7 Mental Health Facts for Patients Using Opioid Drugs

7 Mental Health Facts for Opioid Use Disorder Patients

People who suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD) frequently also have a co-occurring mental health disorder or can be prone to developing one. Because of this risk, OUD sufferers and their loved ones can benefit from increasing their understanding of mental health.

Over 40% of all people in treatment for a prescription drug use disorder also have a mental health disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The majority of those people suffer from depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with OUD, here are seven facts to help you increase your mental health awareness and seek appropriate opioid use treatment.

1. Your Opioid Drugs Could Be Masking a Mental Health Condition

Opioid drugs are chemicals that interact with opioid receptors in the brain to reduce feelings of pain. They also can produce feelings of euphoria, among other side effects.

As some people take prescription opioids for physical pain, they may start to feel better in general. The medication can seem to alleviate an underlying mental health condition such as depression while it also relieves physical pain. Over time, however, people can develop a tolerance to the medication, and the relief felt initially becomes unattainable without larger dosages. Those early feelings of euphoria may never be experienced the same way with that drug again.

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Once tolerance has set in, dependence can develop and potentially lead to addiction. The depression or other mental health issue that the opioid drugs have once helped to alleviate may start to seem worse instead. Whether the underlying mental health issue was previously unnoticed, undiagnosed, or ignored, it can become more pronounced as a person struggles with OUD.

2. Your Opioid Drugs Could Be Causing a Mental Health Condition

People taking opioids long term can potentially experience changes in their brain structure and function that trigger an underlying predisposition to a type of mental illness. Such changes can, for example, be associated with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, mood, or impulse-control disorders, according to NIDA.

Even if you didn’t have a mental health disorder when you started taking prescription opioid drugs, your genetic vulnerabilities could make you susceptible to developing one as you expose your brain to opioids. “Research suggests that there are many genes that may contribute to the risk for both mental disorders and addiction, including those that influence the action of neurotransmitters — chemicals that carry messages from one neuron to another — that are affected by drugs and commonly dysregulated in mental illness, such as dopamine and serotonin,” reported NIDA.

3. Your Opioids Might Be Making Your Pain and Depression Worse Instead of Better

In some cases, prolonged use of opioid drugs can cause a condition called opiate-induced hyperalgesia in which a person experiences more pain instead of less. With this condition, some people’s pain receptors become more sensitive to pain after taking opioid drugs. Even previously, painless sensations can trigger a pain response.

Opiate-induced hyperalgesia is still poorly understood. Few studies have been conducted to research the condition. It is sometimes confused with tolerance; however, tolerance is when a person can still get some painkilling effects from opioid drugs if they take higher dosages, whereas a person with opiate-induced hyperalgesia can experience more pain after taking more opioids.

4. Your Pain Might Not Be the Root Cause of Your Opioid Use Disorder

Mental illness and substance use disorders have several risk factors in common. Even if you initially started taking opioid drugs because your doctor prescribed them for pain, the trigger that led you to misuse or abuse them could be unrelated to that specific physical pain.

NIDA cites the following as overlapping causes of substance use disorders and mental illness:

  • Genes and genetic interactions
  • Epigenetics, which are environmental factors that can impact gene expression, neural circuit function, and behavior
  • Brain circuitry
  • Environmental factors such as stress and trauma

As you seek treatment for OUD, you might also uncover the need for additional treatment or therapy. Dependence on opioid drugs is a physical condition that can be treated medically. Addictive behavior, however, might require further treatment to address psychological, psychiatric or emotional conditions.

5. You’re Not Alone

People with mental illness or OUD often describe feeling hopeless, isolated and helpless. It is crucial that you remember that you are not alone. More than 8 million adults and 300,000 adolescents have co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Although you might encounter stigma and judgment from people who share unjust and counterproductive opinions about mental illness or OUD, there are detox and recovery centers that will treat you with respect. These treatments centers provide objective, professional care that can help you.

People with mental illness often describe feelings of hopelessness, but it's crucial they remember that they are not alone.


6. There Is a Proven, Effective Opioid Treatment that Might Be Right for You

Going into therapy for a mental health condition without first eliminating OUD is highly unlikely to be successful. When you address the physical opioid dependence first, however, you gain the mental clarity and physical wellness to participate in therapy actively.

Rapid opiate detoxification is a medical procedure that reverses opioid dependence. It is proven to be highly effective when performed by an experienced, board-certified medical doctor in a full-service, accredited hospital. Waismann Method®, one of the pioneers of rapid detox, has a nearly 100% opioid detox success rate. Its medical director has personally treated thousands of patients over the last 20 years.

Not everyone is a candidate for rapid detox. To determine whether anesthesia-assisted detox treatment is appropriate, the doctor conducts a comprehensive medical evaluation of the patient. Based on that information, the doctor can tailor a rapid detox protocol for the patient or recommend an alternative medical detoxification treatment. In each case, the opioid treatment is adapted to best suit the patient’s specific health needs.

7. The Right Aftercare Is Essential to Your Long-Term Mental Health

Integrative, individualized, professional treatment is a highly effective method of tackling both OUD and mental health disorders. Once you detox from opioid drugs, however, receiving adequate aftercare is essential to your long-term success.

Waismann Method® works to ensure patient success after detox in the following ways:

  • Not rushing to discharge patients from the hospital-based on any preset timeline
  • Only discharging patients when the medical director has concluded they are ready
  • Not discharging patients directly to their home, a friend’s home or a hotel
  • Providing supportive care and prescriptions for non-opioid drugs, if medically necessary, to assist in the patient’s recovery, such as medications to prevent cravings and to alleviate gastrointestinal or sleep problems
  • Discharging patients to Domus Retreat, our Orange County private recovery center equipped to support people during the post-detox adjustment period
  • Allowing space and time in which an accurate emotional diagnosis and plan for continuing emotional care can be made
  • Providing a place where people are heard and understood individually, with the choice not to share their feelings with strangers

At Domus Retreat, guests get the rest and professional support they need to start their opioid-free path to a healthier life. As their bodies adjust and re-regulate, they can choose to participate in a variety of optional, integrative therapies and healthy activities such as yoga and meditation. During their short stay, they also can work with therapists to start creating a plan to address any mental health disorders. The goal is that when they leave, they are equipped with the first phase of the physical and mental clarity needed to pursue long-term wellness.