There's a link between opioid use and higher mood disorder risk

17 March 2022

Dr Janni Leung and Dr Daniel Stjepanovic from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research featured in a Futurity article about research linking prescription opioid use with a risk of developing mood disorders.

“There has been a lot of research around addiction to opioids—commonly used in cancer treatment or acute pain—but there is limited understanding about how they affect the development of mood disorders,” says Dr Leung.

“Our research reviewed studies of patients who were prescribed opioids to treat painful physical health conditions, including burns and trauma surgery.

“We compared these samples with individuals who were not using opioids or were prescribed lower dosages, and the results showed that higher doses of prescription opioids might increase the risk of developing depressive, bipolar, and anxiety disorders, particularly with prolonged use.”

It is important to understand all risks before prescribing the medication to a patient, says co-author Daniel Stjepanovic from the National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research.

“The effects on mental health should be taken into account when prescribing opioids, especially in individuals who are at risk of mood disorders such as anxiety or depression,” he says.

“It’s incredibly important to understand the role opioids play in the development of these mood disorders to ensure people are receiving the care and treatment they require, without putting them at high risk."

Read the article