Depression is a serious illness that affects an estimated one in 15 adults each year. One in six people will experience depression during their life, and several factors can play a role in depression.
Common causes of depression, which is different from grief or sadness, include biochemistry of the brain, genetics, pessimistic or stress personality, and environmental factors such as exposure to abuse or poverty.
Sometimes, however, the very medications prescribed to combat one problem can lead to another problem. Many medications list depression as a side effect but being aware of this potential downside may help combat it.
Common medications that can cause depression
Research from the University of Illinois at Chicago suggests that more than one third of American adults may be taking medications that could cause depression or a higher risk of suicide. Because many of these medications are commonly prescribed, patients may not be aware of the risks.
Common prescription medications that may cause depression as a side effect include:
Beta-blockers - Typically prescribed to treat high blood pressure, these drugs can slow the heart rate and help with angina, migraines and irregular heartbeat. Common side effects of beta-blockers include depression, fatigue, and sexual problems. Older patients could speak to their doctor or pharmacist about alternatives such as calcium channel blockers.
Parkinson’s drugs - Drugs used to treat Parkinson’s Disease work on levels of dopamine in the brain. Levodopa (Sinemet) is one of the most prescribed Parkinson’s medications, which could cause prolonged exposure to higher levels of dopamine possibly leading to depression. Some experts say that up to 25 percent of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s do not actually have it, especially older patients who have tremors, so make sure you’re not being misdiagnosed.
Hormone Drugs - Hormone-altering drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions. For instance, estrogen can be prescribed to combat post-menopausal symptoms. The problem is that hormones play a big role in how the body functions, and studies have shown that changes in hormone levels are significantly tied to the development of depression. Talk with your doctor to see if hormone drugs are affecting your mood.
Corticosteroids - Used to treat a variety of inflammation disorders such as arthritis and lupus, these drugs are often prescribed as hydrocortisone (Cortisone), prednisone (Deltasone) and methylprednisone (Medrol). Corticosteroids can lower serotonin levels, which can trigger depression. Withdrawal from steroids can also cause depression. Talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter pain relievers or tramadol to relieve symptoms before trying a prescription.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs - Statins, a common class of drug used to lower cholesterol, and other cholesterol-lowering prescriptions can cause depression as well. Some research suggests that lowering the levels of cholesterol in the brain can lead to depression. Talk to your doctor about alternatives to prescriptions, such as changes to your diet and exercise.
Stimulants - Stimulants are prescribed to treat a variety of disorders ranging from narcolepsy to ADHD and fatigue. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the body, which can lead to depression. Talk to your doctor about other remedies or causes of extreme fatigue or daytime sleepiness such sleep apnea or sleep deprivation.
GI tract prescriptions - Prescription medications used to reduce stomach acid by slowing the intestines block a neurotransmitter that causes the intestine to contract. Because these medications affect the central nervous system, they can cause depression and cognitive issues, especially in older adults. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about trying an H2 blocker, such as Zantac (ranitidine), if you suffer from occasional heartburn or acid indigestion.
While this is only a short list of medications that could trigger depression as a side effect, it’s always important to discuss your medications with your doctor and pharmacist.
The benefits of therapy
If you are suffering symptoms of depression, it is vital to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about options. Therapy can be helpful in combatting mild depression. Moderate to severe depression can be treated with psychotherapy in conjunction with anti-depressant medications.
In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is used, which helps the patient become aware of the present and recognize changes in thinking.
Therapy can take weeks or even years to work. In many cases, patients say they had significant improvement in as little as 10 sessions.
Speak with your pharmacist about the possibility of depression as a side effect of your prescriptions. Along with your physician, a pharmacist can help find the best course of action in fighting depression.
The free Community Cares Rx discount card can provide up to 70 percent discounts on various generic prescription medications. View our pharmacy locator to see which pharmacies near you are Community Cares Rx partners, and print your discount card today.