Long-term opioids use increases risk of the onset of depression, a recent study – titled “Prescription Opioid Duration, Dose, and Increased Risk of Depression in 3 Large Patient Populations,” published online in the Annals of Family Medicine in 2016 – by researchers from Saint Louis University has highlighted.
Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., associate professor in Family and Community Medicine at Saint Louis University, and his co-authors speculated that findings may be explained by long-term opioid use of more than 30 days, leading to changes in neuroanatomy and low testosterone, among other possible biological explanations.
Based on patient data (2000-2012) obtained from U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH) in Texas and the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), Scherrer wrote, “Opioid-related new onset of depression is associated with longer duration of use but not dose. Patients and practitioners should be aware that opioid analgesic use of longer than 30 days imposes risk of new-onset depression.”
These patients under the study were new opioid users, aged 18 to 80, without a diagnosis of depression when they began taking medication. Based on 12 percent of the VHA samples, 9 percent of the BSWH samples and 11 percent of the HFHS samples that experienced new-onset depression after opioid analgesic use, Scherrer said, “Findings were remarkably consistent across the three health care systems even though the systems have very different patient characteristics and demographics.”
The opioid drugs in the study included codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, levorphanol, meperidine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine and pentazocine.
Opioid use and depression: Link
Misuse of prescription painkillers for purposes, quantity and mode of consumption other than prescribed by a medical practitioner can lead to people misusing the drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already declared prescription drug abuse as an epidemic in the U.S. Most of the deaths in the country involving prescription painkillers or opioids are due to its overdose. According to the data released by National Center for Health Statistics, the number of deaths from prescription opioids, which had leveled off nationally between 2009 and 2013, jumped sharply to 18,893 in 2014. The most commonly abused drugs are morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.
For individuals who have been associated with opiate use for a long period, withdrawal symptoms are quite visible once they quit using it. Researchers claim that though the withdrawal symptoms subside with time, one of the long-term effects of opiate use is the onset of depression.
Fighting opioid overdose
The frightening number of deaths caused by opioid overdose over the past two decades in the U.S. prompted President Barack Obama to refer to opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic in his final State of the Union address on January 12, “I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like … helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.”
President Obama’s address included the drug issue against the backdrop of the recent federal data revealing that of the 47,000 drug-related deaths in 2014, two-thirds were opioid-related. In his previous public address in October 2015, Obama had explained the government’s aim to give more access to drug treatment and increasing the number of specialized doctors trained for opiate painkiller prescription.
According to CDC, there were nearly 29,500 deaths related to opiates in the U.S. in 2014, with approximately two-thirds of those fatalities attributable to prescription drugs and the remaining one-third to heroin. A report published in 2015 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) states that in 2014 there was a 9 percent hike in overdose deaths from prescribed opioids compared to 2013, a 26 percent rise in heroin deaths and an 80 percent jump in deaths from synthetic opioids, other than methadone.
Creating awareness about opioid overdose
Fighting addiction to opioids in the country would take a lot of time, as most Americans are unaware of the fact that pain relieving drugs or prescription opioids are derived from the same poppy plant used to make heroin.
The 2016 National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, being observed from January 25 to 31, aims to educate Americans about drug overdose and contradict existing myths about various drugs with science and statistics.
Prescription addiction is a staggering problem. If you or your loved one has been hit by opioid abuse due to overdose of prescription pain killers, the Prescription Drug Addiction Helpline can help. Chat with our experts online or call today at the 24/7 helpline number 866-623-3847 for more information.