According to a new study released in late June 2016, adult patients with mental illnesses are prescribed more than half of all the opioid medications dispensed in the United States.
This number is wildly disproportionate, because only 16% of the country’s population is made up of people with mental disorders. The overall opioid usage rate among Americans with a mental illness is 19%, compared to just 5% among those without such a mental condition.
These findings are troubling, for several reasons:
- Opioid painkillers have a high potential for abuse.
- People with psychiatric conditions are more likely to struggle with substance abuse
- The expectation was that prescribing rates would be lower because physicians were more careful in giving these pain medications to these at-risk patients
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
“We are prescribing way too much opioids. And that prescription behavior is resulting in significant morbidity in the country. Because patients with mental health disorders are a vulnerable population, [they’re] probably more likely to develop addiction and abuse.”
~Dr. Brian Sites, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire
Part of the problem is the tendency of patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, etc. to “self-medicate”. Although opioids are prescribed for pain, these patients often find that the effect of opioids also temporarily alleviates their unpleasant feelings related to their mental condition.
So, what can be done?
Dr. Andrew Saxon, Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addiction, believes that mental health patients should be provided alternate treatment options. “It actually turns out… the best treatment for chronic pain is going to be behavioral interventions, not medications.”
If you struggle with substance abuse, a diagnosable mental disorder, and chronic pain, Lasting Recovery outpatient drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego can help you find healthy alternatives and balance.