5 Medications That Could Be Making You Depressed

If you're feeling low, the culprit could be in your medicine cabinet.

No one wants to feel depressed. In fact, people are trying fresh approaches to boosting their emotional wellness—new treatments, the right antidepressants, meditation, or a combination of all of the above. But what some might not realize is that their depression is actually being caused by another type of treatment: the medication they're taking to address other conditions.

"Several drugs may cause psychiatric side effects, including depression," explains Drugwatch patient advocate Michelle Llamas, BCPA, who adds that often, these symptoms go away after a few days. "However, if you notice symptoms of depression such as changes in appetite, sleep, energy level, daily behavior, concentration, self-esteem, or thoughts of suicide and hopelessness, contact your doctor right away," she warns. Read on to find out about five medications that might be bringing you down.

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Beta blockers

Doctor examining a patient with a blood pressure gauge.

Effective at lowering blood pressure, beta blockers work "by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline," explains the Mayo Clinic. "Beta blockers also help widen veins and arteries to improve blood flow."

Depression is "the most frequently reported mental health side effect" of beta blockers, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports. This might be explained by the fact that "unusual dreams, insomnia, and sleep disorders" can be a side effect of beta blockers, according to the AHA. And insomnia is known to cause depression. "People with insomnia… have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression than people who get a good night's sleep," says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Sleep aids

Man awake at night with his head in his hands.

People who suffer from insomnia—and as per the American Sleep Association (ASA), that's 50-70 million adults in the United States—know that it can be tough to overcome. Unfortunately, VerywellMind reports that certain drugs used to treat insomnia, such as benzodiazepines (which include the drugs Xanax and Valium) can lead to depression.

In addition, "The FDA cautions that individuals with a history of depression may experience a worsening of their depressive symptoms and an increase in suicidal thoughts after taking Ambien," the American Addiction Centers (AAC) warns.


Doctor seeing a patient and writing on a medical chart.
Khanchit Khirisutchalual/iStock

More commonly known as steroids, corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug. "They are typically used to treat rheumatologic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)," explains the Cleveland Clinic, which notes corticosteroids can include the drugs cortisone and prednisone.

"Corticosteroids lower serotonin levels, [and] lowered serotonin levels may result in depression, aggression and other psychological conditions," cautions an article published by the National Library of Medicine. The article also advises that these side effects can be treated with medications which address serotonin levels, such as selective serotonin reputake inhibitors (SSRIs) or psycho-stimulants.

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Heartburn medication

Pharmacist talking to a man suffering from pain in his chest.

"Drugs that treat heartburn in the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class, such as Prilosec, Nexium, Zantac and Pepcid and their generics" may cause depression, warns Llamas. This may come as a surprise to people who don't realize that there is a direct connection between our stomachs—the bacteria in our gut, specifically—and our emotional health. Gut bacteria "can alter the function of our brain by producing certain hormones or neurotransmitters," explains MedicalNewsToday (and in turn, "emotional responses can affect our gut bacteria").

MedicalNewsToday advises that the connection between stomach acid drugs and depression is "mysterious," noting that a 2018 study on the subject suggested "the drugs might raise depression risk by dysregulating the gut-brain axis [or] by preventing the organism from properly absorbing nutrients after the use of stomach drugs."

Asthma and allergy medications

Woman taking medication with a glass of water.

Llamas advises that certain drugs used to treat asthma and allergies may cause depression, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that "The over-the-counter allergy medication cetirizine (Zyrtec) has been linked to depression, as has another type of drug, montelukast (Singulair), which is often used to treat people with allergic asthma."

"If you have a history of depression or other psychiatric conditions, make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any drugs that may cause depression," says Llamas, who also warns against stopping any prescription medication before speaking to your doctor. " Your doctor may prescribe another type of medication if symptoms persist, or they may find other solutions to manage your symptoms."

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.

Luisa Colón
Luisa Colón is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Latina, and many more. Read more
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