While an estimated one-third of U.S. adults are taking prescription medications that carry depression and suicidal thoughts as potential side effects, those dangers are possibly being overlooked by both patients and their doctors because the medications themselves are unrelated to the treatment of mental-health conditions.
Common treatments like antacids, hormonal birth control, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors and painkillers are among 200 of the most commonly prescribed medications that carry list depression and suicide as risk factors, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia University concluded.
Their results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, also found that many people use these medications concurrently, a phenomenon called polypharmacy that is associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing depression.
“The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy 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, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy in the UIC College of Pharmacy, said in a statement.
“Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, and may lead to a depression diagnosis.”
The latest research comes after the high-profile deaths by suicide of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week, and new federal data tracking rising rates of suicide across the nation.
The Chicago researchers analyzed mediation-use patterns of more than 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Among their results found rising rates of use of common medications and increase rates of polypharmacy.
“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,” Dr. Qato said in the statement.
If you or someone you know are experiencing depression or have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day.