Heroin nd Depression: How Are They Related

Medically Reviewed

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s most recent statistics highlight that an estimated 130 or more people die daily from opioid use. Opioid addiction has become a crisis affecting more than just those struggling with addiction. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that in 2016, 948,000 Americans used heroin in the last year.

The number has continued to increase dramatically since 2007, and the trend is driven by those ages 18 to 25. The number of first-time heroin users has also risen, with 170,000 starting heroin in 2016. The number is in contrast to 2006, where it was 96,000. It should not come as a surprise that with heroin use rising, more people are experiencing adverse health effects from repeated use.

The number of individuals who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) for heroin use disorder rose from 214,000 in 2002 to 636,000 in 2016. The impact of heroin use is widespread. The drug falls into a category of central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and many people use it for its euphoric effects. Heroin has been compared to antidepressants for those with depression.

You may wonder, how are heroin use and depression related?

Depression and Heroin Use

While the statistics cited above indicate a problem with no end in sight, it does not touch on the underlying cause of why someone may abuse heroin. Those who abuse heroin and opioids often face the additional burden of depression. When this common mental illness is left untreated, it makes overcoming addiction much more challenging.

According to Dr. Kathleen Smith, who’s featured on the website Psycom, the relationship between opioid abuse and depression is bidirectional. What this means is that someone who has one disorder will increase the risk of the other. Opioid abuse is linked to high rates of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders. Many people use drugs like heroin to self-medicate and conquer their symptoms. While it may work in the short-term, it can lead to significant issues in the long-term.

Other research suggests that solely using opioids can  increase someone’s risk of developing depression. Many of those who use prescription opioids, at some point or another, will turn to heroin. Heroin is cheaper and more potent than prescription opioids, which makes it alluring to drug users.

Researchers believe that depression often stems from how opioids change the brain’s reward and pleasure system, and hormone levels. Opioids have been shown to be less effective in people who have depression, which may lead to increased use to achieve their desired effect. Medical professionals are advised to monitor patients and not prescribe opioids to those dealing with depression.

Depression and opioid use may lead to suicidal behavior. If you are struggling with depression, call for help today.

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