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Using Opioids for Depression: Is it a Good Solution?

Depression is a severe mental disorder that can affect all areas of your life. For some individuals dealing with severe depression, it is a constant battle to maintain a career, social life, or your favorite hobbies when the brain tells you to stay home and sleep. Depression will alter your mood and make you feel apathetic to your surroundings. Many people report feeling exhaustion, but the worst part of depression is how common it is – depression affects 322 million people around the world annually. 

Prescription opioids are commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of mild to severe pain. Individuals with depression often experience aches and pains, which are incredibly unsettling. A little more than half of the opioid prescriptions are dispensed to people who have mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Depression and opioids complicate treatment when they are mixed, but depression and chronic pain often occur together.

While depression will not disqualify someone from receiving opioid treatment, it may not be a viable option to treat the ailment. If you are diagnosed with a depressive disorder, you must avoid using this type of medicine. Unfortunately, if you’ve exhausted all other resources, there is some valuable information you must know. 

How Do Opioids Affect Depression?

Depression is linked to opioid abuse, and one study released by the Annals of Family Medicine followed the development of new-onset depression in those who were long-term opioid users. The study found that using opiates for longer than 30 days is a risk for developing new on-set depression

Another study released in 2018 by the National Institutes of Health describes depressed patients as only slightly more likely to start using opioid medications but were more than twice as likely to transition to using the medicine long-term.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the number of opioids prescribed has increased, but that amount of pain throughout the country remains the same. The report has led to the belief that many are using opioids to self-medicate rather than treat pain, which indicates we must start treating depression to address the opioid crisis. 

Addiction and Depression Comorbidity 

Addiction and depression share a close relationship, and those struggling with substance use disorders are likely to have co-occurring problems with depression. Unfortunately, depression is a significant risk factor for developing an addiction. Drugs and alcohol are viewed as ways to self-medicate for mental health issues, and many will turn to these substances to treat their problems without a doctor’s guidance. 

Many people who start using opioids express how much it helps their depression in the short-term. These medications, however, are not an effective treatment for depression. In the long-term, they will cause your mental health to deteriorate. It may numb your symptoms, but you are not treating the underlying causes of your depression. There may be many factors that cause someone to feel like they must self-medicate. 

Individuals with marital issues, legal trouble, social problems, or a job loss may feel guilty, inadequate, and shame that leads to their depression – this may push them to use and numb their pain. Unfortunately, it will lead to more problems and cause them a constant struggle to feed their addiction.

You should speak with your primary care physician or a mental health expert to determine the treatment that is right for you. Opioids are never a good option to treat depression, but experts will help lead you in the right direction.

Sources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression

Caruso, C. (2017, June 26). 51 percent of opioid prescriptions go to people with depression and anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2017/06/26/opioids-depression-anxiety/

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, December 19). Prescription Opioid Data. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html

Goesling, J., Henry, M. J., Moser, S. E., Rastogi, M., Hassett, A. L., Clauw, D. J., & Brummett, C. M. (2015, September). Symptoms of Depression Are Associated With Opioid Use Regardless of Pain Severity and Physical Functioning Among Treatment-Seeking Patients With Chronic Pain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26080041

Scherrer, J. F., Salas, J., Stock, E. M., Ahmedani, B. K., Sullivan, M. D., Burroughs, T., . . . Laurel A. Copeland. (2015, June 29). Jeffrey F. Scherrer. Retrieved from http://www.annfammed.org/content/14/1/54

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