EXAMINING THE LINK BETWEEN OPIOID ADDICTION AND DEPRESSION
Addiction and depression often go hand in hand. Many people self-medicate to deal with mental health issues, and it eventually creates a terrible vicious cycle. Now a new report is taking a deeper look at the connection between depression and opioid fatalities. The Interlocking Link of Opioids and Depression As Futurity reports, close to one in twelve adults in America are depressed, and there is apparently a link between this and opioid deaths. This report explains that over 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, and a big majority of them were from opioids. As Laura Schwab Reese, a professor at Purdue University explains, “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.” Experts are also concerned that rates of depression in the country are rising, and many who need help don’t have access to the right mental health care. People being prescribed opioids for physical and mental pain is another a major problem that is fueling this vicious cycle. As Resse further explains, “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. We need to recognize that this is probably a bidirectional relationship.” The current statistics tell us that opioid-related deaths have gone up considerably in recent years, whereas the previous stats were “generally stable from 2011 to 2013.” This isn’t surprising because opioids have been considered one of the worst public health crises in recent memory. The Doctor’s Role With Opioid Addiction You’ll often see stories on the news of doctors getting in trouble for overprescribing opioids and other meds that fuel people’s addictions. In one recent news story, five doctors in New York were charged with prescribing a whopping 8.5 million opioid pills. Operations like this are usually called “drug mills,” and this operation allegedly resulted in several deaths and a number of overdoses. Another doctor, Barry Schultz, was recently sentenced to 157 years in prison for illegally prescribing opioids to his patients, making a reported $6,000 a day. (Dr. Schultz flooded Florida with 500 million oxy pills, an insane amount considering the state population is 20 million.) How a Disturbing Trend Can Be Turned Around While there is no immediate solution to the opioid epidemic, and change won’t come overnight, this article does make several suggestions. First, screen patients for depression before prescribing them any kind of opioid related medication. (Two-thirds of overdoses from opioids come from meds that are doctor prescribed.) And the second is making sure that people get the right mental health care. The right physical and mental health care can be difficult. It is hard for many in rural areas to get help, and in many cases, people suffering from addiction don’t know what’s the best first step to get help. (This is where telemedicine and telehealth can help many people around the world find the right doctors and therapists.) Looking at the statistics on the link between opioids and depression are a good first step in examining the problem. Depression can’t be papered over with dangerous medicines that should be monitored by a doctor, so the right diagnosis, and getting the right help, is crucial for millions of people all over the world.