Mood and Anxiety Disorders May Trigger Opioid Abuse

Mood and Anxiety Disorders strongly associated with non medical prescription opioid use

(RxWiki News) Many people suffering from depression or other mental health issues may turn to alcohol to ease their pain before seeking professional help. New research confirms that these patients are at an increased risk to use opioid drugs as well.

A new study published in the Journal of Psychological Medicine suggests that those suffering from mood and anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to opioid abuse.

"Help is available for depression, talk to your physician."

Opioids are strong painkiller medications that are commonly prescribed for acute pain after surgery or trauma, and often for chronic pain in patients with terminal illnesses such as metastatic cancer.

Common opioids include codeine, morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin), and meperidine (Demerol).

Silvia Martins, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate scientist at the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health explains, "Non-medical opioid-use disorder due to non-medical prescription opioid use was associated with any mood disorder, any anxiety disorder, as well as with several incident mood disorders and anxiety disorders.”

Dr. Martins continued, “There is also evidence that the association works the other way too. Increased risk of incident opioid disorder due to non-medical use occurred among study participants with baseline mood disorders, major depressive disorder, dysthymia and panic disorder, reinforcing our finding that participants with mood disorders might use opioids non-medically to alleviate their mood symptoms."

“Early identification and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders might reduce the risk for self-medication with prescription opioids and the risk of future development of an opioid-use disorder."

The study used data collected through a 2001-2005 longitudinal interview survey called the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) in order to assess a history of psychiatric disorders in adult participants. 

Dr. Martin’s coworker and coauthor on the study, Carla Storr, Sc.D., notes, “With the current increased use of non-medical prescription drugs, especially among adolescents, the association with future psychopathology is of great concern.

Using opioids, or even withdrawal from opioids, might precipitate anxiety disorders, suggesting that there is a subgroup of people who are vulnerable to future development of anxiety disorders.”

A study published this week by the National Institute of Health notes that the opioid painkiller Vicodin was used by 8.1% of twelfth grade high school students and by 5.9% of tenth graders participating in an annual Monitoring the Future survey through NIH.

Though down from past years, these reports did not show a decline in use of the opioid Oxycontin.

If concerned about prescription drug use with your child or loved one, contact a health professional to determine the best course of action.

Review Date: 
December 16, 2011