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Are Men Taking Prostate Drugs More Likely to Be Depressed?

A large Canadian study showed that men taking prostate drugs are more prone to depression, although it found no risk of suicide.

Medications to shrink an enlarged prostate may contribute to depression. Doctors have not previously recognized this possible side effect for men taking prostate drugs.

What Do Prostate Drugs Do?

Drugs like dutasteride (Avodart) and finasteride (Proscar) are prescribed for benign prostate hypertrophy or BPH for short. These medicines prevent the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Doctors refer to these drugs as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, after the enzyme they affect.

Dihydrotestosterone is a metabolite of testosterone that causes prostate tissue overgrowth and male pattern baldness. Lower levels of dihydrotestosterone have been linked to fewer troublesome symptoms of BPH, such as urinary frequency or nighttime urination. Some men take these medicines to slow male pattern hair loss.

Do Men Taking Prostate Drugs Experience Psychological Side Effects?

Neurologists have become concerned that these medications do not just affect the prostate or the scalp. Reports to the FDA have raised alarms about suicide.

Depression and Suicide:

An epidemiological study of over 90,000 older Canadian men found no increased risk of suicide among men taking either finasteride or dutasteride. There was, however, an increase in depression and such men were more likely to harm themselves. The absolute risk was low, but men and their partners should be informed of this possibility.

Welk et al, JAMA Internal Medicine, online March 20, 2017

Depression is not the only troublesome side effect some men experience. For certain men, these drugs can result in sexual side effects.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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