One-third of Americans take drugs that can cause depression

One-third of Americans are taking prescription and non-prescription medications that could increase their risk of depression, warns a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Contraceptive pill, painkillers, heartburn medicine… Many would be surprised to learn that their medication, although having nothing to do with mood, anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, may increase their risk of having depressive symptoms and lead to a diagnosis of depression, according to lead study author Dima Qato, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The researchers found that the risk of depression was highest in people taking more than one drug with depression among its possible side effects. “About 15% of adults who take three or more of these medications simultaneously experience depression while taking the medications, compared to only 5% of those taking no medication and 7% of those taking a single drug,” reports the study.

The fact that the boxes or leaflets of these drugs sometimes do not mention warnings about this is problematic, according to the researchers.

The observational study is based on data from a survey of more than 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014, collected as part of a National Health and Nutrition Survey. The researchers warned that this approach meant that conclusions could not be drawn about cause-and-effect relationships, pointing out that the questionnaires did not take into account possible antecedents of depression.

But for Allan Young, director of the Center for Affective Disorders at King’s College London – who is not involved in the study – these discoveries “seem solid”.

“This confirms the well-known fact that these drugs may be causing depression in some people, and we should be on the lookout for the ability to detect and then manage depression,” he added.

Sarah Ali

Sarah is currently pursuing a degree in Pharmacology at the University of Florida. She focuses on health news and tips for The Talking Democrat.