While medications are supposed to make you feel better, which most of the time they do, they also come with side effects. While unwanted, they are usually minor, though in some cases, they can be serious. Some drugs may cause depression, regardless of whether or not you're predisposed to mental health problems.
According to a study published in JAMA, more than one-third of adults may be using prescription medications which have the potential to cause depression and may also increase the risk of suicide. As part of the study, researchers found that more than 200 commonly used drugs have depression or suicide listed as potential side effects.
However, because many of these drugs - including hormonal contraceptives, blood pressure and heart medications, antacids, and painkillers - are prescribed for purposes unrelated to mental health, it's worrying that patients may never be warned about the increased risks. Below are some commonly used drugs that are sometimes linked with depression. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you're taking any one of these.
1. Beta blockers
Beta blockers such as metoprolol are widely prescribed to treat high blood pressure. They are also used for chest pain, irregular heartbeat, migraine, some tremors and even glaucoma. It is especially used for hypertension, beta blockers are used long-term, however, research has also linked it with depression. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives and beta blockers aren't used as often anymore. Joshua Nathan, MD, president-elect o the Illinois Psychiatric Society and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago says "they've gone a little out of favor as a standard treatment because there are newer things that may work better without (the risk of depression)."
Steroids like prednisone are used to treat a surprising number of conditions, including autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, asthma, allergies, and cancer. However, they can have an effect on mental health. "Chronic use is associated with a range of psychiatric problems. It can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis - and I've seen all of those things," Dr. Nathan says. Euphoria and mania seem to be more common with short-term use while depression becomes more prominent with longer use, even if the doses aren't large. Furthermore, a family history of depression or alcoholism could put you at a greater risk for developing one of these side effects when using corticosteroids. Talk to your doctor or specialist about your risk factors and medication alternatives.
While this does not apply to all antibiotics there are some which have been linked with depression, notably levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin. Both belong to the family of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones and are prescribed for a variety of bacterial infections. A large study conducted in the United Kingdom found that just one course of quinolones was linked with a 25% higher risk of depression. Furthermore, taking one course of a med in the penicillin group of antibiotics was associated with a 23% higher risk of depression. Two courses of a penicillin took the risk up to 40%, and more than five courses involved a 56% higher risk. With this in mind, it is essential that you take antibiotics only when you need to. Overusing can also contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
It has been found that 40% of people being treated with interferon develop depression. The drug is used to treat some cancers and viral infections like hepatitis C, among other things. Once the treatment has ended, depression usually goes away. However, one study found that it could come back later. Because interferon combats life-threatening illnesses, antidepressants are sometimes used so that a person can continue the treatment. Research has shown that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other classes of antidepressants can bring relief up to 85% of people who develop depression during interferon treatment.
According to some reports, anticonvulsant (or anti-seizure) drugs like topiramate and gabapentin may contribute to depression. These drugs suppress the central nervous system and may be associated with depression. Benzodiazepines, such as anti-anxiety meds Xanax and Valium, are also CNS depressants and have been associated with depression. Thankfully, medication-induced depression goes away when you stop the medication. Anticonvulsants are now used to treat bipolar disorder too, pain from damaged nerves and fibromyalgia. There are other treatments for all of these conditions, and there are also alternatives for benzodiazepines.
The addictive painkillers - which are responsible for one of the greatest public health crises in American history-also seem to increase the risk of depression. In one study, it was found that the risk of depression in people who had never had it increased the longer they took opioids, starting at about 30 days. The dose didn't seem to play a role. People with these mood disorders are at a greater risk of abusing opioids.
7. Hormonal birth control
Some studies have found a correlation between contraceptive methods (including birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings and hormonal IUDs) and depression or lower quality of life. Researchers say that hormonal changes triggered by these medications, such as a decrease in testosterone or an increase in progesterone, may play a role. Nevertheless, it is important to take these findings with a grain of salt, and to also bear in mind that birth control can affect each woman differently. A recent review published in Contraception found that there is no link between hormonal contraception and depression. Furthermore, a study published last year in Menopause discovered that hormonal birth control may actually protect women from depression later in life.