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Opioid-Induced Mood Disorders: What Are They?

man living with opioid-induced mood disorder

Opioid-induced mood disorder is relatively common among people who use opioids recreationally or live with opioid use disorder. It's a mental health condition that can result from chronic opioid use.

Changes in mood, thinking, and behavior characterize opioid-induced use disorder. It can be challenging to diagnose and treat, but it can be treated similarly to other mood disorders. Treatment may include medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic options such as exercise and mindfulness meditation. Therapy can help a person in recovery cope.

What is an Opioid-Induced Mood Disorder?

Opioid-induced mood disorder is one of several substance-induced disorders. It is a mental health condition characterized by changes in mood, affect, and behavior related to the use of opioids or their aftermath. These symptoms can stick around even after a person gets sober because it can take months or years for your body to recover from addiction.

Opioids can cause changes in a person's mood, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and irritability. While the prevalence of opioid-induced mood disorder is not well-established, studies suggest that up to approximately 41% of methadone MAT clinic patients also had a comorbid mood disorder.

Why Do People End Up with Opioid-Induced Mood Disorders?

Scientists don't yet know the specific cause of any substance-induced mood disorder. An opioid-induced mood disorder may be linked to brain reward and stress response system changes. When people use opioids more regularly at higher doses, their bodies and mind change and adapt to regular drug use. This can cause changes that lead to addiction, also known as substance use disorder. When a person gets sober, it can take months to years for their body to adjust to sobriety completely. As a result, many people in recovery may be living with an undiagnosed mood disorder.

Opioids are a class of drugs prescribed for pain management. They work by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Unfortunately, prolonged use of opioids can also lead to changes in brain chemistry that can contribute to the development of mood disorders.

One of the primary mechanisms by which opioids may contribute to mood disorders is their effects on the brain's reward system. Chronic opioid use can lead to a decrease in the availability of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. This can lead to reduced motivation and anhedonia,  a loss of enjoyment in normally enjoyable activities.

In addition to their effects on the reward system, opioids can also impact the brain's stress response system. Chronic opioid use can lead to a dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the body's response to stress. This dysregulation can contribute to developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, just like substance use disorder, treatment is available, and symptoms can be managed.

Mood Disorders in Recovery

Many people struggle with mental health disorders, especially in early recovery. After all, it is common for people with mental health issues to self-medicate their symptoms. Some people discover a mood disorder after being sober for a while. In both instances, treatment can help a person cope and progress.

Mental health is just as vital as physical health for a good quality of life. There's nothing shameful or harmful about accepting help and learning how to live a better, more authentic life in recovery.

Getting Help for Opioid-Induced Mood Disorder

While opioid-induced mood disorders can be challenging to diagnose and treat, several approaches may be practical. These include medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and coping skills like exercise and mindfulness meditation.

If you or somebody you love is struggling with a mood disorder, many resources exist to help you get treatment. If you went to drug treatment or live in a sober home, a staff member can most likely make a referral for you. If you go to 12-step meetings, you can ask people about their experiences. Or you can call your local mental health department to learn about other resources. You're not alone! Help is available.

Sober Living Homes in San Diego

If you're looking for a safe, compassionate community focused on sobriety, we're here to help! We offer an environment focused on helping you stay sober and continue to grow. Get in touch to learn more about our offerings, amenities, and other aspects of our sober living home.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic disease that can significantly impact the brain and how a user thinks. Addiction occurs when an individual becomes dependent on opioids to function, both physically and mentally. Over time, addiction can lead to changes in the brain and body that can be difficult to reverse.

Opioid Use Disorder and The Brain's Reward System

One of the most significant impacts of opioid addiction on the brain is its effect on the reward system. These drugs trigger dopamine release in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. With repeated use, the brain can become dependent on the drug to release dopamine, developing tolerance and addiction. This can make it difficult for individuals to feel pleasure or reward from other activities, leading to a loss of interest in hobbies and relationships.

Other Brain Changes and Opioids

OUD can also change the way a person thinks and behaves. There is a science behind these changes. Misuse causes changes in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and impulse control.

Chronic opioid use can decrease the prefrontal cortex's volume, impairing decision-making and making it more difficult for the drug user to control their impulses. Many self-destructive behaviors that characterize addiction can be attributed to these changes. As a result, people with OUD exhibit behaviors that harm the individual and those around them in pursuing the drug or while high.

Opioid Use Disorder's Effects on the Body

In addition to its impact on the brain, opioid addiction can significantly affect the body.

Long-term opioid use can lead to respiratory depression, breathing issues, and even death. In addition, some people who overdose have heart trouble and lingering neurological symptoms. Chronic use can also lead to gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. This can also lead to malnutrition.

When a person who is a chronic user tries to stop using or cut down, they usually have significant withdrawal symptoms. This can include bone pain, nausea and vomiting, sweats, and anxiety. This is why Medication-Assisted Treatment is considered to be the gold standard of care when it comes to to OUD. It can minimize the uncomfortable symptoms and cravings a person getting sober experiences.

Mental Health and Opioid Addiction

Addiction to opioids can also have significant social and emotional impacts. OUD can lead to social isolation as individuals become more wrapped up in chasing the high and spend more time in active addiction. You may notice a person with opioid use disorder becoming more withdrawn and spending more time alone.

A person stuck in the throes of active addiction may self-medicate painful or upsetting mental health symptoms.

The emotional toll of addiction can also be significant. People with OUD often strain family relationships and change friends when addicted. Privately, they may be wrestling with shame, guilt, and hopelessness.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) can be associated with a range of mental health issues, including:

Individuals with OUD need comprehensive treatment addressing their addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

OUD can have significant impacts on the brain and body. Substance use disorder can also cause mental health problems and exacerbate mental health issues you may already struggle with. Getting screened for mental illness during your recovery and paying attention to any new symptoms is essential. A psychiatrist can better assess your needs or help diagnose any disorder.

Sober Housing and OUD

Many people with OUD find that they can stay sober when they have structure, solidarity, and community with other people in recovery. Many people in sober housing choose to use MAT as a tool for their OUD. Sober living can give you a home to return to at the end of the day, meetings in and out-of-house, and a healthy, vibrant, spiritual environment to reflect on your recovery and future. Learn more about our homes and how we can help by giving us a call.

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