Opioids are generally prescribed by doctors for their pain-relieving effects. They are a class of drugs that include medicines such as oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone and codeine, as well as the illegal drug heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. However, these are not always used as prescribed which has resulted in a massive crisis in the U.S.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 3.8 million individuals had a substance use disorder (SUD) involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a SUD involving heroin in 2015.
Why do so many people get addicted to opioids? Does it happen overnight? Or is there a systematic why-and-how that explains such an addiction? Are there some chronic physical and mental illnesses that lead to addiction? Or does opioid addiction lead to mental health problems like depression? A number of studies have been conducted to address such issues and to find out the reason for the uninhibited use of opioids. One such research has revealed that depression can trigger prescription drug abuse and opioid misuse can trigger depression.
Why do people with depression abuse opioids?
Depression is a chronic mental illness that makes an individual feel sad, low and irritated. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode in 2015.
One of the effects of depression on the human body is that it heightens the sensation of pain, making an individual sensitive to it. When such people start taking opioids to treat or overcome the pain they are experiencing, they feel relieved, which makes them feel better. Opioids also have certain soothing and sedating effects, which helps elevate mood.
An individual with depression feels low and therefore, his/her top priority is to somehow alleviate the feelings of sadness. This “somehow” often pushes a person to get relief at any cost even if it is constant use of prescription painkillers, which they, very soon, start abusing for their antidepressant and mood-elevating properties.
This is corroborated by a study which concluded that depressed people were more likely to keep on using opioids even after their heightened pain abated. The researchers felt that because the people with depression were not getting it treated, the opioids acted as antidepressants, and they continued using them.
Another recent study, undertaken by Harvard researchers, found that mood disorders did not trigger opioid misuse but they doubled the risk of the affected person already using opioids, to continue using them for longer than necessary.
Depression and opioids form a vicious circle since the presence of one can trigger the other. This has been validated by a number of studies.
A study conducted at St. Louis University revealed a reverse relationship between depression and opioid misuse. It was found that people who used opioids for longer than 30 days were at a risk of developing depression. This result was observed with the duration of the opioid use and not the dose of the opioid.
Another study revealed that adolescents with depression were more likely to use prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons and subsequently develop an addiction.
It was further found, by a study, that the misuse of painkillers for non-pain symptoms was twice as likely in individuals with depression compared to non-depressed ones. Moreover, the probability of increasing the painkiller dosage, on their own, was two to three times more likely among depressed individuals.
Recovery road map
The abuse of opioids can lead to a number of ill-effects on an individual’s mental health. This can cause short- and long-term changes in the brain chemistry leading to conditions like hallucinations, paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, etc.
On the other hand, the physical health consequences of opioid abuse include vomiting, diarrhea, a weakened immune system as well as respiratory problems.
Opioid abuse results in one losing grip on life, making it a daily struggle. Therefore, it is important that one keeps a close check on the symptoms that indicate the development of opioid abuse or depression in an individual.
If you or someone you know is dealing with any form of mental illness or substance abuse and is looking to avail the best inpatient mental health treatment in California, Sovereign Health can help. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with one of our representatives who can help you get in touch with some of the best inpatient mental health treatment centers in California.