Study finds strong link between depression and opioid abuse
Many factors have been linked to determining a person’s risk for abusing opioids or their potential for an overdose, including a person’s past substance abuse risk, chronic pain, and even their gender.
Now, research published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology suggests depression may also be a strong sign of potential opioid abuse.
“For every additional 1 percent of the population that has a depression diagnosis, we see between a 25 and 35 percent increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths,” said Laura Schwab Reese, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology at Purdue University, who led the study. “We thought maybe suicide was driving this, but we sectioned out unintentional overdose and found that the relationship continued.”
The most recent statistics from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, with opioids accounting for the majority of deaths. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, which have seen a sharp increase in prevalence in recent years, accounted for nearly 30,000 overdose deaths alone.
Late last year, President Trump declared a public health emergency because of the issue, but there is no indication that the crisis is slowing.
In the new study, Schwab Reese and Madeline Foley, a student a Riverdale Country School, reviewed data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid-related deaths between 2011 and 2015. The findings of the study showed that although opioid-related deaths were largely consistent between 2011 to 2013, the rate began to significantly increase in the final two years of the study.
The team then collected data on depression through a telephone survey of more than 400,000 people across the country. The survey showed that approximately 17.5% reported a depression diagnosis in 2011, compared to 19% in 2015.
“We know from prior literature that people who are depressed are more likely to be prescribed opioids, but also that people who are prescribed opioids are more likely to become depressed,” Schwab Reese told News Medical. “We need to recognize that this is probably a bidirectional relationship.”