Is Opioid Addiction A Mental Illness?

If you have questions about whether opioid addiction is a mental illness, you’re not alone. According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, (JABFM):

  • About 19 percent of 38.6 million patients with mental health disorders also received prescription opioids in 2017.
  • In addition, adults with mental health disorders receive more than half of the opioid prescription drugs disseminated in the U.S. per year.
  • In comparison, patients without known mental health disorders used fewer opioids that year (about 18.7 percent).

The researchers concluded that patients with mental health disorders are more likely to use opioid prescriptions; about 16 percent of patients with mental health disorders received more than half of the opioid medicines prescribed that year.

Because patients commonly receive opioid medicines to manage pain, other non-opioid medicines should be prescribed to reduce the nation’s dependency on these drugs.

Opioid Addiction and Mental Illness in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that opioid medications, including prescription drugs, heroin, and fentanyl, were responsible for almost 71,000 deaths in 2019.

It is possible to treat addiction. However, treatment may be more challenging when an opioid addiction disguises mental health disorders like depression. The U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health reports that opioid-dependent patients frequently deal with the added distress of mental health issues.

Opioid dependency and depression often go hand-in-hand. A patient struggling with one has an increased risk of the other. For that reason, an undiagnosed mental health issue may make recovery from opioid addiction many times harder.

Mental Health Disorders and Opioid Addiction

According to the NIH, the most frequently seen mental health disorders linked to an opioid addiction include:

  • Depression. According to JAMA Psychiatry, people using opioids over a prolonged period (30+ days) are at higher risk (about 25 percent) of developing a challenging form of depression. This “treatment-resistant” type of depression may result from the saturation of the body’s opioid receptors. This is yet another reason to limit the patient’s use of opioid medicines.
  • Alcoholism. Various studies show that alcohol may attach to or alter opioidergic transmission. Several show that altered opioid receptors may contribute to ethanol (alcohol) dependence and reinforcement.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). BMC Psychiatry reports a strong correlation between attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). About 33 percent of patients in opioid agonist therapies (OAT) also suffer from ADD/ADHD.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). NIH researchers note a high co-occurrence between PTSD and chronic pain. There is also a correlation between substance abuse and PTSD. Opioid use disorder (OUD) is prevalent in patients with PTSD than others.
  • Schizophrenia. According to the Current Opinions in Psychiatry Journal, patients with OUD are at an increased risk of suffering from schizophrenia. Patients with OUD or schizophrenia are unlikely to receive the standard of care, e.g. medicine-assisted therapies (MATs) for OUD, and experience worse outcomes than schizophrenia patients who don’t abuse opioid medicines. OUD also increases the likelihood that the patient converts from prodromal schizophrenia to an outright schizoaffective or schizophrenia disorder.
  • Bipolar Disorders. Various researchers report that physicians may use opioids in treating patients with bipolar disorders because of their mood elevation effects.

Opioid Addiction/Mental Disorder Signs

It may be difficult to know whether your loved one is abusing opioids. It’s even more challenging to know if they’re struggling with one or more mental health disorders.
Signs of a possible opioid addiction may include:

  • Use of opioid medicines for a longer period than the doctor originally prescribed
  • Use of larger amounts of opioids than the doctor originally prescribed
  • Use of heroin and other opiate drugs instead of prescription medicines
  • Difficulty in using fewer opioids over time
  • More drug is needed now to create the necessary physical and emotional effects
  • More time spent in obtaining opioid prescriptions from different doctors or clinics
  • Shifting moods, difficulty in recovering from opioid or opiate drugs
  • Increased cravings to use these drugs
  • Drug use when and where it’s potentially hazardous to be impaired
  • Opioid use that interferes with the patient’s daily life, at home, work, or school
  • Continued drug use even in the wake of difficulties at work, home, or school

Your loved one may be depressed if they’re irritable or moody; seem uninterested in food or binge on foods; experience shifts in their sleep/wake periods; lack interest in their activities; lack energy; have difficulty in concentrating; express feelings of despair; seem withdrawn, or express suicidal thoughts.

A suicide attempt is an emergency. Get help now.

Find Treatment for Opioid Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Comprehensive treatment options are readily available for mental health disorders and opioid addiction and abuse:

  • Opioid addiction treatment frequently includes a detox period. After the patient breaks their physical addiction to the drug, they often face the effects of psychological withdrawal.
  • Dual talk and medical therapies are needed to treat opioid addiction and mental health disorders. Physical and emotional cravings for drugs may be powerful.
  • Intensive treatment is needed to help patients struggling with physical and mental health orders. Typically, patients receive combined treatments, including counseling, emotional guidance, dTMS treatment, and a life treatment plan that’s customized to their needs.
  • Medications are used to replace the patient’s physical and emotional cravings for opioids or opiates.

Opioid addiction is a mental illness.

Treating an opioid addiction is extremely challenging. The simultaneous treatment of a mental health disorder is even more so. Clients travel from all over the United States to our treatment centers in Florida and Delaware.

We’re here for our patients and their families as they recover from a devastating epidemic that’s taken too many lives. Call now at 772-266-5320. We can help.

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