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Study Finds That 1 In 3 Adults Are On Prescription Drugs With Depression As A Side Effect

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A new study revealed that one-third of adults in the United States might be taking prescription medicine that is linked to depression. The researchers found that most people may not be aware of this.  ( Pete Linforth | Pixabay )

Some prescription drugs can have depression listed as a side effect, but very few Americans realize that their own medications have this connection.

Prescription Drugs And Depression

Researchers discovered that more than one-third of adults in the United States might be taking prescription medication that includes depression as a side effect. In many cases, adults are using these drugs concurrently, which is known as polypharmacy.

The findings were published in a study on June 12 in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

About 15 percent of adults are using three or more prescription drugs that have been linked to depression. Another 9 percent of adults are using two prescription drugs with depression as a side effect. The number of Americans taking five or more prescription medications skyrocketed between 1999 and 2012.

"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," said lead author and professor Dima Qato.

Although the study linked the number of drugs associated with depression to actual cases of depression, the study did not clarify if the depression was preexisting before the medication. Many drugs that do list depression as a side effect are based on studies that have produced mixed results. However, those results are typically not available for consumers.

How Did Researchers Discover This Link About Medicine?

To discover this link, researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked at over 26,000 adults who responded to the surveys from 2005 to 2014.

The researchers found that depression can be a side effect for many kinds of drugs, such as blood pressure medication, birth control, and painkillers. In addition, dozens of these drugs are widely used in the United States.

Future Implications Of This Study

The study shines a light on the trends of doctors prescribing multiple medications to a patient that each list depression as a potential side effect. The more medication that a patient has that is linked to depression, the more likely that depression can develop. There are also cases where drugs lack labels to warn patients about the potential dangers of these drugs.

The researchers suggest updating drug safety software to locate cases where patients are taking multiple drugs with depression as a side effect. This will help improve communications between health providers, pharmacists, and patients.

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