Is Your Medication Making You Depressed?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
December 03, 2019

More than 200 drugs increase your risk of depression, and Americans are increasingly taking more than one of them. Here's what you should know.

None of us have perfect lives! So it’s easy to find something to blame when you’re feeling down. Not enough money, job uncertainty or a difficult boss, family or romantic troubles, too little sleep or exercise, or a poor diet — any of these can make you anxious and sad.

But so can something as simple as taking antacids or statins every day.

According to a 2018 study published in one of the nation’s top medical publications, the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 200 drugs list depression as a possible side-effect.


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When the research team analyzed the prescription medications of more than 26,000 American adults over 10 years, it discovered that many were taking more than one drug with depression risk — and they were more likely to be depressed. (Elderly people, many of whom take multiple medications, are particularly at risk.) If you were taking three or more of the drugs on this list, you had a 15.3 percent chance of experiencing depression during this time period — about three times as high as for people who didn’t use any of the drugs. People who took just one or two of the suspect drugs fell in between.

The information about depression was based on questions from a standard questionnaire you may have filled out in your doctor’s office, asking about your mood over the previous two weeks.

The potentially depressing drugs include not only antacids (both the proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers, commonly used for reflux) but also statins, hormones for birth control or postmenopausal symptoms, stimulants for attention problems, anticholinergic drugs for irritable bowel syndrome, beta-blockers, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines for anxiety, and Parkinson's drugs.

The study also found an increase over time in the use of some medications and the number of medications people were taking concurrently. For example, the percentage of people taking antacids, like omeprazole (Prilosec) or ranitidine (Zantac), jumped from 5.4 to 9.5 percent. And that’s just for people who had a prescription. Millions more Americans take antacids they buy over the counter.

Some combinations were particularly common and apparently depressing. If you took both omeprazole and finasteride (Proscar), a medication for an enlarged prostate or hair loss, your chance of depression was 15.8 percent. If you took both gabapentin (Neurontin) — an anticonvulsant used to treat partial seizures, neuropathic pain, hot flashes, and restless legs syndrome — alongside cyclobenzaprine (Flexeral), a muscle relaxant, your depression risk was a whopping 60.9 percent.

The team also found that taking multiple medications that didn’t have depression as a possible side effect was not associated with concurrent depression.

The big picture here is that we all should have a doctor evaluate all our medications carefully — including what we take over the counter — and aim to take fewer remedies.

Let’s say you take antacids often. They may seem an easy fix, but it’s not worth becoming depressed. The better way to deal with digestive symptoms: stay away from foods that bother you. If you don’t know which they are, keep a food diary for 10 days or so, and note symptoms as well. A nutritionist can help you analyze your notes. You can also try home remedies like peppermint and ginger tea or baking soda in water. You may also not be able to eat after an early dinner.


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December 03, 2019

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell