Study claims common prescription medication linked to depression and suicide

It’s important to talk to a GP or health professional if you're worried about your medications causing you depression.Source: Pexels

A team of US scientists have warned that more than 200 types of prescription drugs could result in depression, suicide and other side effects.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found a variety of common medications including painkillers, blood pressure and heart medication and antacids were linked to depression. Furthermore, 15 per cent of those who took more than three types of medication experienced depression, as well as 9 per cent of people who took two or more types of medication.

In contrast, the study found only 5 per cent of people who didn’t use the drugs and 7 per cent of people using just one form of medication experienced depression. While many articles are now warning people to beware of these types of medications because they can cause depression,

Researchers analysed more than more than 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014 and found when patients take multiple kinds of medication, the risk of experiencing depression or even suicide increases.

“The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy [taking multiple medications] 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,” lead author Dima Qato said in a statement.

Qato added that in many cases, medications don’t come with warning labels, meaning studies like this are vital in educating both patients and health professionals.

“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.

As such, Qato believes drug safety software should be updated to properly analyse the impacts multiple medications can have when it comes to symptoms such as depression. This would allow health care professionals, including pharmacists, to be better educated if a patient is using multiple medications that may increase risk of side effects.

However Dr Greg Kyle, Professor of Pharmacy at the Queensland University of Technology, warned people against ditching their medication based on the study’s findings. 

“With this study, it’s not clear if they actually looked as assigning causality from the side effects or if they just look at if it’s been reported as a side effect, which is what they describe in the methods they used,” he told Starts at 60.

“The conclusion of this study is looking at an association,” he explained. “Basically, it’s saying if you take more medicines that have depression reported as a side effect, you are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression, which I think is a bit of a no-brainer.”

Read more: Knitting linked to reducing depression, anxiety and chronic pain: Study

Still, he said it’s important for patients to take note of side effects for any drugs or medications they’re taking because every medicine comes with them. 

He also advised people not to stop taking medication out of fear they may develop depression, particularly because so many on the list are used for long-term treatment. Doing so could leave a serious condition untreated and increase other health risks.

“The best thing people can do if they’re concerned is to go and have a talk to their GP,” Dr Kyle said. “If they’re concerned about a particular medication, they can look at other options. It’s very rare you’ll find there’s only one medication you can use … that’s the role of the GP to talk through with the individual.”

Depression may not actually be a result of the medication itself, which is why it’s important to talk to a GP or health professional to get to the bottom of what’s causing symptoms.

What do you think? How often do you pay attention to the side effects when you purchase medication?

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