Out of the estimated 38.6 million people experiencing two most common mental disorders – anxiety and depression – almost 19 percent were handed a minimum of two prescriptions for opioids during a given year, a recent study conducted jointly by the researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and University of Michigan has found.
Brian Sites, the lead researcher and professor of anesthesiology and orthopedics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, believes that most of the patients in the study group were victims of some kind of physical pain. However, the researchers attributed the participants’ inability to cope with the pain to their deteriorating mental health condition, due to which they felt a greater need to use opioids.
Experts in the medical field say addiction to painkillers begins with a genuine physical injury or pain which may require a painkiller to help the patient cope with it. Sadly, most of the patients are vulnerable to the euphoric sensations caused by opioid use and end up being dependent on them. Sites reported that those afflicted with mental health problems experience pain more acutely than normal individuals. What a normal person may describe as a two out of 10 sensation, someone battling depression or anxiety may give the same sensation a 10 out of 10. Therefore, such patients are more likely to get hooked on opioids solely due to the associated temporary relief.
Nevertheless, opioids can work marvels in deactivating the strong pain signals sent to the brain by numbing the neuron cell receptors. This way, the pain subsides temporarily and doesn’t bother the individual taking the opioid for some time. In such situations, empathy towards the patients, may make some physicians overprescribe the painkillers. The researchers further stated that around 50 percent of the prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written by primary care physicians, who also dealt with most cases of depression and anxiety.
Millions of Americans battle chronic pain each year, leading to a surge in health care and rehabilitation costs and a huge decline in productivity, says the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). Authorities across the nation need to acknowledge the fact that medications once used to deal with chronic pain are actually proving to be detrimental.
Substance use and mental disorders – two sides of the same coin
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 50 percent of general psychiatric patients also have a substance use disorder (SUD). That means, out of 8.9 million adults only 7.4 percent are receiving treatment for both the conditions. In general, studies suggest that males are particularly more susceptible to dual diagnosis than females. Others who could be a part of the high-risk group include individuals from lower social and economic rankings, war veterans and those with other general medical ailments.
Mental health professionals have been meticulously studying the multiple ways in which substance abuse and mental disorders may share common risk factors that give rise to such unwanted dual conditions. Though genes play an important role in exposing individuals to addiction and mental disorders, the odds of these genetic factors overlapping are always high, making some people more vulnerable to co-occurring disorders.
Moreover, brain function is also linked to vulnerability to dual disorders, especially in the case of impaired reward and stress functions. There is no doubt that individuals addicted to substances have impaired reward pathways which make the pleasures of life’s daily activities seem less gratifying as compared to the reward of drugs. Further, a combination of both developmental and environmental factors such as stress, drug use or mental health history are known to increase the risk of co-existing disorders. Besides, either of the two can develop first.
Dual diagnosis needs professional intervention
Although SUD and mental ailments may appear unrelated to the human eye, in reality, both the conditions thrive on each other, drowning the clueless victim in the vicious swirl of co-occurring disorders. Therefore, a methodical evaluation is the key to determine the presence of these, as the symptoms of one could be easily misinterpreted for the symptoms of the other. Under such circumstances, treating dual diagnosis mandates routine care from qualified health care professionals and tailor-made therapies.
Reach out to Sovereign Health, which offers state-of-the-art treatments for mental disorders, addiction and dual diagnosis. Our facilities are counted among the top dual diagnosis treatment centers in California. If you or your loved one is struggling with any of these disorders, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives. Our experts can guide you to one of our residential treatment centers near you.