A recent study discovered that more than 33 percent of American adults are currently taking one or more prescription drugs that carry the risk of depression as a side effect. Depression is a very serious mental illness that can cause impairment in many areas of a person’s life and that requires treatment. Several medications, from hormones to heartburn treatments, are putting Americans at risk for developing this serious condition.
Study Investigates Depression Risk
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in it the researchers looked at multiple prescription drugs that list depression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors as potential adverse effects. They surveyed thousands of people with respect to which medications they take, and then those participants were screened for depression.
The study concluded that people taking one of these drugs have a higher risk of developing depression. It also found that people who take more than one of these drugs have a significantly greater risk. These people were compared to a control group of participants who took prescriptions, but none that included depression as a potential side effect. The control group did not have an increased risk of depression.
The study was not able to completely characterize the nature of this increased risk or confirm that it was the drugs that caused people to develop depression. The researchers stated that there could be other factors in play, including a personal history of depression, and other risk factors for the mental illness. It is also possible that the underlying diseases being treated with the medications that can cause depression could also contribute to or trigger symptoms of depression.
The Growing Risks of Polypharmacy
This was just one of a number of new studies showing that polypharmacy, the practice of taking more than one prescription drug at a time, is on the rise. The number of people who take five or more drugs at once has grown significantly in the last decade. Elderly Americans are most likely to have multiple prescriptions. The more prescriptions an individual takes at one time, the greater the risks are for additive side effects and for harmful drug interactions.
For instance, someone who takes two or three drugs with the risk of depression as a side effect are at an even greater risk of developing it. The current study found that the number of people taking at least three medications with a depression risk increased from 6.9 percent to 9.5 percent between 2005 and 2014. For this reason and other potential side effects and interactions, some experts believe that polypharmacy is risky and is not always in the best interest of the patient.
The results of this new study are important and indicate there are very real and serious mental health risks associated with certain medications. This risk goes up with the number of drugs taken. More study needs to be done to determine all the potential risk factors, and the researchers do not recommend that patients stop using the medications listed in the study. However, they do suggest that both doctors and patients need to consider the necessity of medications and reevaluate them regularly. Anyone concerned about the depression risks of their medications should talk to their doctor about it.