Common Medications May Be Contributing to Depression

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The use of medications with depression as a side effect may be contributing to the growing problem of depression, according to a new study. The study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) – over 26,000 adults were surveyed every 2 years between 2005 and 2014 about medication use and depression. Just over one-third of the patients had used at least one prescription drug with depression as a potential side effect in the previous 30 days. There was an increase over time in the prevalence of concurrently taking 3 or more medications with a risk for depression – from 6.9% in 2005 to 9.5% in 2014. The prevalence of depression was 15.3% among adults who reported using 3 or more depression-linked prescription drugs, compared with 4.7% in those who did not take these medications.

The most commonly used depression-linked drugs were β-blockers (atenolol & metoprolol), proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole), analgesics (hydrocodone, ibuprofen), gabapentin, and hormonal contraceptives. Some of these drug classes are available over-the-counter; OTC use was not accounted for in the study. In the intervention group, pharmacists prescribed antihypertensives, measured blood pressure, encouraged lifestyle changes, and monitored electrolyte levels. Treatment with amlodipine plus an angiotensin receptor blocker or angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor was used for most men (indapamide was the third drug added, if needed).

This study was observational, and does not prove cause and effect. However, it serves as a reminder to consider routine medications as possible contributors to depression.

References: • Qato DM, et al. JAMA 2018;319:2289-98.

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