Extended abuse of prescription painkillers known as opioids could be responsible for significantly increasing one’s risk of developing opioid-induced depression. In fact, individuals who took these drugs for 90 to 180 days demonstrated an increased risk of depression of 25 percent while those who took the drugs for longer than 180 days exhibited an increased risk of 53 percent. In other words, research indicates that the longer an individual is on this form of medication, the greater his or her risk of developing depression becomes. This isn’t something a person usually considers before beginning a painkiller regimen. Their primary concern is getting rid of pain so they can enjoy the basic quality of life they are accustomed to. Individuals in need of pain relief should make sure they ask questions about any side effects of the prescriptions they are about to consume. This could prevent some unexpected consequences such as depression or addiction.
The Connection Between Painkillers and Depression
While researchers do not completely understand the connection between prescription painkillers and the prevalence of depression, they do know that these drugs have a strong effect on the brain. These prescription painkillers function by attaching to the receptors in the brain to decrease one’s perception of pain.
Additionally, opioid drugs generate a feeling of temporary euphoria in users, which can also be followed by dysphoria, uneasiness, or displeasure. The desire to achieve this sense of euphoria leads individuals to form a physical dependence on and addiction to the drugs. Likewise, the drugs may actually “reset” the brain’s reward recognition to a higher level, causing the affected individual to be unable to achieve the same degree of pleasure for natural rewards, such as food or sexual activity. Opioid use can also cause body aches and pains months and years after use of the drugs. All of these factors combined may be what contributes to an individual’s later developing opioid depression following drug use.
Does Opioid Abuse Contribute to Depression?
Opioids are in the same drug class as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Together these drugs make up the most commonly abused class of medications available today. All of these drugs are addictive in nature and can cause additional physical side effects, including slowed breathing and even death. When alcohol is added to the mix, the risks are even more dangerous.
While opioid abuse does contribute to depression, the underlying issue is that so many individuals are dealing with chronic pain. In America alone, over 100 million people are affected by chronic pain, and in seeking to treat the pain, these individuals become addicted to these dangerous drugs. As the body continues to experience pain combined with a diminished ability to experience pleasure, these individuals become more and more susceptible to depression.
How Is Opioid-Induced Depression Treated?
If an individual is prescribed an opioid painkiller and develops depression, he or she does not have to live in this state for the remainder of life. Treatment through an inpatient facility is one of the most effective plans for recovery from addiction as well as depression. Inpatient treatment offers some benefits, including a well-established structure of therapy, 24-7 support, zero access to drugs, regular supervision, focus on one’s self and recovery, and a variety of therapy options. Recovery from opioid-induced depression and addiction is possible with the right form of treatment, and an appropriate treatment facility can help.