November 13, 2018

Study Finds Link Between Meds and Depression

15 June 2018, 11:58 | Rodolfo Wallace

Getty Images Stock

Getty Images Stock

Many Americans may not realize they are at risk of depression because of the medicines they take.

The study, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 26,192 adults who participated in a federal survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Qato hopes the research leads to improved warnings on how these prescription medications could lead to depression.

15 percent of the adults surveyed who took three or more of the medications at once experienced depression, even though the drugs taken were not commonly associated with depression or suicide.

A new study shows using multiple prescriptions might affect your risk of developing depression. The risk for depression also increases when taking several of these drugs at the same time.

More than a third of the people who took the survey were taking medications known to have depression or suicidal thoughts as potential side effects.

Because of that, much of the burden now falls on patients - who are urged to remind doctors of all the medications they're taking and to ask specifically about depression as a potential side effect to any new prescription.

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Drugs so frequently list "death" as a possible side effect that the danger has come to seem unremarkable. This makes the need for awareness of depression as a potential side effect even more pressing.

Millions of Americans take some sort of prescription medication each day - and many take two, three or more.

To bring down the rate of depression, Qato suggests that the physicians may have to think, consider, and evaluate the role the medications prescribed. Maybe a pill for heart burn and another for birth control, or one for high blood pressure and another as a painkiller.

"We know polypharmacy is growing, we know it is not always promoting good health and longevity in patients, and we know a lot of drugs have certain adverse effects - and one of them is depression and suicidal symptoms", Qato said. Olfson and his collaborators wanted to find out if people who take these drugs are any more or less likely to actually be depressed.

The report was released one week after United States health authorities said suicides have risen 30 percent in the past two decades, with about half of suicides among people who were not known to suffer from mental illness.

This study is observational, which means it can't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the use of prescription medications and depression. Use of three or more drugs concurrently increased from around 7 percent to 10 percent. Or, including evaluation of medication use in the depression screening and diagnostic tools used by doctors and nurses and recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, especially when it comes to persistent or treatment-resistant depression. It's a reminder to always be thinking: "does this person really need this medication?"

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