People who are prescribed opioids for pain relief have a higher risk of developing mood disorders such as anxiety, a new study shows.
For the study, which appears in Pain Medicine, researchers systematically reviewed the effects of prescribed opioids on mental health.
“There has been a lot of research around addiction to opioids—commonly used in cancer treatment or acute pain—but there is limited understanding about how they affect the development of mood disorders,” says Janni Leung from the National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research at the University of Queensland.
“Our research reviewed studies of patients who were prescribed opioids to treat painful physical health conditions, including burns and trauma surgery.
“We compared these samples with individuals who were not using opioids or were prescribed lower dosages, and the results showed that higher doses of prescription opioids might increase the risk of developing depressive, bipolar, and anxiety disorders, particularly with prolonged use.”
The relationship between chronic pain and mental health is complex, as each condition contributes to the other, Leung says.
“Over the past two decades the prescription of opioids for pain management has increased. Research into the influence of opioids on mental health is still in the early stages, and further research is needed to find out how the medication affects different mood disorders.”
It is important to understand all risks before prescribing the medication to a patient, says coauthor Daniel Stjepanovic from the National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research.
“The effects on mental health should be taken into account when prescribing opioids, especially in individuals who are at risk of mood disorders such as anxiety or depression,” he says.
“It’s incredibly important to understand the role opioids play in the development of these mood disorders to ensure people are receiving the care and treatment they require, without putting them at high risk.”
Source: Bridget Druery for University of Queensland