When the Cause of Depression is a Medication

Two researchers affiliated with the University of Verona have reviewed the literature on depression caused by medications in an article published in the July-August issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

Certain medications may contribute to the etiology of depressive symptoms and disorders. Research in this area, however, has been hampered by methodological and conceptual problems. This review had two objectives: to identify evidence linking medical drugs to depressive symptoms and disorders, and to summarize this evidence in a clinically meaningful way.

Electronic literature searches were performed and studies were reviewed with reference to critical methodological features. No medications causing the typical major depressive syndrome were identified. Evidence was found linking corticosteroids, interferon-alpha, interleukin-2, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, mefloquine, progestin-releasing implanted contraceptives and propranolol to the etiology of atypical depressive syndromes. A small number of drugs have been shown capable of inducing depressive symptoms. Drug-induced depression appears to differ symptomatically from classical major depression.

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