Home » Disorders » Depression » Opioid Use Among Those with Depression

Opioid Use Among Those with Depression

Experts are concerned with a finding that suggests chronic pain patients with a history of depression are much more likely to receive prescriptions of opioid medications.

Opioid medication include drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percodan, and Percocet.

Researchers discovered chronic pain patients with a history of depression are three times more likely to receive a prescription for this class of drug as compared to pain patients who do not suffer from depression.

The study, published in the November-December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, analyzed the medical records of tens of thousands of patients enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente and Group Health plans between 1997 and 2005.

Together, the insurers cover about 1 percent of the U.S. population. Long-term opioid use was defined as a patient receiving a prescription for 90 days or longer.

“It’s very widespread,” said Mark Sullivan, M.D., a study co-author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington.

“It’s a cause for concern because depressed patients are excluded from virtually all controlled trials of opioids as a high risk group [for addiction], so the database on which clinical practice rests doesn’t include depressed patients.”

Sullivan said most clinical trials exclude people with more than one disorder, but noted the problem is more worrisome here because depression affects so many — about 10 percent to 20 percent of the population.

The connection between pain and depression is complicated. First, no one really knows how often chronic pain and depression co-occur: 46 percent of patients seeing primary care doctors for ongoing pain have a history of depression and the vast majority of those seeing pain specialists have suffered both disorders, according to the authors.

“If you study depressed people, they tend to have lot of pain complaints that are poorly responsive to a lot of things so it’s not surprising that they end up on opioids,” Sullivan said.

Being depressed might make pain hurt more. “Emotional and physical pain aren’t all that different,” Sullivan added. “The same brain zones light up [in imaging studies].”

“Depression is mediated in some significant part by the brain’s opioid receptor systems; these things run together at every level that you look at them,” said Alex DeLuca, M.D., a consultant on pain and addiction and former chief of the Smithers Addiction Research and Treatment Center. He has no affiliation with the new study.

Consequently, it is impossible to tell whether pain is causing or exacerbating depression — or vice versa. To Sullivan, the bottom line is that “it is very important that opioid treatment for chronic pain does not replace or distract from treating mental disorders. ‘Both’ works better than ‘either/or.’”

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Opioid Use Among Those with Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Opioid Use Among Those with Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/11/19/opioid-use-among-those-with-depression/9650.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.