Drugs That Can Cause Depression

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What many people may not be aware of is that there are certain prescription drugs that can cause depression symptoms as a side effect, even in people who might not ordinarily be prone to depression.  In addition, people with a history of depression may want to either avoid these medications or use them with caution, since they can exacerbate their existing illness.

What Drugs Can Cause Depression?

The following are ten common types of drugs which may cause depression symptoms.

  This is, however, not a comprehensive list.  You should consult with a doctor or pharmacist for information about your own specific medication regimen.

1.  Beta-blockers - Beta-blockers are generally prescribed in the treatment of high blood pressure, although they may also be used to treat migraines angina, irregular heartbeat, and tremors.  They may also be given as eye drops in the treatment of glaucoma.

There is some debate about the degree to which these medications may cause depression, but they are commonly associated with depression symptoms such as sexual problems and fatigue.

Examples of this type of drug include metoprolol and propranolol (Inderal).

2.  Corticosteroids - These medications are used to treat inflammatory conditions, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and Sjögren's syndrome.

Corticosteroids can cause a variety of psychiatric symptoms. It is thought that among other effects, corticosteroids affect serotonin, a substance produced by the brain which is believed to be involved in mood regulation.

Examples of this type of medication include cortisone, prednisone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone.

3.  Benzodiazepines - These drugs are usually used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia or when it is necessary to cause the muscles to relax.

In certain circumstances, the drug can build up in the body, leading to depression symptoms.

Common examples of benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), temazepam (Restoril) and diazepam (Valium).

4.  Parkinson's drugs - These are drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

The drugs that are used for this disease affect a substance in the brain called dopamine, which is also one of the basic chemicals which is associated with the causation of depression.  Scientists believe that when these drugs cause dopamine to become elevated for long periods of time, it may also affect a person's mood.

The most commonly used medication in treating Parkinson's disease is levodopa.  Other common medications which may be used include carbidopa (Atamet, Sinemet, and Stalevo), pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip),

5.  Drugs Which Affect Hormones - These drugs include hormonal forms of birth control as well as estrogen replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms.

Variations in hormone levels in women are often associated with depression symptom, although it is not completely understood how this interaction occurs.

6.  Stimulants - Stimulant medications may be prescribed to treat daytime sleepiness associated with conditions like narcolepsy, and they may also be used in the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These medications are known to influence the amount of dopamine in the brain in a way that may contribute to depression in certain individuals.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil) are some examples of this type of medication.

7.  Anticonvulsants - These drugs used in the treatment of seizures, although they may also be used in treating other conditions, such as bipolar disorder and neuropathic pain.

Because they affect the chemicals in the brain which are also believed to be responsible for regulating mood, they can sometimes cause depression.

Some examples of this type of medication include carbamazepine (Tegretol), topiramate (Topamax) and gabapentin (Neurontin).

8.  Proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers - These medications are most commonly prescribed to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and have occasionally been associated with depression for reasons that aren't clear.

9.  Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs - While statins are the most commonly prescribed drugs for lowering cholesterol, other drugs, such as fibrates, colesevelam, ezetimibe and nicotinic acid can also be used for this purpose.

There have been some reports linking these drugs with depression. It is thought that these drugs may cause depression by lowering the levels of cholesterol in the brain, where it serves many important functions.

10. Anticholinergic drugs - Anticholinergic drugs influence a variety of functions in the body, including slowing down the action of the intestines. They are often used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in medications like dicyclomine (Bentyl).

The way that they work is by blocking acetylcholine, a substance which causes muscles — such as those in the intestinal tract — to contract and create movement.  However, because they affect the central nervous system, they can also cause depressive symptoms.

Dicyclomine (Bentyl) is a medication which is often used for the treatment of IBS.

How Can I Know if My Medication Is Making Me Depressed?

The most noticeable symptom of depression is, of course, a feeling of sadness and low mood.  Other than a depressed mood, however, there are other possible symptoms of depression which you might experience, like the following:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Problems with sleep
  • Problems with appetite or weight
  • Problems with thinking, memory and concentration
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

What Should I Do If I Believe a Drug Is Making Me Feel Depressed?

If you believe that you may be suffering from symptoms of depression, whether they are related to a drug that you are taking or not, you should consult with your personal physician. Do not stop taking your medication without your doctor's permission.  If you are experiencing severe depression or having thoughts of suicide, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.

Sources:

Celano, Christopher M.  "Depressogenic effects of medications: a review."  Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.  13.1 (2011) : 109-125.

"Drugs That Cause Depression."  WebMD Medical Reference.  WebMD, LLC.  Accessed:  November 19, 2013.

National Institutes of Mental Health.  "Medications for Anxiety, Panic and Phobias".  Psych Central.  Accessed:  November 19, 2013.

Neel, Armon B., Jr.  "Medications That Can Cause Depression."  AARP Website.  February 27, 2013.  AARP.  Accessed:  November 19, 2013.

"Symptoms of Depression."  WebMD Medical Reference.  WebMD LLC.  Accessed:  November 19, 2013.

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