When faced with the need to medicate for chronic pain, patients need to feel comfortable asking questions and taking control of their care. Opioids are a common treatment for many pain issues, but there are some risks and it is important to be aware of them.

A study by Oregon Health and Sciences University showed patients given higher doses of opioids also experienced more psychiatric problems. 

The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Pain, demonstrated that patients with additional psychiatric problems were prescribed opioids at a higher rate than patients without a history of mental health issues. It also showed that prolonged use of opioids correlated with increased mental health issues in these patients.

In 2013 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressed its concern about the overuse of prescription painkillers, specifically opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. A leading problem with the use of these medications is the development of dependent or addictive behaviors.

Another medical study from John Hopkins found that individuals with existing mental health issues were more likely to abuse these prescription painkillers.

Researchers noted that: “Individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders such as bipolar, panic disorder and major depressive disorder may be more likely to abuse opioids… They found that mood and anxiety disorders are highly associated with non-medical prescription opioid use.” As medical professionals become increasingly concerned about prescribing opioids for a variety of treatments, it is clear that other solutions need to be found in order to successfully treat chronic pain and mental health issues in patients.

Dr. Silvia Martins, lead author of the John Hopkins’ study, says: “Additional studies are needed to examine the relationship between non-medical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid-use disorder with mood and anxiety disorders since they could co-occur due to shared genetic or environmental risk factors.”

Have you had a negative experience with opioid use and mental health challenges in your life? 

Image by Bhumika Bhatia via Flickr

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