication patterns of over 26,000 adults between 2005 and 2014. The information was collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers discovered that 200 commonly used medications have depression and suicide listed as side effects, including common birth control, painkillers, and antacid drugs. The research didn't consider, however, whether the patients had a medical history of depression or if the condition they were being treated for contributed to their depression.
"The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs – many of which are also available over the counter," said lead author Professor Dima Qato, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a statement. "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."
The researchers think it's key that both the public and health practitioners keep in mind the side effects of medication. The survey shows that over the decade in question, all the common drugs looked at it in the study were increasingly prescribed.
"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 healthcare professionals to be aware of the risks," Qato added.
As depression is one of the leading causes of disability, it is important that we do what we can to help and support people who suffer from it, especially as the stigma associated with mental health often stops them from receiving the help they need.