In light of recent celebrity deaths and a growing movement to remove the stigma from mental health issues, depression and suicide continue to make front page news. But as a recent study revealed, many Americans may not even realize they’re at risk for developing depression or experiencing suicidal thoughts simply due to the prescription medications they’re taking.
According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately one-third of Americans are currently taking prescription drugs that list depression or suicide as potential side effects. There were 200 pharmaceuticals included, such as beta blockers, prednisone, birth control pills, seizure medications, and high-dose ibuprofen. The study found that the more of these medications a patient took, the more likely they were to report feelings of depression. Among the 4,394 individuals who took one prescription drug with depression as a possible side effect, approximately 6.9% actually experienced depression. But of the 1,418 individuals who took two of these types of medications, 9.5% experienced depression. And of the 710 individuals who took three or more of those pharmaceuticals, 15.3% experienced depression. Among the 17,039 who took none of these medications at all, around 4.7% reported experiencing depression.
Of course, these associations are merely suggested; the study does not definitively prove that the depression experienced was caused by these medications alone. And of course, the findings should not be surprising to many healthcare providers. But considering that 30-50% of Americans don’t even tell their doctors which prescription drugs they’re taking, study lead author Dima Mazen Qato stresses that caution must be taken in today’s world.
“…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 available over-the-counter… 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.”
Over the past decade, depression has been on the rise throughout the United States. And in 2016, suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the nation, according to the CDC and the National Institute of Mental Health. While it’s not clear whether these medications can be completely to blame for these troubling statistics, it’s up to medical professionals to be open about the risks — and patients to be acutely aware of and transparent about their own mental and emotional states — to alleviate potentially tragic outcomes.
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