Prescription drugs that could raise risk of depression

Researchers are working towards understanding how use of certain regularly used prescription drugs could be raising the risk of getting depression. The study was published yesterday in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Image Credit: Liukov / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Liukov / Shutterstock

The new study lists out over 200 drugs which when taken alone or in combination may raise the risk of depression.

Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs that are used to treat acid reflux disorders, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors used in treatment of high blood pressure, pain relievers such as ibuprofen, hormonal contraceptives, and some drugs used in treatment of epilepsy and anxiety disorders are some of the implicated drugs.

According to study author Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, more number of drugs from this list that a person takes, more is their risk of reporting with depression.

For this study the team of researchers gathered data from 26,192 adults who were part of the federal survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study included data between 2005 and 2014 when data was recorded every two years. Over a decade, it was seen that 37 percent of the participants were taking one or more prescription medications that could have depression as a potential side effect.

The participants were asked to record all the medications that they were taking at the time. Alongside they were asked to fill in a depression screening questionnaire - the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) that enquired about sleep, appetite and mood. The team of researchers wanted to quantify the risk of depression with the medications comparing them with people who were not taking these medications.

Olfson said that they did find an association between use of these medications and depression. Persons taking three or more of these medications were actually three times as likely to be depressed he said. Around 15 percent of the participants fell into this category - taking three of these medications simultaneously. Among those who were not using any of these drugs, only 5 percent showed depression scores on the questionnaire. Among those who used at least one of the drugs on the list, around 7 percent were depressed found the study.

Olfson explained that the use of these medications and depression was not cause and effect and to determine if they were causing depression, long term studies would be necessary. This study proves an association between the two and that use of these medications raise the risk of depression, he explained.

According to experts, this study serves to highlight that moods can and do get affected with various medication use and these need to be studied in detail so as to be able to inform patients about their potential side effects.

The study’s lead author, Dima Mazen Qato, an assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy of the University of Illinois, Chicago pointed out that there is a rise in depression and suicidal thoughts which are potential side effects of various medications that are widely used. He explained that these medications are used together more often than not and very few of them carry warnings on their labels. Patients and healthcare providers should be aware of the potential risks she added.

This study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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