Substance Abuse

Long-Term Use of Prescription Opioids Increases Depression Risk

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Prescription drug abuse has been associated to so many health issues and risks. A new study adds another potential risk of long-term opioid use: depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, investigated a potential link between opioid medication and a person’s tendency to experience depression. Study co-author Jeffrey Scherrer said in a news release that this newfound link is associated more with longevity of use rather than the amount. “Opioid-related new onset of depression is associated with longer duration of use but not dose… Patients and practitioners should be aware that opioid analgesic use of longer than 30 days imposes risk of new-onset depression,” Scherrer said.

Scherrer and colleagues used data from three health groups — Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) — between 2000 and 2012. The researchers went through roughly 107,000 cases of new opioid users between 18 and 80 years old who didn’t have a history of depression.

The research team revealed that 12 percent of VHA cases exhibited depression after taking opioid medication. The same could be said for 9 percent of the BSWH group and 11 percent of the HFHS population. “Findings were remarkably consistent across the three health care systems even though the systems have very different patient characteristics and demographics,” Scherrer expressed.

The study proponents believe that more research should be conducted in line with the effects of prescription painkillers on human health. The researchers also urged medical professionals to look into the potential development of depression in their patients who receive opioid prescription from them.


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