Long-Term Opioid Users at Risk of Depression, Study Finds

A new study has found that near-daily or everyday use of prescription opioids is linked to a higher risk of new onset depression, in comparison with occasional use of the drugs. While the number of new opioid prescriptions in the United States has dropped since 2012, the average duration of prescriptions and the proportion of 30-day opioid prescriptions increased between 2006 and 2017.

The study was conducted by researchers at St. Louis University School of Medicine, led by Jeffrey Scherrer, the institution’s senior director of the Advanced Health Data Institute. Scherrer stated that the risk for new depression episodes in long-term opioid therapy grew by 40% for regular users, explaining that patients could decrease their risk of depression by avoiding the use of opioids as much as they could, such as on days they had low or manageable pain.

For their study, the researchers utilized de-identified patient data from an integrated claims-clinical data from the 2010–2018 period to create a cohort made up of more than 5,100 patients. To qualify, each patient needed to be free of depression diagnosis one year before they began the new period of opioid use. Patients who took part in the study were aged between 18 and 80. The study did not include patients with HIV or cancer.

The research compared patients who used opioids daily, frequently, periodically and occasionally to those with a new period of long-term prescription opioid use. The study defines new long-term opioid therapy as a period of more than 90 days of LTOT, following a six-month period of not using opioids.

The opioid drugs used in the study include tramadol, codeine, tapentadol, dihydrocodeine, pentazocine, fentanyl, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, morphine, methadone, meperidine and levorphanol.

Scherrer stated that their study advanced years of research, which had established a link between the risk for depression and long-term use of prescription opioids, by showing a potential reason why some but not every long-term user of opioids developed depression. In their report, the researchers recommend that long-term users of prescription opioids try reducing the number of days they use their medication in order to decrease the risk for depression.

They also recommend that patients undergoing long-term opioid therapy be screened for depression multiple times in a year and highlight the need for further studies on the subject. This study was funded by an internal grant awarded to Scherrer from the St. Louis University Research Institute.

Mental health conditions, such as depression, are on the rise, and yet not all patients respond as expected to the existing treatments. Many companies, including Cybin Inc. (NYSE American: CYBN) (NEO: CYBN), are on the hunt for better therapeutics to help this population of patients whose medical needs aren’t being met.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Cybin Inc. (NEO: CYBN) (NYSE American: CYBN) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/CYBN

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