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Preventing mental health disorders may be key to thwarting the opioid crisis

By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local | See my LinkedIn



What is established as mental health is not easy to understand. A lot of people automatically think such things as schizophrenia or other forms of disorders portrayed in films. Sufferers of these illnesses are not that hard to detect, given obvious alterations in thinking, emotion and behavior.  Disorders such as depression and anxiety, however, are not often readily apparent, even though they are much more common. Nonetheless, the opioid crisis has added on to the vast consciousness that pre-existing mental disorders may emphasize that issue. For those who do not know, Opioids are a class of very strong pain relievers which  include drugs like OxyContin “oxycodone”, morphine, and Vicodin “ and acetaminophen”. In 2017, doctors in the United States wrote around 191 million prescriptions,  according to

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Doctors usually prescribe opioids to relieve pain after surgery or an injury. They are highly effective pain relievers, yet also highly addictive. People with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety are more likely to get opioid prescriptions. Further being  at greater risk of developing a dependence on these drugs. Just around 16% of Americans have mental health disorders and yet receive more than half of all opioid prescriptions. Individuals with mood and anxiety disorders are twice as likely to use these drugs than people without mental health problems. They are also more than three times as likely to misuse opioids.

Evidence suggests that opioid use can contribute to mental health problems. A 2016 study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that about 10 percent of people prescribed opioids developed depression after a month of taking the drugs. The longer they used opioids, the greater their risk of developing depression became. A few possible reasons exist for the link between opioid and mental disorders. Pain is a common symptom in people with mental health disorders, folks with depression and other mental health issues may use opioids to self-medicate and escape from their problems, opioids may not work as well in people with mental illness, which leads to the need for increasingly large doses. People with mental illness could have genes that increase their risk of addiction. Trauma such as physical or emotional abuse can contribute to both mental illness and drug addiction. 

In 2017, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids,  which gradually increased over a decade. The sharpest increase included synthetic opioids, usually fentanyl and fentanyl analogs “same compounds”, with nearly 30,000 overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heroin was included in nearly 16,000 deaths and prescription painkillers were involved in nearly 15,000 deaths. According to

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Constructive treatments are accessible, yet, only about one in four people with opioid use disorder receive specialty treatment. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a successful treatment for individuals with an opioid use disorder. It includes use of medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies. Brain chemistry may contribute to an individual’s mental illness as well as to their treatment. For this reason, medications might be prescribed to help modify one’s brain chemistry. Medications are also used to relieve cravings, relieve withdrawal symptoms and block the euphoric effects of opioids.

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