Opioids for Acute and Chronic Pain When Receiving Psychiatric Medications

Published 09/28/2023

A new study concludes that although health care providers have reduced opioid prescriptions for acute or chronic pain for patients at high risk for substance use disorder (SUD) — including those with mental health disorders (MHD) — opioid use for pain management has remained at consistently high levels and there’s a need to revisit and amplify pain management guidelines for providers with patients receiving antidepression and antianxiety drugs. 

The study, developed in collaboration between CareQuest Institute, Amrita School of Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, Health Data Analytics Institute, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, makes it clear that many patients receiving pharmacotherapy for depression or anxiety were also receiving opioid prescriptions for pain, in spite of guidelines warning against this practice.  

Key Findings 

  • Adults with a MHD received opioids for pain management at nearly twice the level as adults without a MHD. 
  • Health care providers in emergency departments were 50% more likely to prescribe an opioid for dental pain to those with a MHD, while dentists were half as likely to prescribe an opioid for dental pain management. 
  • 9.5 million US adults reported having a MHD and a substance use disorder. 
  • The likelihood of overdose is much greater (4 to 10 times more) for individuals taking both opioids and antianxiety medications (benzodiazepines). 

Read the peer-reviewed research article on PLOS ONE. (open access)  

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