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People with Depression 3 Times More Likely to Use Opiates

posted 12:06 AM EST, Fri November 20, 2009
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People with Depression 3 Times More Likely to Use Opiates © Photo Credit: Oberazzi

People suffering from clinical depression are 3 times as likely to use opiates for 90 days or longer. Depressed patients are excluded, however, from trials that test the safety of opiates, due to an elevated risk for addiction.

Researchers at the University of Washington say that people with depression are far more likely to receive long term prescriptions for opiate drugs like Oxycontin or Vicodin than people without depression.

Problematically, clinical trials that test the effectiveness and safety of these medications exclude depressed people from eligibility – because they are at an elevated risk of addiction.

The trials which determine the safety of a product exclude the very people who end up using it, out of safety reasons.

The researchers looked at insurance claims records to compare the opiate use of people with and without clinical depression; they were specifically interested in the use of opiates that persisted for longer than 90 days.

The Results

  • They found that people with depression were 3 times as likely to take opiates for 90 days or longer.

Lead study author, Doctor Mark Sullivan calls the findings a “cause for concern” noting that up to 10% to 20% of the population suffers from depression and that “depressed patients are excluded from virtually all controlled trials of opioids as a high risk group, so the database on which clinical practice rests doesn’t include depressed patients.”

Dr. Sullivan says that people with depression frequently suffer chronic pain complaints and that emotional pain can worsen the experience of physical pain.

The full research findings can be read in the November-December edition of the journal of General Hospital Psychiatry.

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