I’ve mentioned before that Americans take a lot of prescription drugs.
Many common prescription drugs are linked to depression, too, and the more meds you take, the more likely you are to suffer from this unhappy side effect.
Which drugs may cause depression?
Drugs that treat heartburn
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium (esomeprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole); PPIs are associated with other health problems, too.
- H2 Blockers such as Zantac (ranitidine) and Pepcid (famotidine)
Drugs that treat high blood pressure
- Beta Blockers such as metoprolol, atenolol, and propanolol
- ACE Inhibitors such as captopril, lisinopril, and enalapril
Drugs that treat anxiety or insomnia
- Benzodiazepines such as Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam)
- Ambien (zolpidem)
- Elavil (amitriptyline)
- Estrodiol (Estrace, Estrogel), commonly used by women to treat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms
- Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia) commonly used by men to treat enlarged prostate or hair loss
Drugs that treat allergies
- Zyrtec (cetirizine), an antihistamine
- Singulair (montelukast), often used for asthma
Drugs that treat pain or other conditions
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Horizant), used for a variety of problems including seizures, nerve pain, hot flashes and restless leg syndrome; prescriptions for gabapentin have really skyrocketed in the last decade!
- Corticosteroids such as cortisone and prednisone
Take time to review your medications
These are all common prescription drugs. Some of them are also available without a prescription, over-the-counter. Many patients, especially the elderly, take more than one, which increases the likelihood of depression.
For any drug you take on a daily or regular basis, take time to review the most common side effects. If you see mood changes, depression, or suicidal thoughts listed, make a note.
If you are helping an elderly parent or friend, review their medications as well. Especially if they have been showing signs of being more depressed.
Talk to your physician about switching to another type of drug that is less likely to cause depression. Or discuss getting off a prescription altogether. Depending on your condition, you may benefit from a non-drug approach, such as diet, exercise, counseling, etc.
I always advise the following:
- Ask your doctor lots of questions so you know exactly why a drug is being prescribed and what are its most common side effects.
- Ask about non-drug options.
- Opt for an older drug that has a more established safety record, if you have a choice.
- Start with the lowest effective dose.
- Take the medication only as long as you need it (you’d be surprised how many people start a drug and end up taking it for years, even if they no longer need to).
Prescription medications won’t always lead to depression, of course, but it’s important information to know if you are concerned about your mood and considering getting help.