According to Mattick, many clinicians aren’t aware of patients becoming depressed after treatment because “people with pain are often viewed as suffering understandable dysphoria, but opioid use may exacerbate that problems yet be taken as normal/understandable dysphoria by prescribers, rather than opioid-related.”

This isn’t the first study that has pointed out a connection between opioid analgesics and depression. A 2013 report sampled a group of veterans with no recent history of depression or opioid use. Researchers found that depression increased as the duration of opioid exposure increased.

Dr. Anita Gupta, medical director of the Division of Pain Medicine and Regional Anesthesiology at Hahnemann University Hospital and Drexel University College of Medicine, said clinicians need to pay more attention to signs of depression or mood dysfunctions while patients are undergoing opioid treatments.

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Gupta believes physicians should be “asking the hard questions” and educating family and caretakers on what to look for when evaluating a patient.

“By being proactive in identifying this early, chronic pain is likely to improve exponentially as well,” she said. “Depression is often coexistent with pain so by addressing both outcomes will improve.”


1. Smith K, et al. J. Affect. Disord. 2015 doi: