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Many Americans taking common meds that may cause depression, study finds

Study: 200+ medications may cause depression
200+ common medications may cause depression, study finds 03:25

More than one-third of U.S. adults are taking prescription medications that may lead to depression, new research finds. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, warns that depression is a potential side effect of more than 200 commonly prescribed medications, including beta blockers for blood pressure, birth control pills, antacids, and painkillers.

The researchers found that 37 percent of Americans are taking at least one these drugs. The likelihood of depression also increased the more drugs people used.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 26,000 Americans over the course of nine years. They asked the participants to look at their medicine cabinets at the prescription drugs they had used within the last month and screened them for depression.

"If you were not taking a medication that had [depression] listed as a side effect, in that survey you had a 5 percent chance of depression," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "That's compared to about a 15 percent risk of depression if you were taking three or more drugs that had depression listed as a side effect."

The study also found that the numbers of Americans taking medications that have side effects listed as depression increased over the nine-year period.

So how concerned should you be? Experts say it's hard to know from just the study.

"It's hard to prove this link with this type of research. It could in fact be that the drugs are leading to depression. However, it could be that people had pre-existing depression," Narula explained. "It could be the chronic conditions they're taking the medications for, heart condition, cancer, other conditions could be what's causing depression and not the drugs."

Still, everyone can take steps to help reduce the risk of depression

"Patients need to bring up their history when they go to the doctor and say, 'I have a history. Tell me if that's going to impact the meds that I'm taking. Do I need to be on these meds? How long do I need to be on them?'"

Doctors also play an important role. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that every adult be screened for depression. 

"A lot of times when you go to a doctor, you go to a specialist, a cardiologist or an orthopedic [specialist] and they not be looking at the whole picture of everything you're taking," Narula said. "So the primary care doctors really need to be in some form the quarterbacks, analyzing everything you're taking and seeing is there something that can be interacting here."

She recommends everyone read the package of their prescription medications and be aware of the side effects. However, some over-the-counter medicines, like proton pump inhibitors, don't have this information readily available.

The bottom line? "Talk to your pharmacist. Talk to your doctor," Narula said. "Ask questions."

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