A Cautionary Tale: How Medications Can Increase the Feelings of Depression

Our bodies are miraculous self-regulating creations that when cared for with healthy food, activity, exercise, rest and proper hygiene, can last a long lifetime. There are times, however that they require chemical intervention to maintain function. There are a number of commonly prescribed medications that are saddled with side effects, including depression.

  • Accutane. Used as an acne treatment.
  • Alcohol. Although many report feelings of elation while drinking, it is a central nervous system depressant that anesthetizes emotions and represses inhibitions.
  • Antabuse: This medicine is used to treat alcoholism.
  • Anticonvulsants: These are used to control epileptic seizures.
  • 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.
  • Benzodiazepines: This group of central nervous system depressants is often used to treat anxiety and to relax muscles.
  • 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 cardiac arrhythmias. They may also be used to treat migraines.
  • Calcium-channel blockers: This group of medicines slows the heart rate and relaxes blood vessels and to treat high blood pressure, chest pain and congestive heart failure.
  • Estrogens: Female hormones are often used to treat symptoms of menopause and to prevent or treat osteoporosis.
  • Interferon alfa: This drug is designed to treat certain cancers as well as Hepatitis B and C.
  • Norplant: This is used as a contraception.
  • Opioids: This group of narcotics is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Statins: These medicines are used to lower cholesterol, protect against damage from coronary artery disease and prevent heart attacks; examples
  • Zovirax:  Doctors prescribe this drug to treat shingles and herpes.

Although it seems contradictory, people who experience medications as an antidote to depression sometimes experience a paradoxical effect and find it increasing.

In 1994 Italian psychiatrist Giovanni Fava, M.D, who is the editor of  Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, encouraged his peers to accept that it might indeed be so. He wrote: “Within the field of psycho-pharmacology, practitioners have been cautious, if not fearful of opening a debate on whether the treatment is more damaging than helpful. I wonder if the time has come for debating and initiating research into the likelihood that psychotropic drugs actually worsen, at least in some cases, the progression of the illness which they are supposed to treat.”

He reported that, the brain is trying restore its “homeostatic equilibrium,” referring to this enigmatic response to a psychiatric drug “oppositional tolerance.”

This was reinforced by the work of researcher, Rif El-Mallakh, M.D.at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. In the June, 2011 issue of Medical Hypotheses, he offers “emerging evidence that, in some individuals, persistent use of antidepressants may be pro-depressant.” He refers to the term as ‘tardive dysphoria’.

Commonly prescribed anti-depressants include:

  • Celexa
  • Cymbalta
  • Desyrel
  • Effexor
  • Elavil
  • Latuda
  • Lamictal
  • Lexapro
  • Pamelor
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Pristiq
  • Remeron
  • Seroquel
  • Viibryd
  • Wellbutrin
  • Zoloft
  • Zyprexa

Do these findings point to encouraging discontinuing use of anti-depressant medications?

If you find yourself noticing and increase in depressive symptoms and before considering any change in medications, speak with your treating physician. Look to complimentary interventions, including psychotherapy, time in nature, a fitness routine, healthy nutritional plan, socializing as able, refraining from isolating, listening to music, interacting with animals, stretching comfort zones by engaging in new activities, volunteering, journaling, light therapy (for Seasonal Affective Disorder), acupuncture, a support group, yoga, meditation, saffron, fish oil supplements, SAMe, as well as St. John’s Wort. Adding these items to your recovery tool kit may ameliorate some of the side effects.


Author: Edie Weinstein

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a colorfully creative journalist, inspiring transformational speaker, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, editor, radio host, BLISS coach, event producer, Cosmic Concierge, the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. Edie has interviewed such notables as Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer, Debbie Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr. Noah Levine, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Ben and Jerry and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

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