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Does Byetta Cause Depression?

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/25/2011

Byetta is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, but diabetes discussion boards have posited the idea that using Byetta causes depression. Byetta can have some nasty side effects which may contribute to depression, but what is behind the Byetta depression? Is it the drug, the disease, or both?

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    What Is Byetta and How Does It Work?

    Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by insulin resistance of the body's cells1. This means that the body does not produce enough insulin or it doesn't influence cells to take in sugar from the blood as it once did. So blood sugar levels are high. This sugar is needed by cells as it is broken down to provide energy.

    When the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to maintain normal levels of sugar in the blood, type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed. Byetta is a drug that may be used to produce more insulin.

    When oral medications which stimulate insulin production no longer work. Byetta is prescribed, and patients inject it into their bodies.

    Byetta mimics a hormone known as incretin which increases insulin production in response to food and helps to reduce the rise in blood sugar from eating.

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    Is There a Byetta Depression?

    Depression, in simple terms, is a period of sadness where a person doesn't enjoy activities which they used to enjoy for at least two weeks2. Diabetes discussion boards are full of people who have complained about experiencing depression after taking Byetta, claiming that this depression didn't exist before taking the medicine. Currently, there are no studies which examine if Byetta leads to depression, and depression is not listed as a side effect1.

    Byetta can have many side effects which include nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea. These side effects may contribute to a depressed mood and lead to the false belief that there is a Byetta depression. Also, Byetta is taken when oral medications no longer work. This suggests that type 2 diabetes is advancing in severity. Evidence exists which supports the relationship between type 2 diabetes and depression, and this probably explains the Byetta depression reported by some people.

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    The Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Depression

    The American Diabetes Association acknowledges an increased risk of developing depression when someone is diabetic3. In a study conducted by Frank Hu at the Harvard School of Public Health, the link between depression and type 2 diabetes was found to go both ways4. People with depression were 17% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes were 30% more likely to develop depression. Still, this is an association and does not imply cause on either side. Interestingly, it was also found that the severity of diabetes symptoms increased the risk of developing depression which may further explain the illusory relationship between depression and Byetta.

    Based on this evidence, there appears to be a link between diabetes and depression, but evidence doesn't support Byetta as a cause of depression.