Opioid Addiction Is a Mental Health Crisis

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The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), opioids (including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record. 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

The CDC also indicates Pennsylvania was fifth in the nation for fatal opioid overdoses in 2016 at 4,642. The total number of fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania was nearly four times the number of fatal traffic accidents. Prescription or illicit opioids such as heroin were implicated in 85 percent of the drug fatalities, according to the DEA in 2016.

Addiction is treatable, but it can become more difficult when opioid addiction masks the pain and suffering of depression.

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, opioid dependent individuals also often struggle with the additional burden of mental health issues. The relationship between opioid abuse and depression is bi-directional, meaning that suffering from one increases the risk of the other. Left untreated, hidden mental illness can make recovery from addiction even more difficult.

The most common mental illnesses linked to opioid addictions are

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADD
  • Alcoholism
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Signs of Opioid Addiction Coupled with Mental Illness

If you’re not sure whether a loved one who is abusing opioids is also suffering from mental health concerns, you can ask yourself the following questions:

Signs of opioid addiction can include:

  • Do they take opioids for longer or in larger amounts than their prescription?
  • Have they tried to cut back their use unsuccessfully?
  • Does the drug use interfere with work, school, or home life?
  • Do they spend a lot of time using, obtaining, or recovering from the drug?
  • Do they experience cravings to use the drug?
  • Does the drug use interfere with work, school, or home life?
  • Do they continue using even though the drug causes problems in relationships?
  • Do they use the drugs in situations where it is physically hazardous to do so?
  • Do they need more of the drug to create the desired effect?

Signs of depression can include:

  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Depressed mood or irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of guilt or despair
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts

Finding treatment

Comprehensive treatment is available for both opioid abuse and mental health. Opiate addiction often involves a detox but that is just half the battle. Once the person breaks the physical addiction, most individuals with mental disorders undergo psychological withdrawal as well.

Talking with a psychiatrist or therapist is just as important as the physical cleansing because the cravings can be so strong. Many people find that intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment is necessary to curb addiction and learn healthy coping strategies for depression and other mental disorders. Psychological rehab will typically include a combination of treatments:

  • One-on-one counseling
  • dTMS treatment
  • Spiritual guidance
  • A treatment plan tailored to individual needs
  • Medication options for both opioid replacement and mental disorder(s)

Treating opioid addiction and mental health requires a two-pronged approach, one that involves open discussion about mental-health issues and one ends the dependency on drugs. Both can be hard to take-on for addicts and their families. Both can come with the stigmas in our culture that make treatment more challenging. Both can help save our families and neighbors from an epidemic that has already claimed too many lives.

Ethos can help with both addiction and mental wellness at two locations in Palmerton and Bethlehem.

US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21999943