Risk of depression increased by use of prescription pain killers

DepressionAccording to the latest research, the use of opioid analgesics has quintupled in recent years.  The use of these drugs has now been linked to the development of depression, particularly when taken over a long period of time. This group of drugs includes codeine, morphine, and oxycodone.

A study showed that  subjects who  took the drugs for 90 to 180 days had a 25 percent increased risk of depression, & those who took opioids for 180 days or longer were at a 53 percent increased risk of developing depression compared to those who did not. These are very significant results, clearly showing that with longer exposure to pain killers, comes a higher risk of experiencing depression.[1]

Pain killers typically work on the brain rather than on the nerves, reducing inflammation and prostaglandins. These drugs can create a temporary state of euphoria that leads to physical dependence. It is thought that opioid use in particular, may reset the brain’s reward parameters to a higher level, so that the threshold for a person to gain enjoyment from other activities may be harder to reach.

Opioid analgesics are mainly used for relief from chronic pain, but there are better ways to manage it. Pain is caused by inflammation, and inflammation is manageable.

Simple things like a change of diet, removal of processed foods, or quitting smoking can reduce inflammation in the body. There are herbal remedies that can be used for analgesia, whilst treating the specific condition. For example, there are various herbs that can be used to treat arthritis, and even chronic pain conditions like neuralgia can be treated with a combination of minerals and herbs where appropriate. Boswellia and Curcumin are just two of the herbs that have been successfully used to treat inflammation and pain.

Gentle exercise can get stiff joints moving, and the application of a heat or cold pack can be fantastic for localised pain.

Focusing on the cause of the pain for treatment, rather than treating the symptoms (in this case, pain), will create longer lasting results, and help to promote general health and well-being.


[1] Scherrer, J.F et al. Prescription Opioid Analgesics Increase the Risk of Depression. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Oct 29