If you think a drug you're taking might be causing your depression, you may be right. Certain medications prescribed for various medical conditions do cause such feelings as sadness, despair, and discouragement. And those are feelings that are often associated with depression. Other medicines prescribed for medical problems can trigger mania (excessive elation and joy) that's usually associated with bipolar disorder.
Medications that cause mania or depression appear to alter brain chemicals in some way. And even though the drugs may be necessary to treat the condition, the side effect is hardly acceptable. As an example, Accutane, which is prescribed for the treatment of acne, has been found to also cause depression. So have oral contraceptives, high blood pressure drugs, and even statins that treat high cholesterol.
How Can I Avoid Drugs That Cause Depression or Mania?
The best way to avoid drugs that affect your mood is to know which medicines commonly cause depression and/or mania. Then talk to your doctor to see if any of the medicines you are taking are likely causing or contributing to mood symptoms, and if so, discuss whether a different medication may be an appropriate option. Your doctor should let you know up front which drugs might cause feelings of depression or mania and should evaluate whether mood symptoms are or are not likely related to medicines.
Drugs That Might Cause Mania (Excessive Elation)
The following drugs could cause symptoms of mania:
- Corticosteroids. This group of drugs decreases inflammation (swelling) and reduces the activity of the immune system (cells that fight infection). Examples include hydrocortisone, triamcinolone, prednisone, Flonase, Nasocort, Nasonex, Flovent, and Azmacort.
- Cyclosporine. This drug is used to suppress the immune system to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.
- Dopar (levodopa). This medicine treats Parkinson's disease.
- Lioresal. This is a muscle relaxant and antispastic agent. It's often used to treat multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.
- All antidepressants, including MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors, such as Parnate or Nardil), SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, Lexapro and Paxil), SNRIs (serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as Effexor, Pristiq and Cymbalta), and tricyclic antidepressants (such Elavil or Pamelor).
- Ritalin or amphetamine. These are stimulant drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Synthroid. This drug is commonly prescribed as a thyroid hormone replacement.
- Trihexyphenidyl (Artane). This medicine is used to treat Parkinson's disease.
- Yohimbine. This drug treats male impotence.
Drugs That May Cause Depression
The following drugs have been reported to cause depression in some patients. Elderly people are particularly at risk.
- Accutane: This drug treats severe acne.
- Antabuse: This medicine is used to treat alcoholism.
- Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsants are used to control epileptic seizures, examples include Celontin and Zarontin.
- Barbiturates: These are a group of central nervous system depressants that slow down brain function. These medicines have been used to treat anxiety and to prevent epileptic seizures. They are commonly abused; examples are phenobarbital and secobarbital.
- Benzodiazepines: This group of central nervous system depressants is often used to treat anxiety and insomnia and to relax muscles; examples include Ativan, Dalmane, Halcion, Klonopin, Librium, Valium, and Xanax.
- Beta-adrenergic blockers -- Also known as beta-blockers, these medicines are used in the treatment of various heart problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, chest pain caused by angina, and certain abnormal heart rhythms. They may also be used to treat migraine headaches; examples include Lopressor, Tenormin and Coreg.
- Bromocriptine (Parlodel): This is a medicine used to treat Parkinson's disease.
- Calcium-channel blockers: This group of medicines slows the heart rate and relaxes blood vessels. Calcium channel blockers are used to treat high blood pressure, chest pain, congestive heart failure, and certain abnormal heart rhythms, examples include Calan, Cardizem, Tiazac, and Procardia.
- Estrogens: This class of female hormones is often used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms and to prevent or treat osteoporosis; examples include Premarin and Prempro.
- Fluoroquinolone antibiotics: Examples of these drugs include Cipro and Floxin.
- Interferon alfa: This drug is used to treat certain cancers as well as hepatitis B and C.
- Norplant: This is a medicine used for birth control.
- Opioids: This group of narcotics is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction; examples include codeine, morphine, Demerol, Percodan, and OxyContin.
- Statins: These medicines are used to lower cholesterol, protect against damage from coronary artery disease, and prevent heart attacks; examples include Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lescol, and Lipitor.
- Zovirax: Doctors prescribe this drug to treat shingles and herpes.
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What Should I Do If My Medicine Causes Depression or Mania?
When a medicine produces symptoms of mania or depression, your doctor may recommend discontinuing the drug or reducing the dosage (if possible). If this is not possible, your doctor may treat the manic or depressive symptoms with other drugs.
Should I Stop Taking a Drug If It Causes Depression or Mania?
If you do experience depression or mania while taking one of these medications or any other, call your doctor immediately. Do not stop taking the medicine unless directed to do so by your doctor. In all cases, the risk of side effects must be balanced against the risk and discomfort of not treating the disease.
WebMD Medical Reference
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Related Disease Conditions
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Bipolar disorder (or manic depression) is a mental illness characterized by depression, mania, and severe mood swings. Treatment may incorporate mood-stabilizer medications, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
Depression in Children
Childhood depression can interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork and family life. Symptoms and signs include anger, social withdrawal, vocal outbursts, fatigue, physical complaints, and thoughts of suicide. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Mental Illness in Children
About 5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from a serious mental illness such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, pervasive development disorders, elimination disorders, learning disorders, schizophrenia, tic disorders, and mood disorders. Symptoms of mental illness include frequent outbursts of anger, hyperactivity, fear of gaining weight, excessive worrying, frequent temper tantrums, and hearing voices that aren't there. Treatment may involve medication, psychotherapy, and creative therapies.
What Is a Nervous Breakdown?
A nervous or mental breakdown is a general term used to describe a period of overwhelming mental distress. This term is usually used to refer to an intense set of emotions a person experiences in a wide variety of mental illnesses, including depression, stress disorder, and anxiety.
Depression and Suicide
Depression is a psychiatric illness that affects one in six people in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of people with depression do not realize that they have a treatable illness and do not seek treatment. Depression could happen when there is a decrease in the functional balance of the brain chemicals e.g., serotonin and norepinephrine.
How to Recognize Symptoms of Suicidal Behavior
People who contemplate suicide see it as a solution to run away from the problems that seem never-ending to them. If they get help in the form of counseling and emotional support at an earlier stage, they can be saved. Some of their words and actions can give you clues if they are at risk of hurting themselves.
Medications & Supplements
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- Birth Control Pills (List of Oral Contraceptives and Side Effects)
- Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)
- estrogens cream - vaginal
- Antidepressants (Depression Medications)
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- Alprazolam (Xanax) vs. Temazepam (Restoril)
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Prevention & Wellness
- Depressed Pregnant Women 3 Times More Likely to Turn to Pot
- General Anesthesia Boosts Postpartum Depression Risk After C-Section: Study
- Health Tip: Healthy Ways to Deal With Sadness
- Differences Found in Brains of Kids Born to Depressed Parents
- Magic Mushroom Ingredient Could Treat Depression
- One-Third of Lung Cancer Patients Battle Depression: Study
- Depressive Symptoms More Common in Teen Girls Who Take Birth Control Pills: Study
- How to Wait Out a Blue Mood
- For Kids With Asthma, Depression Makes ER Visit More Likely
- Depressed Moms, More Anxious, Troubled Kids?
- What Treatments Work Best to Prevent Suicide?
- Easing Depression Can Bring Longer Life to People With Diabetes
- Many 'Gen Xers' Desolate as They Navigate Adulthood: Study
- Counseling Can Prevent Pregnancy-Related Depression: Task Force
- Health Tip: Caregiving After Stroke
- Global Rate of Suicide Deaths Is on the Decline
- Type 2 Diabetes Before 40 Tied to Mental Illness Hospitalizations
- Social Support Key to Good Mental Health After Stroke: Study
- Docs Should Screen for Depression During, After Pregnancy
- More Are Seeking Mental Health Care, But Not Always Those Who Need It Most
- Depression Is a Risk for Teens, Adults With Epilepsy
- U.S. Deaths From Suicide, Drugs Surpass Diabetes
- Opioid Addicts Turning to Unapproved Antidepressant to Get High
- Supportive Managers Key When a Worker Is Depressed
- Are Your Meds Making You Depressed?
- Crisis Hotline Activity Jumps After Spade and Bourdain Suicides
- Never Ignore Depression
- 1 in 20 Younger Women Suffers Major Depression
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
National Institute of Mental Health: "What is Depression?"
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.
Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale Books, 2006.
Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on July 24, 2012
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