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51% of opioid prescriptions go to people with mood disorders

Patients with mental health issues like anxiety and depression are at higher risk for abusing drugs, but get more than half of opioid prescriptions.

Of all opioid prescriptions in the United States each year, fifty-one percent go to adults with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, new research suggests.

“Despite representing only 16 percent of the adult population, adults with mental health disorders receive more than half of all opioid prescriptions distributed each year in the United States,” says Matthew Davis, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Overall, of the 115 million prescriptions written for opiates each year, 60 million are written for adults with mental illness.

The study is among the first to show the extent to which the population of Americans with mental illness use opioids.

Researchers found that among the 38.6 million Americans diagnosed with mental health disorders, more than 7 million, or 18 percent, are prescribed opioids each year. By comparison, only 5 percent of adults without mental disorders are likely to use prescription opioids.

“Because of the vulnerable nature of patients with mental illness, such as their susceptibility for opioid dependency and abuse, this finding warrants urgent attention to determine if the risks associated with such prescribing are balanced with therapeutic benefits,” says anesthesiologist Brian Sites, coauthor of the study.

The connection between mental illness and opioid prescribing is particularly concerning because mental illness is also a prominent risk factor for overdose and other adverse opioid-related outcomes, Sites and Davis say.

The study appears online in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Additional contributors to the research are from the University of Michigan and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University.

Source: University of Michigan

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