Study Finds Long-Term Opioid Use Increases Depression Risk


A study published this week in the Annals of Family Medicine reveals that opioid painkillers, when used long-term, can lead to the onset of depression. The researchers found that the link was independent of the contribution of pain to depression.

painkillers‚ÄúPatients and practitioners should be aware that opioid analgesic use of longer than 30 days imposes risk of new-onset depression,‚ÄĚ the researchers lef by Dr. Jeffrey Scherrer concluded. ‚ÄúOpioid analgesic use, not just pain, should be considered a potential source when patients report depressed mood.‚ÄĚ

The researchers estimate that 200 million prescriptions for opioids are written every year in the United States. A previous study conducted by the VA found that the use of opioids for longer than 180 days, compared to under 90 days, was linked to a significantly greater risk for the onset of depression.

In this study, the researchers tracked over 100,000 patients who were never diagnosed with depression and given their first opioid prescription for pain. After controlling for pain conditions, longer use of opioid pain prescriptions was associated with a greater risk for the onset of depression.

They conclude that the study ‚Äúsupports the conclusion that opioid may cause short-term improvement in mood, but long-term use is associated with risk of new-onset depression.‚ÄĚ



Scherrer, J. F., Salas, J., Copeland, L. A., Stock, E. M., Ahmedani, B. K., Sullivan, M. D., … & Lustman, P. J. (2016). Prescription Opioid Duration, Dose, and Increased Risk of Depression in 3 Large Patient Populations.¬†The Annals of Family Medicine,¬†14(1), 54-62. (Abstract)


  1. The “new onset of depression” may not necessarily be related to the depressive effects of the opioids themselves. Perhaps in this discussion we should look at some related issues to long term opioid use such as:

    1) Dependency and/or addiction issues that will inevitably occur after long term use of these drugs and its negative effects on overall social functioning, including work, social relationships, financial stability, and health problems.

    2) Long term use of opioids often leads to a GREATER sensitivity to pain thus CONTRIBUTING to chronic pain problems rather than mitigating those symptoms. This frequently leads to people engaging in LESS movement and exercise (due to less motivation and desire to be active) thus preventing them from engaging in the scientifically proven benefits of controlled exercise as a form of physical therapy.

    3) The overall effects of 1) and 2) on a person’s thoughts and behavior could seriously detract from their quality of life and their ability to experience pleasure and happiness thereby depressing mood.


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  2. Well my study finds that child drugging increases opiate addiction risk.

    Anyone can do the study, start asking young opiate addicts if they were drugged in school for ADHD, you can do this at a substance abuse treatment center or at AA and NA meetings.

    It won’t take long to notice the pattern as the young opiate addicts start naming the drugs and the ages they were started on them.

    ADHD drugs teach children that you can take pills to change how you feel and later after years of daily up and down from taking the high powered stimulants everyday they find out that a few pain killers is a great way to self medicate the ADHD drug crash and jitters the same way people drink alcohol to come down from cocaine.

    Is anyone besides me noticing that its the psych med kids are growing up to be opiate addicts ???

    Maybe one good thing that will come out of these new criminal justice style electronic medical records is the ADHD drug to opiate addiction pipeline will be exposed.

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