Study: Adults use medications that lead to depression and suicide

Alexa Lardieri

More than one-third of adults in the United States are using prescription medications that could potentially cause depression or increase the risk of suicide.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that people may be using medications with these potential risks, but because they are so common and many times don't have anything to do with depression, health care providers and patients are unaware of the dangerous side effects.

Published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study examined the medication-use patterns of more than 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014. Researchers discovered that more than 200 commonly used prescription drugs, including hormonal birth control medications, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors, antacids and painkillers, have depression or suicide listed as potential side effects.

Researchers found that approximately 15 percent of adults who used three or more of these medications simultaneously experienced depression, compared to 5 percent not taking the drugs, 7 percent taking only one drug and 9 percent taking two drugs at the same time.

Researchers observed the symptoms in drugs that listed suicide as a side effect but also saw similar results when they excluded participants taking psychotropic medications, which is considered an indicator of underlying depression unrelated to medication use.

The study was the first to show that use of these types of drugs at the same time was associated with a greater likelihood of depression. It also shows the increase in polypharmacy, the concurrent use of multiple medications, for medications with depression and suicidal symptoms as side effects.

"The takeaway message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that 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 also available over the counter," Dima Qato, lead author and assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy in the UIC College of Pharmacy, said in a press release. "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, and may lead to a depression diagnosis."

In addition to the increase of polypharmacy, the study found an increase in the use of medications with depression and risk of suicide as adverse side effects. Qato said further investigation needs to be done on drug-drug interactions so that health care professionals can recognize if patients are using multiple medications that increase the risk of depression or suicide.

  • Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report