Increase in depression, suicide risks linked to simultaneous use of common prescription drugs

Credit: Pixabay

Credit: Pixabay

New research published just days after the suicide deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and renowned chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain revealed that more than one-third of American adults were using prescription medications that may potentially increase the risk of depression and suicide.

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Scientists at the University of Illinois examined medication-use patterns of more than 26,000 adults between 2005 and 2014 for the study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

They found that more than 200 commonly used prescription drugs have depression or suicide listed as potential side effects, including blood pressure and heart medications, antacids and painkillers, hormonal birth control medications and proton pump inhibitors.

When the drugs were used concurrently, risk of depression increased.

In fact, 15 percent of adults who simultaneously used at least three of the 200 medications experienced depression, compared to 5 percent of those who didn’t use any of the drugs.

The risk increased to 7 percent for those on one medication and to 9 percent for adults consuming two concurrent drugs.

"The take away 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," lead author Dima Qato, of the UIC College of Pharmacy said in a news 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."

Qato and her team also note a trend of increasing simultaneous use (or polypharmacy) of these medications with depression and suicidal symptoms as a potential adverse effect.

Concurrent use of any prescription drug with potential depression adverse effects increased from 35 percent in 2005-2006 to 38 percent in 2013-2014. Use of antacids with depression listed as a side effect doubled between the two periods from 5 percent to 10 percent. And the concurrent use of three or more drugs increased from 7 percent to 10 percent.

Usage of drugs with suicide as a listed potential side effect also increased — from 17 percent to 24 percent.

It’s the increase in simultaneous use of these drugs that is most concerning, Qato said. Future research, she suggests, should consider updating medical drug safety software to identify depression as a potential drug-drug interaction to assess if multiple medication use is increasing patient risk.

Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the United States have risen by at least 33 percent. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

The country also experienced a nearly 30 percent increase in suicide rates between 1999-2016, according to a new report from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

Georgia in particular experienced a 16.2 percent increase in suicide rates, comparatively low compared with the 25 states where suicide rates rose by nearly 30 percent. But the figure is still considered a significant increase, according to the CDC.

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