Picture: Pexels

Common prescription and over-the-counter drugs may be putting millions of people at risk of depression and even suicide.

Blood pressure pills, hormone-based birth control and indigestion tablets can all raise the chance of a patient suffering depression.

Scientists found that the risk rose significantly when three or more medicines were taken together. Many doctors believe patients are being ‘over-medicalised’, with little regard for the potentially dangerous side-effects.

The researchers from the University of Illinois examined the health records of 26,000 people over a decade to see whether common treatments were linked to mental health problems.

They found that more than 200 commonly-used medicines – including heart pills and acid reflux tablets – have depression or suicide listed as possible side-effects. Around 5 % of people not taking any of the medicines suffered depression – but this rose to 7 %for those on one of the 200 treatments.

This increased to 9 % for those on two types of medication and to as high as 15 % for those on three.

Dima Qato, from the university’s college of pharmacy, said: ‘Patients and healthcare providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs, many of which are also available over the counter.

‘Many may be surprised to learn that their medications – despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression – can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, and may lead to a depression diagnosis.’ Experts suggested the higher risk of depression for those on multiple medications may be a result of the medicines interacting but also because patients with chronic illnesses are more likely to have depression.