A study finds that more than 200 common prescription drugs could lead to depression and suicide. The risk increases when people take these drugs concurrently.

These common drugs include birth control and hormonal pills, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors, painkillers, and even the simple antacids.

The study finds a link between the increased use of these seemingly harmless medications and the uptrend in depression and suicide among American adults. The possible depressive and suicidal effects become all the more potent because people are also taking multiple sets of these drugs in tandem with each other, a practice known as polypharmacy.

The researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago are now calling for the pharmaceutical industry to be more vigilant in labeling drugs that have suicide and depression as potential side effects. Pharmacists, doctors, and other medical practitioners should also be extra watchful that patients are not using these drugs simultaneously.


For the study, the researchers analyzed how 26,000 U.S. adults took and purchased their medicines from 2005 to 2014. The data used in the study were collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study found that more than one-third of American adults are using common drugs that increase the risk of depression and suicide because they were unaware of this possible side effect. Worse, since patients were unaware, they also tend to ingest these drugs with three or more other drugs that also have the potential to trigger the two mental disorders.

"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 Dima Qato, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the university.

Qato highlighted that the problem has been getting worse because aside from people increase their consumption of the drugs, the people are also increasingly ingesting them simultaneously.

"[Y] et very few of these drugs have warning labels, so until we have public or system-level solutions, it is left up to patients and health care professionals to be aware of the risks," Qato warned.

The Common Drugs That May Cause Depression And Suicide

Among the participants for the study, 9.5 percent ingested drugs for conditions similar to acid reflux, 7.9 percent took blockers for high blood pressure, 7.8 percent consumed birth control and menopause pills, 7.7 percent took anti-seizure drugs, and 7.4 percent ingested painkillers.

During the early part of the study, only 6.9 percent took at least three of the drugs that may cause depression. Toward the end of the study, the researchers noted that 9.5 percent was already taking these drugs.  Additionally, from the 17.3 percent of people taking drugs that listed suicide as a possible effect in the start of the study, 23.5 percent were already ingesting them over the course of the study.

The Statistical Data

The study, published in the journal of the American Medical Association, found that about 15 percent of adults who simultaneously ingest three or more of such common drugs developed depression while they were on medications. In comparison, only 7 percent of the adults who only took one of these medications felt depressed and 9 percent of those taking two drugs concurrently experienced depression.

The researchers also found that there was a 38 percent increase in the consumption of these drugs from 2013 to 2014 as compared to 35 percent from 2005 to 2006. There was also a 10 percent increase in the use of antacids and proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists. The practice of polypharmacy also swelled from 7 percent to 10 percent in the same period. 

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