Depression Linked to Opioid Misuse in Patients
Opioid therapy is typically prescribed by physicians to patients experiencing chronic pain. The treatment is supposed to be helpful in improving the patient’s mood functioning and in relieving pain, but a new study shows that chronic opioid therapy on patients with depressive symptoms can lead to opioid misuse through self-medication.
Mark Sullivan, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and a team of researchers investigated the links between depression and opioid misuse in patients being treated for pain management. The group used the patient data provided by the Kaiser Permanente health care group of Northern California and the Group Health Cooperative, as well as interviewed 1,334 patients with chronic opioid therapy (COT) for non-cancer pain. The patients in the study have no history of substance abuse and each one was assessed for depression via three specific questions: Did they take their opioid for any symptoms other than the physical pain the medication was prescribed for? Did they increase their doses themselves? Did they give or get opioids from others?
The researchers found that patients experiencing depressive symptoms are more likely to misuse opioids by taking them for something other than their physical pain. Given the findings, they are suggesting that prescribing health care professionals should screen for depression in patients even when the patients don’t have a history of drug abuse in order to prevent the risk of opioid misuse other than for medication purposes.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Drug Abuse and published in the July/August issue of Annals of Family Medicine.Tags: opioid abuse, pain management drugs, substance abuse and depression