An Emerging Debate: Opioids as Antidepressants?

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It might seem like a wild assertion, to use opioids as medication for anti-depressants, but it is a reality that we might collectively see sooner than later when it comes to combating a wide range of anxiety based disorders. Recent studies, via lab mice, have revealed opioids such as morphine to be the next antidepressants. The New York Times even reviewed the pros and cons of this new age in the battle against one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the country.

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Depression is a condition that has long perplexed many psychologists. It is not only widely varied in its precursors, but also in the numerous ways it can be treated within differing individuals. For the most part it is clear that the prescription medications that are available today have never been fully compatible or even life-saving for individuals diagnosed with depression. Opioids, interestingly, appear to be changing the tune of the conversation.

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While this all continues to brew, one defining characteristic of opioids is their addictive quality. It is perhaps this fact alone that drives many up the wall: the thought of treating one ailment while potentially inducing another. The reality, however, is that the jury is not out on the true costs and benefits of such a treatment option. There are still too many researchers adding and subtracting dosages and concentrations for us to truly determine their effectiveness for humans.

Of course, the average addict who happens to also have had depression might tell you it was their way ‘out’. However, when taking such a method of treatment out of the dark and into the world of clinical application, the ramifications can be significant for both patients and care providers. Just to name a few of the possible outcomes:  are we breeding and grooming the next generation of addicts? What about people suffering from depression as a result of their issues with addiction? The bottom line to note is that, like many possible applications of medicine, the number of persons who might receive the most benefit out of such a possibility might be slim, but this percentage is still significant.

In the wake of this impending clinical option also comes the fact that many places not only in the United States but also around the world are struggling with an opioid endemic. Would it be smart to further such a problem by making the line between addiction and affectation increasingly obscure by adding depression as a possible factor?

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No matter what side of the line you fall on this topic, it all comes down to personal health and well-being, in addition to the ability to care for individuals that truly do suffer in the shadows. There is no one-and-done solution, but there appear to be new significant options; at this point, we can consider this a silver lining.

Photo Credits: One, Two, Three 

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