Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are widely used for a range of digestive tract difficulties. These popular pills, including esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and pantoprazole (Protonix), are used to heal ulcers, control acid reflux and ease indigestion. They work very well to block acid secretion. However, scientists have discovered that these drugs have troubling side effects. They can increase the chance of liver disease, and have been linked to kidney damage. In addition, PPIs have been associated with infections, dementia, heart disease, weakened bones and fractures, blood disorders and nutritional deficiencies. But now there is a new concern: could a heartburn drug cause depression?
Feeling Bad on Prilosec:
Q. I have taken Prilosec for almost three months. During this time, I have experienced some of the worst days in my life.
While on this drug I am experiencing severe anxiety, nervousness and depression. I feel like I am going nowhere.
I want to stop taking this drug, but the withdrawal is awful. Whenever I don’t take a dose, I get horrible heartburn. Is there a way to get off this medicine?
Does a Heartburn Drug Cause Depression?
A. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are powerful acid-suppressing drugs. They help heal stomach ulcers and can relieve symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Most people assume that PPIs only exert their effects in the stomach. Research suggests, however, that PPIs have effects throughout the body.
A new study shows that these medications may impact the brain (Laudisio et al, International Psychogeriatrics, online Sep. 13, 2017). More than 300 elderly Italians participated in the study, answering questions about their mood as well as their use of proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec). People taking a PPI were about twice as likely as other individuals to report depression or anxiety.
The authors conclude,
“Use of PPIs might represent a frequent cause of depression in older populations; thus, mood should be routinely assessed in elderly patients on PPIs.”
Getting Off a PPI:
Stopping a PPI suddenly can trigger rebound hyperacidity. Heartburn symptoms like those you’ve experienced may become more intense. Gradual withdrawal over several weeks or months is a better approach. You can learn more about getting off PPIs in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. You will also find other ways to deal with heartburn with fewer side effects.