Polypharmacy, which is the practice of taking lots of different medications at the same time, rose sharply in the US in the last decade. Meanwhile, the number of people committing suicide also dramatically increased. New research suggests a link between the two phenomena.
More than 200 prescription drugs list depressive symptoms or suicidal thinking as possible side effects. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associaton shows the nearly four out of 10 Americans who take at least one of these drugs experiences more depression than people who don't take them. The study also showed depression rates increased with every additional drug taken.
The study did not include people taking antidepressants and stopped short of saying the drugs directly caused the depression, suggesting the underlying reason for taking the drugs caused the depression, not the drug itself.
Nevertheless, psychiatrist Peter Breggin, author of Medication Madness, says the study points to the dark side of so-called wonder drugs.
"Chantix, for example, which is used for allowing you to stop smoking, it has a very high rate of violent feelings, suicidal feelings," he said. "Lariam, it's an antibiotic that's been associated with violence. Accutane, which is a drug used for acne, it's so much associated with suicidal behavior."
Dr. Breggin says too many physicians who prescribe these drugs don't discuss their possible side effects with patients. Furthermore, too many patients don't read the warning labels that come with the drugs they take, he adds.
"Any drug that is affecting your mind, your mood, your feelings, has the potential to cause a disaster," Dr. Breggin warned. "Most of the school shooters have been on psychiatric drugs and a great number of them were on psychiatric drugs at the time or shortly before they committed violence."
"Violence and suicide go together," he said. "It's, 'Are you going to turn your rage out or are you going to turn your rage inward?'"
Patients are urged to talk to their doctor about the risks versus benefits of all the medications they're taking, keeping in mind that stopping, starting or changing the dose of any drug should be done under the supervision of a physician.