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7 medications that cause depression

Depression isn’t just sadness; major depressive disorder is a genuine mental disorder affecting 14.8 million Americans a year, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).

Although depressive disorders respond to treatment, in most people the exact causes aren’t completely understood. Mayo Clinic says depression can emerge from genetic causes, hormone changes and differences in brain structure and chemistry. This is something worth noting, because many commonly prescribed medications work by doing precisely that.

When feeling the symptoms of depression – lethargy, sadness, loss of interest in activities – people often look toward the usual culprits: work, family issues and money problems. The last place many people look to as a cause for depression is their medicine. It shouldn’t be: Many medications feature depressive symptoms among their side effects. Some of these include:

  1. Beta-blockers: These drugs treat high blood pressure and are also used to treat tremors, irregular heartbeat and even glaucoma. Depression has been a long-reported side effect of beta-blockers.
  2. Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Valium and Ativan are among the drugs in this class used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, and can cause depression in some people. There are other risks of benzodiazepine use as well.
  3. Chantix: A medication used to help people stop smoking, Chantix also received a black box warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a warning advising people about serious or even life-threatening risks from the drug. Chantix has been associated with potentially dangerous side effects for some time. However, a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine in 2013 found Varenicline, the drug Chantix is marketed as, did not increase depressive symptoms in those who had received treatment for depression. Other studies have shown similar results.
  4. Corticosteroids: Drugs in this family are used to treat blood vessel inflammation as well as conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. In some people, they’ve also been known to cause side effects including depression, hypomania and even psychosis, although some studies have shown these symptoms are usually mild. According to the American Association of Retired People, corticosteroids work by lowering levels of serotonin in the body, which may be a cause of depression, although some professionals disagree.
  5. Hormone drugs: Drugs that alter hormones, including estrogen drugs such as Premarin, can cause depression by altering hormonal levels. Additionally, a study conducted at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, found hormonal treatments given during the sex reassignment can contribute to depression as well.
  6. Interferon: Used to treat cancer and hepatitis C among other diseases, interferon is a protein made by cells in the immune system. Interferon boosts the body’s immune system, which in cancer’s case can slow its growth rate. However, according to researchers from Loyola University Medical Center, depression is a very common side effect of interferon.
  7. Statins: Statins lower cholesterol levels. However, cholesterol also plays an important role in the brain’s functions. A study published in 2010 in the American Chemical Society journal Biochemistry suggested statin drugs could cause symptoms of anxiety and depression by depleting the amount of cholesterol in the brain.

When people are prescribed drugs, it’s important for them to discuss any and all potential side effects with their physician. Depression responds well to treatment, and changing a prescription can be the first step towards recovery. Sovereign Health of Texas is an expert provider of addiction treatment. Our dual diagnosis approach treats both the addiction as well as the underlying cause. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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