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One-Third of US Adults May Unknowingly Use Medications That Can Cause Depression

If you’re among the more than one-third of adults taking medications for birth control, blood pressure or even stomach acid and more, you may want to pay careful attention to a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Researchers found that over 200 commonly used prescription drugs have depression or suicide listed as side effects.

Published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this is the first study to show that adults who simultaneously used three or more of these drugs were more likely to experience depression or suicidal thoughts. The findings were true even when researchers excluded anyone using psychotropic drugs, according to EurekAlert!

More than half of U.S. adults regularly take prescription medications, with the average adult taking four different drugs simultaneously. Defined as polypharmacy, this combination of medications too often leads to serious adverse drug reactions (ADRs) that cause 100,000 deaths a year. This makes ADRs the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., causing more deaths than pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia and accidents, including car accidents.

What’s really disconcerting about the new study is that many of the drugs that can cause depression and even suicide can be obtained over-the-counter (OTR), meaning you may not be as likely to study potential ADRs before making a purchase, mainly because we all assume that an OTR is automatically safe. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth — and once you realize that combining these drugs offers a compounded risk for depression and suicide, it should serve as a warning that it may be time to re-evaluate the need for whatever drugs you’re taking.

In some cases prescription drugs may be necessary, but when you consider that three-fourths to two-thirds of all doctor visits end with a drug prescription, you’ll probably agree that it may be time to look at alternatives. For example, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that are used to combat acid reflux, aka gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), could be replaced with a simple change in diet.

In fact, studies have shown that consuming a Mediterranean diet focusing on fruits, healthy fats, lean meats, nuts and vegetables may be as effective as PPIs in treating GERD. Often, you can restore your body’s acid balance by just avoiding processed foods and sugar, and by eating real food and infusing your gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria from fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic.

And speaking of diet, even various heart medications for blood pressure and statins for cholesterol could be avoided by changing what you eat. Again, removing processed foods of all kinds — which are high not only in salt but sugar, too — can have a trickle-down effect that normalizes blood pressure and cholesterol. Leafy greens, crimini mushrooms, avocadoes, blueberries, raw grass fed yogurt and wild Alaskan salmon are all foods you can eat to naturally lower your blood pressure.

The bottom line is lifestyle changes that address diet, exercise and even emotional issues often can make a much better impact on your health than relying on trips to the pharmacy to fix something you ultimately don’t need pills to fix. If you’re concerned about the number of drugs you’re taking, seriously consider speaking with your physician about natural ways to address your health issues, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms you can’t explain.

And, if you do feel so depressed that you have suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.

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