In addition to kidney disease, premature aging, increased risk of stroke, dementia and colitis, researchers have recently identified another potential side effect of taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): depression, which can result in suicide.
PPIs such as Nexium and Prilosec are among 200 commonly-prescribed medications that a new study has found can cause depression. Other medications on the list include beta blockers, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, prescription-strength ibuprofen and contraceptives. The study's lead author, Dima M. Qato, said “It was both surprising and worrisome to see how many medications have depression or suicidal symptoms as a side effect, given the burden of depression and suicide rates in the country.”
Dr. Qato cautions that the results of the study are not conclusive, noting that “a lot of unanswered questions remain.” She acknowledged that she and her team “...didn’t prove that using these medications could cause someone who was otherwise healthy to develop depression or suicidal symptoms.” However, the risk of depression does increase with each additional medication that is taken. This is cause for concern, as many people in the U.S. take numerous medications concurrently. As many as 33 percent of Americans may be taking more than one of these medications on a regular basis.
The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, used the National Health and Examination Survey, an exhaustive database of studies that assesses the overall health of Americans, using interviews and medical examination records. Searching 26,000 such records gathered between 2005 and 2014, Dr. Qato and her colleagues looked at the side effects of the most commonly-prescribed medications and identified 200 products that can cause depression or even suicidal thoughts.
Disturbingly, trends were upward: over the time period in question, the use of medications associated with depression rose from 35 percent to over 38 percent. The findings were adjusted for other risk factors, including family history chronic pain, social isolation and economic issues.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Caleb Alexander, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Johns Hopkins, called it “...an important reminder that all medicines have rare, but serious risks...commonly used medicines such as beta blockers or proton pump inhibitors should not be used cavalierly.” Alexander was not involved in the research study.
Psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Muskin of Columbia University notes that suicide rates have been rising in recent years. Admitting that the correlation to these medications is not absolutely certain, he says, “Could it play a role? The honest answer is yes, it could.”