If you’ve ever had pneumonia or a urinary tract infection, you may have received a prescription for minocycline — a tetracycline antibiotic that also goes by the brand names Minocin, Minolira, Solodyn, and Ximino.

This short-term medication is used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections, including:

  • infections of the eyes, respiratory tract, intestines, and skin
  • certain sexually transmitted infections
  • severe acne
  • infections transmitted by ticks, mites, and other animals

Minocycline is typically prescribed for a period of 10 to 15 days for most common infections, but it may be prescribed for 3 or more months for skin treatment, according to Chanel Johnson, MA, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Altus Home Counseling.

As with other antibiotics, you may experience side effects while on minocycline. Some people taking this medication report increased symptoms of depression — but others report reduced symptoms of depression. Here’s what to know about minocycline’s potential impact on depression.

Some evidence does suggest certain antibiotics may increase your risk of depression, or worsen existing depression symptoms. A large 2015 study of patients with existing depression, anxiety, and psychosis linked a single antibiotic course to increased depression risk. The risk of depression and anxiety increased further with additional antibiotic treatments.

Here’s why this might happen: Antibiotics kill bacteria — both harmful bacteria and the “good bacteria” your body needs.

“This results in a change in the microbiome,” says Johnson. “Your gut is directly connected to brain function, and alterations can affect the release of certain brain chemicals and neurotransmitters that play a role in your feelings and mood.”

In fact, 2019 research links disruption of the gut microbiome to major depressive disorder (MDD).

Individual case studies also point to a possible link between minocycline and negative mental health effects.

In one 2019 case report, a 37-year-old woman taking minocycline for a skin condition began experiencing symptoms of depersonalization 2 days after starting the medication. She also reported a loss of interest in things she’d usually consider important, another symptom of depression.

She had no personal or family history of any psychiatric condition — and her symptoms improved within just a few days of stopping minocycline.

Depersonalization, which some evidence links to depression, refers to a sense of being detached from your body, mind, and surroundings. People who experience depersonalization often say they feel like an outside observer of their own life.

Existing evidence isn’t conclusive

Experts continue to study the potential link between minocycline and depression. Future research may help clarify why it contributes to depression symptoms, along with how frequently this happens.

“There’s not enough evidence for it to be avoided in patients who have depression,” says Laura Purdy, MD, a board certified family medicine physician in virtual private practice and chief medical officer of OpenLoop. “Much of the evidence is anecdotal, and depression is not listed as a potential side effect.”

Julian Lagoy, MD, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health, says you might be experiencing minocycline-related depression if you only start experiencing symptoms right after starting the medication, or if your symptoms get noticeably worse right after starting it.

If your symptoms follow a different pattern, minocycline likely isn’t the cause.

On the flip side, minocycline seems to have antidepressant properties.

In one small 2012 study of adults receiving inpatient care for psychotic depression, a daily dose of minocycline and an antidepressant significantly reduced both depression and psychotic symptoms after 6 weeks of treatment.

Experts believe this effect stems from minocycline’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Research has found people with depression tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains — and minocycline appears to stop immune cells from releasing inflammatory proteins into the brain. In short, minocycline may reduce brain inflammation, which could help relieve depression, in turn.

Lagoy says the antidepressant effects may stop when you stop taking minocycline, but they’re more likely to last if you use other treatments, like therapy, to help manage your symptoms.

Learn more about treatment for depression.

It may have benefit when other treatments don’t work

Purdy notes that minocycline is typically only prescribed as a last resort, if other medications haven’t helped.

Research from 2018 suggests it may help address depression that occurs with bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression. About 12-20% of all people with depression have treatment-resistant depression, which means they haven’t responded to two or more types of treatment.

Evidence also suggests minocycline may help improve depression symptoms for people with health conditions that affect the immune system, like HIV. According to a 2016 study of people living with both HIV and mild to moderate depression, minocycline appeared to help improve depressive symptoms.

As a 2021 review notes, though, these few existing studies have smaller sample sizes, so future research may offer more insight into minocycline’s effectiveness in depression treatment.

A 2015 study found that repeated exposure to antibiotics may increase your chances of developing anxiety. But not much evidence supports this link.

Regardless, this side effect should go away shortly after you stop taking minocycline, Lagoy says.

To contrast, some people find minocycline has a positive impact on anxiety symptoms. Immune dysregulation plays a key role in anxiety disorders, and since minocycline can treat the underlying immune system issues, it has the potential to ease anxiety.

Johnson notes minocycline may also help reduce inflammation in the brain, which is associated with anxiety as well as depression. A 2018 study of male rats found that minocycline treatment helped reduce behavior related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which many experts consider an anxiety disorder.

“It’s possible that minocycline may be added to an anxiety treatment plan as an adjunctive treatment when other medications have failed,” says Purdy.

FYI

In order to reap these anti-anxiety benefits, you’d need to keep taking minocycline, Johnson says.

But due to increasing antibiotic resistance in the United States, this treatment may not be ideal in many cases.

Most people tolerate minocycline fairly well, and side effects are usually mild and short-lived. The most common side effects include lightheadedness and dizziness, nausea, and vertigo.

Other minor side effects include:

Severe side effects are rare, but you should get medical attention right away if you experience:

Many of these more serious side effects may suggest an allergic reaction, says Purdy, which requires medical attention right away.

Allergic reactions to tetracycline antibiotics happen more commonly in women, and, while very rare, they can be life threatening.

Symptoms of depression will typically go away once you stop taking minocycline, according to Johnson, but it may take up to a week for symptoms to improve.

If you experience unwanted side effects, Lagoy strongly recommends reaching out to the prescribing clinician rather than quitting the medication on your own.

A healthcare professional can work with you to determine the safest course of action, whether that means reducing your dose of minocycline, gradually tapering off the dose, or stopping it altogether.

Find 22 tips for coping with depression here.

Minocycline, a type of antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, can have varying effects on depression and anxiety. Some people say it worsens their symptoms, while others find this antibiotic offers some relief.

Anecdotal evidence suggests minocycline could potentially trigger mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety, even if you didn’t have them before beginning the medication.

If you develop symptoms of depression while taking minocycline, Purdy recommends connecting with your doctor right away to find an alternate treatment and get support and treatment for depression.


Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance writer covering health and wellness, fitness, food, lifestyle, and beauty. Her work has also appeared in Insider, Bustle, StyleCaster, Eat This Not That, AskMen, and Elite Daily.

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