Meds Tied to Depression

As the U.S. suicide rate ticks up, a new study has found that more than a third of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug that could raise their risk of depression. Researchers analyzed medications taken by 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014 and identified more than 200 widely used drugs that list depression or suicidal thoughts as possible side effects, including hormonal birth control pills, antacids like Prilosec and Zantac, beta-blockers, and the anti-anxiety pill Xanax. About 37 percent of people took at least one of the drugs, and researchers discovered that the more of these drugs participants used at the same time, the greater their likelihood of depression. Some 15 percent of people who used three or more of the drugs—but didn’t take an antidepressant—had depression, while only 7 percent of those taking one and 5 percent who weren’t taking any had the condition. Columbia University psychiatrist (Read More)

Popular Medications Tied to Brain Damage

Your favorite cold medicine could be shrinking your brain. A new study reveals that drugs used to treat colds and a range of other common health issues, including allergies, heartburn, hypertension, insomnia, and depression, may erode gray matter and increase the risk for dementia and other cognitive problems in older adults. Over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as Tylenol PM, Benadryl, Claritin, Dimetapp, Paxil, Xanax, Zyrtec, Lasix, and Coumadin, belong to a class of drugs known as anticholinergics. They work by blocking acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits electrical impulses between nerve cells. Using PET and MRI scans, researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine examined the brain structure and metabolism of 451 people with an average age of 73. The study found those taking anticholinergic drugs had smaller brains and lower levels of glucose metabolism, particularly in the hippocampus—a brain region involved with memory that is vulnerable to earlystage Alzheimer’s disease. (Read More)

Enhancing Antidepressants

Antidepressants are only effective for about one-third of people who take them. But new research has found that combining these drugs with certain supplements, including fish oil, could boost their positive effects and offer new hope for people struggling with depression. Scientists analyzed the results of 40 clinical trials that investigated the effects of pairing certain nutritional supplements with several major classes of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants. The naturally occurring compound SAM-e, vitamin D, and methylfolate all enhanced the efficacy of antidepressants, but omega-3 fish oils had the most dramatic effect, significantly reducing symptoms of depression, ScienceDaily.com reports. Researchers speculate that supplements help by easing inflammation associated with depression, or by targeting brain processes similar to those targeted by antidepressants. “This is an exciting finding,” says the study’s lead author, Jerome Sarris. “Here we have a safe, evidence-based approach that could be (Read More)

Why Bacteria Are Becoming Drug-Resistant

People suffering from bronchitis, flu, and other ailments often leave their doctor’s office with a prescription for antibiotics— even though in many cases it will do nothing to help them. Nearly one-third of the antibiotics taken in this country are unnecessary, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite decades of warnings that overprescribing is helping fuel the alarming surge in drug-resistant superbugs. All told, the study found, some 47 million unwarranted antibiotic prescriptions are being written out each year. Many of them are for viral illnesses the drugs can’t treat, such as colds and sore throats, or for sinus infections, typically caused by fungi that aren’t affected by antibiotics. The researchers say it’s likely they’ve even underestimated the problem, because they didn’t consider antibiotics doled out over the phone and in urgent-care centers, or cases in which doctors prescribed the wrong antibiotic to treat a genuine (Read More)

Antidepressants: The Scary Truth

30 million Americans take medication to treat depression, but for most people, antidepressants serve mostly as a placebo, scientists now say.  Antidepressants are medications meant to act on the chemistry of the brain to relieve symptoms of depression. Along with talk therapy, antidepressants can be wonderful in helping those suffering from depression live a more normal life. However, there are often side effects from the antidepressants. According to WebMD.com, side effects can range from nausea to sexual dysfunction among others. More medications are prescribed to deal with the side effects, and even those can cause side effects, or the original medication gets changed and adjusted and the cycle starts all over again. There also is the problem with serious interactions with other drugs you may be taking. For a more complete list, visit www.drugwatch.com. Some antidepressants (such as Paxil) have even been linked to birth defects when taken by women who (Read More)

Natural Solutions

Conventional doctors have long used painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease inflammation – such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin – as well as steroid hormones. But these drugs carry well-known side effects and are generally not a good long term solution. Alternative medicine practitioners have long turned to herbs and natural substances that have anti-inflammatory properties. Blaylock says he has seen tremendous results in his patients who have used alternative therapies to knock down inflammation naturally. Among those he recommends:   Vitamin C: Adequate dietary intake of this antioxidant vitamin knocks down disease-causing substances in the body known as free radicals that have pro-inflammatory effects. Studies have found vitamin C may help protect against coronary heart disease and gout.

New Study Warns: Stomach Acid Drugs Can Kill

A new study says the drugs many take for acid reflux and excess stomach acid may be worse for you than the disease itself. In fact, stomach acid drugs have now been linked to an early death. The study, published in a recent edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, concludes that stomach acid plays a crucial role in stopping infections in the body.

Painkiller Dulls Empathy

Acetaminophen helps dull the pain of some 52 million Americans each week, but new research suggests it could also blunt their sensitivity to other people’s distress. Researchers conducted a series of experiments involving 200 college students to assess the effects of acetaminophen – an active ingredient in Tylenol and more than 600 other medications – on their ability to empathize. Participants read eight short stories with wrenching scenarios – one told of a person who suffered a knife wound that  cut to the bone; in another, someone grappled with the death of his father. As it turned out, CNN.com reports, the students who took 1,000 mg of acetaminophen (equivalent to two extra-strength Tylenol tablets) displayed less empathy for people who were enduring an emotionally or physically painful experience. “If you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen, this research suggests you might be less understanding (Read More)

Prescription Drug Use Soars

Most Americans are now regularly taking prescription drugs, new research has found. Almost 60 percent of adults take some type of medication, and since 2000, the number of adults taking five or more prescription drugs has nearly doubled to 15 percent, raising serious concerns about the potential for adverse interactions. An aging U.S. population, expanded Medicare coverage, and aggressive TV marketing all play a role, but national surveys of nearly 40,000 people suggest the obesity epidemic is the primary culprit fueling this upward trend. Eight of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States are used to treat high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and other preventable conditions associated with obesity. In fact, the most popular medication in the U.S. is Zocor, which is in a class of cholesterol lowering drugs called statins. Overall use of statins jumped 10 percent over the past decade by 7 percent. “Here in (Read More)

NSAID’s Link to Heart Attacks

Many people don’t think twice before taking painkillers to ease everyday aches and pains. But new research adds to mounting evidence that commonly used non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve- could substantially increase the risk of heart attack. Canadian and Europe researchers’ pooled data  from several studies on 446,000 people ages 40 to 79. They found that taking NSAIDs for just one week increased the risk of heart attack by up to 53 percent. The risk depends on the drug, and climbs over time and at higher doses. The study doesn’t prove NSAIDs cause heart attacks, and the absolute risk of suffering a cardiac episode after taking the drugs remains small. But lead author Michele Bally says the finding should encourage patients to discuss their needs with a doctor. “People are often not aware of their own baseline cardiovascular risk,” she tells The New (Read More)