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Prescription opioid use linked to higher risk for depression, anxiety

Prescription opioid use linked to higher risk for depression, anxiety
A new study has linked prescription opioid use with an increased risk for depression and anxiety. Photo by LizM/Pixabay

Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Prescription opioid use increases a person's risk for major depressive disorder by 14%, according to a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.

Similarly, those who take the potentially addictive painkillers were up to 30% more likely to develop anxiety- and stress-related disorders than those who did not use the drugs, the data showed.

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A family history of major depressive disorder -- a severe form of depression -- also raised a person's likelihood of using prescription opioid pain drugs by 18%, the researchers found.

"The main take home message here is that prescription opioids may impact the risk for depression and anxiety disorders," study co-author Dr. Falk W. Lohoff told UPI.

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"Our [study] adds to the growing evidence that prescription opioids should be used with caution as they might also influence depression and anxiety risk," said Lohoff, chief of the Section on Clinical Genomics and Experimental Therapeutics at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The "opioid epidemic" -- or the rising abuse and misuse of both prescription opioids like OxyContin and Fentanyl and non-prescription opioids like heroin -- has been linked to an increase in drug overdoses and overdose-related deaths nationally in recent years.

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Research has linked much of this drug use to spikes in mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression.

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People with major depressive disorder, which affects about 7% of adults in the United States, experience persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

About 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety- and stress-related disorders, the institute estimates.

Both conditions are leading causes of disability and death globally, according to Lohoff and his colleagues.

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For this study, the researchers analyzed opioid use and mental health data for more than 737,000 adults in Britain.

Although chronic pain conditions also have been linked to increased risk for depression and anxiety, study participants who used prescription opioids as their treatment were more likely to develop these conditions than those who took other pain relievers, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the researchers said.

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