5 Common Medications That Spike Your Risk of Depression, According to a Pharmacist
If you're feeling down, the culprit could be in your medicine cabinet.
Any medication—from over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prescription meds—carries the potential for side effects. And although they can be very unpleasant, certain side effects are more manageable than others. Some may occur while you're taking a drug, while others tend to show up if you stop taking the medication too abruptly. Both of these scenarios can happen with depression, which is a known side effect of a few specific medications.
"Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease," says the World Health Organization (WHO). "It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family [and] at its worst, depression can lead to suicide." Read on to find out about five medications that may increase your risk of depression—and what to do if you're taking any of them.
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"These steroidal anti-inflammatories are commonly prescribed for controlling inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus," explains Kashmira Govind, a pharmacist with the Farr Institute. However, she notes, "these medications may cause depression by lowering serotonin levels in the body, which triggers depression."
Depression can also occur in people who abruptly stop using the medication instead of being weaned off the drug "in a controlled manner," she says.
Beta-blockers, which can help to lower high blood pressure, may also be prescribed for tremors, arrhythmias, and migraines, says Govind. "For hypertension, they work by slowing down the heart rate, thereby decreasing the blood pressure," she explains, adding that "there is no clear answer as to why they may cause depression, but it is often reported by patients."
Depression is a less-common side effect of taking beta blockers, says the Mayo Clinic, which also cites difficulty sleeping and shortness of breath as possible symptoms of the drug. "Common side effects include cold hands or feet, fatigue, [and] weight gain," says the site, warning that "you shouldn't abruptly stop taking a beta blocker because doing so could increase your risk of a heart attack or other heart problem."
"Anticonvulsants are used to treat seizures, and also other conditions like mood disorders and neuropathic pain," explains Govind. "They work by blocking the flow of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby blocking the messages that cause the seizures and/or block the spread of the seizure."
Govind notes that all central nervous system (CNS) depressants may potentially cause depression. "There are alternative seizure treatments that can be used that don't directly 'lower' (depress) the CNS."
Interestingly, Medscape reported on a small study that did find that one anticonvulsant, ezogabine, decreased depressive symptoms in some patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).
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Some Parkinson's medications such as Levodopa are broken down into dopamine when the drug reaches the brain, explains Govind.
"Levodopa keeps levels of dopamine in the brain at optimal levels to prevent the motor symptoms" caused by Parkinson's disease," she says. But "research shows that long-term exposure to dopamine can cause depression."
When we think of antibiotics and side effects, an upset stomach may come to mind. Abdominal pain, nausea, and other types of gastrointenstinal discomfort are common symptoms when you're taking antibiotics. But depression is a lesser-known side effect of these drugs. Why?
"Antibiotics kill bacteria, including the 'good' bacteria in your gut, and messing with gut bacteria has been shown to cause depression," reports Health.com, which also notes that levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin have been specifically linked with depression. "Both belong to the family of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones and are prescribed for bacterial infections."
Govind emphasized that "if you are experiencing depression, always consult your doctor first without stopping the meds on your own."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.