Polypharmacy, the use of multiple medications by a patient, especially in seniors, can be necessary in treating various conditions, but can also be difficult to manage. To make matters more complicated, some medications can even cause depression-like symptoms, like a decrease in happiness, mood swings, loss of appetite, lack of energy, worthlessness and other severe symptoms related to depression. Especially with multiple medications, it’s important to be able to identify which one(s) may have the highest tendency to cause depression. Here are a few more medications to be aware of and what you can do to take control of your depression symptoms, according to AARP:
- Stimulants. Ritalin and Provigil treat excessive daytime sleepiness, whether caused by hypersomnia, narcolepsy or sleep apnea. They’re also prescribed for ADHD and fatigue. They increase the level of dopamine in the body. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to higher levels of dopamine may cause depression. Nondrug causes of excessive daytime sleepiness include sleep deprivation, obstructive sleep apnea and depression. When such things are treated appropriately, there’s rarely, if ever, any need for the use of stimulants.
- Anticonvulsants. These are used to treat seizures along with neuropathic pain, bipolar disorder, mood disorders and mania. Lamictal, Tegretol and Neurontin are examples. Anticonvulsants affect neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers in the brain. They may limit seizures from spreading by blocking the flow of signals from the central nervous system rather than raise the threshold for seizures. All CNS depressants, including anticonvulsants, can cause depression. For seizures, Dilantin and Effexor, can regulate pain.
- Proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers. Doctors use this to fight gastro reflux disease (GERD). While they cause depression, scientists don’t yet understand why they do. When any major body process is blocked, however, the body often rebels to fight back. Consequently, it’s likely that changing the pH of the stomach could bring on changes to the central nervous system and the brain. Know what foods trigger your acid reflux, like spicy and fried foods, and avoid them, especially in the hours before bedtime. Mylanta may help. Patients have even reported relief from home remedies such as apple cidar vinegar and honey (1 tablespoon each).
- Statins and other lipid-lowering drugs. These lower cholesterol levels, but they can cause depression by depleting levels of cholesterol in the brain, where it plays an important role in the release of neurotransmitters. A positive alternative is a combination of vitamins B12 or B6, folic acid and fish oil. These can lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that inflicts damage to the inner arterial lining and other cells of the body, elevating lipids levels.
- Anticholinergic drugs used to treat stomach cramps and other GI disorders. These slow down the intestine, thereby reducing the amount of stomach acid produced. They do this by blocking effects of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that causes muscles to contract. They can cause depression, sedation and cognitive impairment in older patients. Using as H2 blocker like Zantac can work well for the occasional attack of heartburn or acid indigestion. Also, Mylanta or Gelusil may help.
Review your meds with your doctor and identify problems that can be addressed without adding more drugs. And, if you or a loved one needs help or has questions about medications or if you’re looking for additional help and support options for a senior dealing with depression, reach out to our local care team 24/7.