We get a lot of benefits from our prescriptions; just imagine trying to get through life without heartburn meds or birth control pills. But there’s a price: A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that more than a third of Americans may be using prescription medications that can trigger depression or suicidal symptoms—and being on more than one of these drugs at a time raises your risk.
To find out how commonly people use the 200 drugs that list depression or suicidal symptoms as a side effect, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago analyzed prescription drug use by more than 26,000 people between 2005 and 2014. (The information had been collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.)
They discovered that 37 percent of the patients in the study had a prescription for one or more of the drugs in question. Being on these meds meant a patient was more likely to be depressed: 7 percent of those taking one of the medications had diagnosed depression; 9 percent of those taking two of the drugs had a diagnosis. And for people taking three or more of the drugs? More than 15 percent were suffering from depression. (Here are the 10 signs you’re taking too many meds.) By comparison, depression struck only 5 percent of people not taking the medications.
Because the drugs with these worrisome side effects are common, it’s unlikely the patients or the doctors are aware of the potential harm, warn the authors. Some examples of the classes of medications include:
- birth control pills
- blood pressure drugs
- heart medications
- proton pump inhibitors (for acid reflux)
Both patients and doctors need to pay closer attention to their medications, the side effects, and mood, say the study authors. Consider this a reminder to review your prescriptions with your doctors. And make sure you monitor yourself and loved ones for these 8 warning signs of depression everyone should know.