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Long-term opioid use increases depression

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Washington: A recent study says opioids may cause short-term improvement in mood, but long-term use imposes the risk of new-onset depression.

Professor Jeffrey Scherrer speculates the findings may be explained by long-term opioid use of more than 30 days leading to changes in neuroanatomy and low testosterone, among other possible biological explanations.

The link was independent of the known contribution of pain to depression and the study calls on clinicians to consider the contribution of opioid use when depressed mood develops in their patients.

The study calls for additional research to identify which patients are most vulnerable to opioid-related depression.

The data sets were comprised of 70,997 VHA patients, 13,777 BSWH patients and 22,981 patients from HFHS. The patients were new opioid users, ages 18 to 80, without a diagnosis of depression when they began taking medication.

Opioid drugs in the study included codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, levorphanol, meperidine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine and pentazocine.

The study has been published in Annals of Family Medicine (ANI)

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