A recent study reveals that taking opioids and antidepressants can come with some serious risks.
Many people with chronic pain must try different techniques to manage their symptoms—both physical and emotional. But a new study looks into the risks of taking opioids and antidepressants at the same time. Below, we explain everything that you need to know about taking opioids and antidepressants: the prevalence, risks, and possible options for best managing chronic pain and co-occurring mental health disorders.
How Can Taking Opioids and Antidepressants Cause Overdose?
The researchers behind this discovery looked at a large collection of data in order to examine the connection between taking opioids and antidepressants and overdosing on those medications. Within this data, they found that people who were on a certain type of antidepressant combined with one or more opioid prescriptions were over 20 percent more likely to experience an overdose.
Selective serotonin reputable inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. However, they can change the way that the liver breaks down certain enzymes. This can then influence how other medications, like opioids, are processed throughout the body.
Opioids impact the body’s central nervous system, essentially slowing down pain signals that alert the brain. The goal with opioid prescriptions is to help people feel less pain after a surgery, injury, or, in many cases, when chronic pain is involved. But when combined with antidepressants, the body might not be able to break down the opioids as effectively. As a result, the levels from the opioids might remain too high to be processed and lead to an accidental overdose.
Symptoms of an opioid overdose most commonly include:
- Small pupils
- Respiratory depression
- Confusion or unresponsiveness
The side effects of an overdose can be fatal if not addressed immediately. This shows that this drug interaction of taking opioids and antidepressants is something that should not be taken lightly. The experts behind this discovery urge doctors who prescribe opioids and antidepressants to carefully monitor their patients and assess all of the risks associated with this treatment plan.
What Is The Relationship Between Chronic Pain and Mental Health?
So, what exactly is the relationship between chronic pain and mental health? Is it common for people who take opioids to also need antidepressants? And now that we know that taking opioids and antidepressants can increase the chances of an overdose, what should be done for patients who need both methods of treatment? The answers to these questions can lead to deeper understanding on how to treat chronic pain.
Let’s start with the relationship between chronic pain and mental health. It’s worth noting that mental health and physical health directly impact one another. This means that when the body is in distress, somebody’s emotions and thoughts will usually follow suit, and vice versa.
Mental Health America states that chronic pain can have a substantial impact on somebody’s mental health because pain is only meant to be temporary as a way to signal to the body that something is not right. But people who live with chronic pain don’t often get relief from the pain. Thus, the brain continues to be distressed, sometimes for months or years on end. This can lead to conditions like anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Studies show that as many as 85 percent of people who live with chronic pain also experience depression. In fact, depression is such a common co-occurring disorder with pain that there are mental health professionals who specialize just in treating depression that is caused by chronic pain. Furthermore, depression can exacerbate the body’s aches and pains. This often becomes cyclical in nature, meaning that the pain causes mental health troubles, the depression causes pain, and the circle continues.
In addition to the physical toll that chronic pain can have, there are social, financial, and personal side effects as well. Therefore, it makes sense why people who are already taking opioids for chronic pain end up needing antidepressants as well. It’s important to care for both the physical and emotional sides to chronic pain and mental health. But this is where the risks of taking opioids and antidepressants comes into play.
What Should You Do When You Need Opioids and Antidepressants?
Most people who live with chronic pain already know that there are already many risks and side effects involved with taking opioids—but they also might not have other options when it comes to pain management. Similarly, people who struggle with anxiety, depression, substance use, or other mental health conditions need to have methods of treatment to manage these symptoms as well. Otherwise, untreated mental health concerns could snowball into more pain. More pain, as people with chronic pain know, can make it challenging to function on a daily basis.
In many cases, the solution to this starts with finding effective pain relief. This might mean taking opioid prescriptions for a short amount of time. Evaluating the risks versus rewards with a trusted health care team in these scenarios can be useful, especially if you are genetically predisposed to conditions like opioid use disorder.
But keep in mind that the increased risk of overdose by combining opioids and antidepressants can be life-threatening, just as leaving chronic pain and mental health untreated can pose a great danger. Thus, it’s good to know other options for effective pain relief as well. For example, medical interventions like physical therapy or aromatherapy could be helpful in preventing further pain from occurring.
In conjunction with this, getting the right type of mental health assistance is extremely important. There are many different ways to approach mental health, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Utilizing distractions
- Talking with others who understand chronic pain
Sometimes, taking opioids and antidepressants at the same time only has to be a temporary treatment plan. In this situation, it’s good to be proactive by implementing other pain management strategies so that you can wean off of opioids without facing sudden and extreme pain. Additionally, learning coping strategies to manage mental health symptoms can not only maximize the benefits of antidepressants but also give you resources that you might need if the risks of taking opioids and SSRIs become too great.
The bottom line is that drug interactions are always possible and can be dangerous, but this is especially true when taking opioids and antidepressants, as the new study shows. Keeping track of your symptoms anytime you begin a new medication is essential in staying safe. Listen to your body, your thoughts, and your feelings, and report in to others who understand the trials of living with chronic pain and mental health distress.
What questions do you have about taking Opioids and Antidepressants?
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