Depression and Opiates: Understanding This Co-Occurring Condition

depression and opiates

Sadly, many people suffer from the effects of addiction. But, in many cases, this disease does not occur alone. Countless individuals struggle with addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. One of the dual diagnoses that some individuals suffer from depression and substance dependence.

Depression and opiates often show up together, causing major issues in the lives of those who suffer from this mental health disorder and opiate misuse. However, with help from professionals who understand the nature of co-occurring disorders, individuals can find total freedom. Still, it’s important for those who have dual diagnoses to understand the truth about their conditions. This enables them to take a knowledgeable and informed approach for seeking treatment.

Defining Depression: What is It and How Does it Affect People?

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects the way people think, behave, and feel. This disorder is characterized by intense feelings of sadness. However, this disorder is not to be confused with the sadness that most people experience occasionally; this is a natural and normal emotion. While it is common to feel sad from time to time, especially when a situation elicits this emotional response, individuals who suffer from depression experience strong and extreme feelings of sadness. These feelings occur even if no “sad” situation is present. In other words, the symptoms of depression are often unwarranted.

There are several risk factors involved in the development of depression. One risk factor is, believe it or not, personality. Some individuals who struggle with low self-esteem or easily become overwhelmed or stressed may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

Genetics can also play a role. Sometimes, many people in one family suffer from depression. This disorder may run in those families, making it likely that it will affect individuals in each generation.

A person’s environment may also lead to the development of depression. If a person grows up in a violent home or is constantly surrounded by abuse or other negative circumstances, he or she may become depressed.

Types of Depression

Some of the common symptoms of depression may be identified as mild while others may be classified as more severe. The symptoms people experience depend on the type of depression they have. There are several different types of depression, including major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), and more. 

Major Depressive Disorder

This type of depression is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Extreme sense of sadness
  • Decrease or loss of appetite
  • Difficulties with decision-making
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Lack of pleasure in normal, daily activities
  • Sleep disturbance (i.e. insomnia or hypersomnia)

This is the most common form of depression. According to a 2017 report from the National Institute on Mental Health, at least 7.1% of the adults in the U.S. have had at least one major depressive episode. That equates to more than 17 million U.S. adults, aged 18 and older. Although the majority of those who suffer from this disorder are females, many males also experience this type of depression. 

The same report mentions the prevalence of major depression in adolescents (12-17 years old). In 2017, 3.2 million individuals in this age group suffered from at least one episode. This equates to over 13% of adolescents in the United States.

Postpartum Depression

Shortly after childbirth, some women develop postpartum depression. The effects of this type of depression generally occur within about 2 weeks after a woman has delivered her child. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Intense sadness
  • Sense of emptiness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Tiredness and exhaustion

Sometimes, women who suffer from postpartum depression do not feel a connection to their babies. They may lack the desire to care for or spend time with their newborns. Postpartum depression can also affect day-to-day activities, preventing women from completing everyday tasks. Fatigue and exhaustion may interfere with work or other responsibilities.

Women who experienced depression throughout pregnancy may be at risk for developing postpartum depression. Also, the age of a woman may make her more likely to suffer from postpartum depression; women under 20 may have this type of depression. Some women may not have much support from friends or loved ones, which can also be a risk factor. Finally, women who have difficulty breastfeeding may suffer from postpartum depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Often called “winter depression”, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression tends to occur at certain times of the year. Some people suffer from it during the winter. But, symptoms may occur in other seasons, as well. Still, it’s more common in the wintertime, mainly due to a decrease in natural sunlight. 

Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) experience the symptoms of major depressive disorder. Also, they may show signs and symptoms such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Excessive or increased amounts of sleep

For someone to receive a diagnosis of SAD, he or she must experience these seasonal symptoms every year.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

A person who has persistent depressive disorder experiences the symptoms of depression for at least 2 years. In many cases, people who have dysthymia may have severe symptoms at some points throughout the year and milder symptoms at other points. Individuals with persistent depressive disorder may suffer from low or sad moods nearly every day. They may also experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Lack of energy
  • Lof self-esteem
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Changes in appetite (i.e. overeating)

Those who have dysthymia may show signs of irritability and other changes in mood. This can certainly be one of the tell-tale signs that an individual has persistent depressive disorder.

What Are Opiates?

In short, opiates are drugs that have pain-blocking effects. Sometimes, people use the legal forms of these drugs for pain relief. However, some individuals grow to depend on these drugs and, eventually, they may use illicit opiates and opioids. 

Many times, people use the terms “opioid” and “opiate” interchangeably. But, there is a difference between the two. Opiates are drugs that are derived directly from an opium poppy plant. Opioids, on the other hand, are generally synthetic drugs that have an effect that is similar to opiate drugs. Still, many professionals use the word “opioid” in reference to both types of drugs.

Types of opiates and opioids include the following legal and illicit substances:

  • Heroin
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

Opioids and opiates are very powerful drugs. In legal forms and doses, they can help to treat various types of pain. However, many individuals suffer from opiate dependence and may develop an addiction to these drugs. This can be extremely problematic, especially in cases where a mental health disorder is also present. 

Depression and Opiates: A Dangerous Combination

There is often a debate surrounding the idea of co-occurring disorders. Many people wonder which comes first, the mental health disorder or the addiction. The truth of the matter is that the order of occurrence varies from case to case. Some people may develop an addiction as a result of their mental illness while others may experience the opposite of this. 

Sometimes, people who are suffering from depression may turn to substance use in order to cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorder. Drugs and alcohol often provide at least a temporary sense of relief from the effects of depression. Also, some individuals may suffer from chronic pain (which sometimes occurs with depression). As a result, they may use opiates for pain relief which may eventually lead to opiate dependence.

In other cases, people who use opiates regularly may begin to grow dependent on them because of the powerfully addictive qualities of these drugs. At some point, individuals may become addicted to opiates. Sometimes, addiction can cause other disorders to occur, such as anxiety or depression. So, it’s not uncommon for people who suffer from substance dependence to also develop depression.

The combination of depression and opiates can be extremely dangerous. This mixture can cause many changes and challenges to occur in people’s lives. Some of the effects of the combination of depression and opiate dependence are:

  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble at work
  • Problems at school
  • Financial hardship
  • Relationship problems
  • Deterioration of mental state and overall health

The effects of co-occurring disorders can be life-altering. So, those who suffer from these disorders should seek help from professionals who truly understand.

Receiving Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Sana Lake Recovery Center

Unfortunately, dual diagnosis cases are not as rare as many people may think. Millions of people suffer from the effects of addiction and mental illness every year. Thankfully, however, there is help for those who are dealing with these challenges.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the dangerous combination of depression and opiates, know that there is hope. Here at Sana Lake Recovery Center, we believe in treating the whole person. We understand that many of our members have very specific needs due to the presence of co-occurring disorders. Our team of certified substance use counselors and licensed professionals can help you move toward recovery and freedom. At Sana Lake, we work to provide a safe and understanding environment for those who come to us for treatment. Your health is our priority, so we will work to offer you the best of care. 

When it comes to treating co-occurring disorders, an individualized dual diagnosis is necessary. It’s important to avoid getting treatment for only one disorder. Instead, those who suffer from dual diagnoses should seek help for both disorders. In doing so, individuals can focus on recovery while learning to manage and cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorders. This helps to ensure long-term and lasting recovery. 

There’s no time like the present to find hope. If you’re ready to take a step toward total recovery and freedom, please contact us here at Sana Lake Recovery today. Allow our substance use disorder staff to help you as you pursue a new and healthier life. We are committed to helping you find your way to the life you truly deserve!

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression#Types%20of%20Depression

https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids#summary-of-the-issue

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.