One in three Americans take meds with depressive side effects

Americans are increasingly taking multiple drugs. And depression is a potential side effect of many of them

Findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Access to the full study was unavailable, but within its abstract, the researchers say they found that "the estimated prevalence of depression was 15 percent for those reporting use of 3 or more medications with depression as an adverse effect versus 4.7 percent for those not using medications".

Researchers at the University of IL at Chicago analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large and nationally representative dataset, which contains information on the medications used by 26,00 American adults between 2005 and 2014.

"The takeaway message of this study is that polypharmacy [being on more than one drug at once] 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", Dima Qato, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy, said in a statement.

The study found that using multiple medications increased the risk of experiencing depression further.

They found that almost 1 in 3 participants took drugs that listed depression as a potential side effect - which include pills for heart disease, acid reflux, pain and anxiety, as well as birth control - and that taking them was linked to depression. This makes the need for awareness of depression as a potential side effect even more pressing.

Drugs so frequently list "death" as a possible side effect that the danger has come to seem unremarkable. What's more, the fraction of American adults taking three or more prescription drugs with these side effects jumped from 6.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 9.5 percent in 2013-2014. The 200 commonly used medications include birth control pills, blood pressure and heart medications, antacids and painkillers. Use of three or more drugs concurrently increased from 7 percent to 10 percent, approximately.


Researchers cautioned that the survey approach meant conclusions could not be drawn about cause-and-effect, and that questionnaires did not account for a history of depression.

According to researchers, anti-depressants are the only drug that carries an explicit warning - called a black box warning - of suicide risk.

"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 of system-level solutions, it is left up to patients and health care professionals to be aware of the risks", Qato said.

The survey shows that over the decade in question, all the common drugs looked at it in the study were increasingly prescribed.

"This confirms the well-known fact that these medications might be causing depression in some people and we should be on the look-out for that so that we can detect and then manage the depression", Young said.

This article has been republished from materials provided by University of IL at Chicago.

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