Mental Health

Why Opioid Abuse May be Linked to Anxiety and Mood Disorders

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

The opioid crisis is expanding and placing more individuals at risk for overdoses. More teens and adults are dying from Fentanyl overdoses than ever before. Artists, filmmakers and TV show producers are creating opioid abuse awareness using popular media channels.

Researchers are also making an impact by assessing the link between mood and anxiety disorders and opioid abuse. Pharmaceutical manufacturers may use the data to create less addictive drugs. Psychiatrists and doctors may apply the research and prescribe fewer opioids to at-risk patients.

What are Opioids?

Before identifying addiction’s effects on the brain, we must explore what opioids are. Opioids are a controlled class of pharmaceuticals deriving from the poppy plant. Doctors prescribe opioids to severe pain patients to block specific signals between their brains and bodies.

Some individuals rely on opioids to treat long-term health conditions. The medication has various side effects like slow breathing, confusion and drowsiness. Opioids are also street drugs like heroin.

The most common opioids are OxyContain and Vicodin. Fentanyl is another painkiller increasing the global rate of addiction. Users develop a tolerance to opioids over time, which requires professionals to increase their dosages slowly.

Withdrawing from high opioid doses can cause uncomfortable side effects. Many users become addicted to painkillers because of their euphoric properties. Nearly 45% of heroin addicts start their addictions through prescription opioid use.

Opioids Effects on the Brain


Individuals with mood and anxiety disorders are more likely to develop opioid addictions because of brain receptor interactions. Humans have three opioid receptor variations. The Mu receptors link to individuals’ perception of pain, mood and reward.

Opioids can alter individuals’ Mu receptors and cause pain relief, mood changes and dependence. The prescription painkillers also target the brain’s delta receptors. Delta receptors directly impact one’s mood and emotions.

Painkillers can block feelings of depression and anxiety, which influences addiction. Individuals with major depressive disorder and severe anxiety may only experience mental relief from opioids. The immense relief from opioids fuels long-term addiction.

Opioids also significantly affect the brain during the withdrawal stages. During withdrawals, individuals experience heightened frustration, anger, and anxiety. Users can decrease their addiction to opioids using brain restoration treatment.

Brain Restoration Treatment

Medical professionals use various treatment methods when breaking opioid addiction cycles. One surgeon is placing electrodes in addiction patients to cure drug cravings. The brain stimulator changes individuals’ brain circuits.

Doctors can also use electrode therapy to treat mental illnesses like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other medical professionals distribute opioid receptor blockers to addiction patients. The medication alters patients’ brains by targeting the Mu receptors.

Professionals commonly use Naltrexone as a blocker, which prevents the pain relief and mood effects of opioids. Other individuals prefer taking a more holistic approach to treatment. Holistic restoration practices use natural pain management to reduce individuals’ opioid reliance.

Mood and Anxiety Disorders Throughout Treatment


Some medical professionals suggest using holistic treatment methods to minimize adverse emotional and mental effects. Recovery centers often distribute methadone to addiction patients. Methadone is a synthetic opioid, which provides similar euphoric effects to morphine and heroin.

Researchers recently identified mental health conditions triggered by methadone. They found patients with anxiety experience mood swings and other adverse emotional symptoms when regularly consuming methadone. The treatment drug also has adverse reactions to commonly used anxiety medications.

Benzodiazepines, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors can overly depress patients’ central nervous systems. Individuals may experience overdoses and death when combining the prescription drugs. Medical professionals suggest naturally treating anxiety during methadone treatments.

They tell patients to exercise regularly and eat healthy diets when taking methadone to minimize mood swings. Professionals also suggest patients regularly speak to therapists about their anxiety symptoms. Opioid addicts can also prevent mood and anxiety disorder side effects by treating their addictions naturally.

Effective Mental Health and Addiction Therapy

One non-pharmaceutical treatment method for opioid addiction is acupuncture. Researchers found addiction patients could lower their prescription dosages using acupuncture. The treatment method also improves individuals’ quality of sleep and decreases anxiety.

Alternative treatment professionals are also using mindfulness to help opioid addicts. Biobehavioral scientists discovered the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to treat addiction patients. The practices enhance metacognitive awareness, which helps individuals identify the cause of their addictions.

Mindfulness also helps addicts break old patterns. Individuals can identify their urges and addiction triggers using meditation. Then, they may actively resist their urges to strengthen their sobriety over time.

Some holistic treatment professionals also prescribe yoga for addiction patients. Researchers identified yoga’s positive influence on addiction management practices. The most effective way to minimize the connection between mood and anxiety disorders and opioid abuse is by preventing addiction.

Preventing Opioid Abuse 


Millions of individuals use and abuse opioids each year. Individuals can end the opioid crisis by reducing the number of prescription drugs on the streets and in family homes. Government officials must ban opioid prescriptions from medical offices to minimize abuse and addiction.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers must also create new pain treatment drugs with less addictive effects. Treating pain patients with holistic methods can significantly reduce the number of opioid overdoses annually. Keeping opioids off the streets may also prevent fentanyl lacing and overdosing.

Author bio Beth Rush:

Beth is the Managing Editor at She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to fitness, holistic health, nutrition, and disease prevention. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and cooking healthy recipes.

American Society of Anesthesiologists: Opioid Abuse

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?

National Institute of Drug Abuse: Opioids

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