Drugs for enlarged prostate or male pattern baldness may cause depression, says study

The physical conditions accompanying old age is a reality that people need to accept. There are various diseases and ailments that affect only the elderly and the fragile. One of the most common problems that elderly men complain of is difficulties due to an enlarged prostate.

A recent study titled “The Risk of Suicidality and Depression From 5-α Reductase Inhibitors” suggested how common medicines for treating urinary symptoms in aged men related to enlarged prostate gland may increase their risk of depression and self-harm. However, the study, published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in March 2017, did not reveal any aggravated risk of suicide.

The researchers observed the effects of medicines identified as 5a- reductase inhibitors (5ARIs), including commonly prescribed medications for male pattern baldness like Propecia and Proscar, for recovery from problems pertaining to enlarged prostate gland.

The researchers examined details, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences during 2003-13, of 186,000 patients, aged above 65 years, suffering from problems like an enlarged prostate. Roughly half the respondents were recommended finasteride or dutasteride, while the other half were not advised any medicine.

The researchers observed that among the patients who took one of the prescription medicines, there were 38 cases of self-inflicted deaths. Of these 38 patients, 16 were taking finasteride, while the rest were on dutasteride. The researchers also noted that among those who were not advised any of the 5ARI medicines, 36 had succumbed to suicidal attempts, thus, suggesting that the suicidal rate in both the groups is analogous to that of men in the general population.

Patients on medication for enlarged prostate should be screened for depression

Elucidating the observations, lead author of the study Dr. Blayne Welk, a urologist at Western University in London pinpointed that the drugs cannot be held responsible for deaths by suicide due to the possibility of other factors like mental disorders or related psychological illnesses. The researchers also observed that the potential of being afflicted with depression symptoms and inclination to harm oneself formed an additional episode for every 420 men receiving treatment with one of the medicines for a year.

Advising about the small but considerable rise in self-harm potential and related depression in patients after they started their medications, Welk added, “If that depression does happen, it’s something you should talk to your doctor about and see if the medication you’re on for your prostate is still the right medication to be using. I think I’d reassure most patients out there that the risk of serious side-effects such as depression or self-harm is extremely rare and in most men is not an issue.”

Alpha blockers, an alternative solution to enlarged prostate problems

The findings of the study are significant as there are increasing cases of young men taking drugs like finasteride and dutasteride for treatment of male pattern baldness. Thus, the researchers have raised concerns about possible side effects among the users. The researchers also underlined the option of prescribing another kind of drugs called alpha blockers to treat enlarged prostate problems. Alternatively, surgeries to reduce gland size can also be carried out to lower symptoms of depression.

The study stressed on the need to inform patients about the potential impact of 5ARI medicines before recommending them for enlarged prostate glands or male pattern baldness. The physicians must suggest available alternative measures to treat prostate problems that would prevent the risk of depression or other mental health problems.

Emotional disorders are treatable

Considering that depression is a common problem in the United States, one must not shy away from seeking help. If you or your loved one is struggling with some kind of emotional distress, including depression, contact 247 Mental Health Helpline for information on mental health services in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online for expert advice about the mental health facilities in your vicinity.