Depressing side effects: Are adults becoming depressed from prescription medication?

I heard that a recent study found that one out of three adults in the U.S. is taking a medication that is causing depression. Is that true?

No. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that one out of three adults in the United States was taking at least one medication that has depression as a side-effect. This list included more than 200 commonly prescribed medications — drugs used to treat acid reflux, high blood pressure, anxiety, seizures and pain.

While this does not mean that all people or even the majority of people taking these drugs will develop depression because of these medications, these individuals may be at a slightly increased risk.

The more of these medications that you are taking, the greater the risk. For example, researchers found that about 15 percent of those who were taking three or more of these medications were depressed. In those taking only one of the medications linked to depression, 7 percent were depressed. This is in contrast to only a 5 percent depression rate in those who took none of the medications linked to depression. Those taking multiple medications not linked to depression did not have any elevated risk. If this is something that you are concerned about, you should talk to your prescriber or pharmacist.

John R. White is chair of the Department of Pharmacotherapy in the College of Pharmacy at WSU-Spokane and the author of two books.

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