By On July 11th, 2017

51% of Opioid Prescriptions Written for People with Depression and Mood Disorders

With over half of the prescriptions for opioid medications being written for people with depression and mood disorders, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions: Is the opioid addiction epidemic being fueled by prescriptions written for people who are at the most risk for abuse and addiction? And, with opioid prescriptions, are we not providing the right treatment for people living with depression and mood disorders?

Opioid use in the U.S. has quadrupled between 1999 and 2015. According to a study conducted by the CDC, in that same time period, there were over 183,000 deaths were caused by an overdose of prescription opioids. A study published on Monday, July 10, 2017 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine reported that 19% of the 38.6 million Americans with mood disorders use prescription opioids compared to 5% of the general population. Adults with mood disorders receive 51% of the prescriptions written for opioids which accounts for 60 million prescriptions per year.

Many factors affect the high prevalence of opioid prescriptions for people with depression and mood disorders. Individuals with mood disorders may respond to pain symptoms differently, and individuals with a history of depression are at a greater risk of developing chronic pain. Maybe physicians are more sympathetic to individuals with pre-existing conditions like depression and mood disorders and think they are doing the right thing by prescribing medications. The reality is that there are alternative medications which could be tried and other non-medical strategies to help people deal with pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy, massage and mindfulness-based approaches can serve as effective alternatives .These strategies could avoid creating the risk for opioid addiction.

It may be easier to prescribe a pill than to take the time to speak with a person with depression or a mood disorder about the alternative strategies available, and many physicians may not be fully aware of their effectiveness. It’s time to take a hard look at what can be done to address opioid abuse and addiction and prevent deaths from overdose.

Reference: Davis M, Lin L, Liu H, Sites B. Prescription Opioid Use Among Adults with Mental Health Disorders in the United States, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, July-August 2017, V. 30 N.4, doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2017.04.170112. (jabfm.org)

Click here to read the highlights of the study.


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