One of the more serious side effects of commonly prescribed drugs is depression. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (June 12, 2018), 37 percent of U.S. adults are taking prescription medications that can potentially cause depression or increase the risk of suicide. Although there's been a 25 percent increase in suicides in the U.S. since 1999, the risk of depression as a side effect of prescribed drugs is widely under-appreciated by doctors and patients alike.
The prescription pad is probably the most dangerous tool at a doctor's disposal. The legalized permission to prescribe drugs to alleviate pain and discomfort can often result in unintended consequences, especially in elderly patients.
"This is America's other drug problem," says Maristela Garcia, director of the inpatient geriatric unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. "And the problem is huge" (The Washington Post, August 15, 2016). The elderly are simply taking too many pills, "raising their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects. Often the drugs are prescribed by different specialists who don't communicate with each other." When followed by several physicians, many elderly patients end up taking a dozen or more prescribed medications every day.