Chronic Opioid Abuse & Depression: How Methadone Can Help

Most everyone knows by now how powerfully addictive prescription opioids can be. Whether a person starts using them as a pain treatment or for recreational purposes, the risks associated with frequent, prolonged opioid use remain the same. One of the biggest risks that come with opioid abuse takes the form of an ever-worsening depression state.

With chronic drug use, opioids wear down vital brain chemical pathways and weaken the functions that regulate a person’s emotional and psychological equilibrium. For people who’ve abused opioids for years at a time, the drug’s effects create a diseased chemical environment in the brain.

After so many months or years of chronic opioid abuse, people who want to stop using are left with severely compromised brain functions that ultimately depend on opioid effects to function normally. As an opioid addiction medication therapy, methadone not only provides relief for drug cravings but also treats the damaged brain chemical processes that give rise to depression symptoms.

The Opioid Abuse-Depression Cycle

Opioid Abuse & Depression

Someone who abuses opioids may experience depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Once opioid abuse practices take hold, a person enters into a cycle of drug use and withdrawal-based depression symptoms, along with a range of other symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to experience any form of emotion

The damage done to brain chemical processes weakens the brain’s ability to regulate bodily functions as normal. In effect, depression and all other withdrawal-based symptoms result from the brain’s weakened state. According to Stanford News, these conditions drive continued drug use as users attempt to self-medicate uncomfortable symptoms.

Similarities between Opioid Abuse & Depression

Opioid abuse breeds chemical imbalances throughout the brain. These imbalances grow progressively worse the longer a person keeps abusing the drug. Depression also develops out of these same imbalances. This means, opioid abuse not only causes depression symptoms, but a pre-existing depression disorder can also drive a person to seek relief through opioid abuse.

According to University of Utah Health Services, depression and opioid abuse interact with the same brain chemical pathways, and will ultimately feed off one another when both conditions are present. Similarities between the two include:

  • Both conditions interfere with serotonin production, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood states
  • Both conditions interfere with dopamine outputs, the neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction process
  • Both conditions alter brain reward system functions, an area that dictates a person’s motivations and behaviors
  • Both conditions are reinforced by destructive behavioral patterns

With long-term opioid abuse, the cycle that develops between depression and drug use creates ingrained patterns of behavior that have reinforcing effects on the brain’s imbalanced state. Herein in is where methadone’s therapeutic effects can be of most benefit.

How Does Methadone Maintenance Treat Opioid Withdrawal?

How Methadone Treatment Can Help

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug, specifically formulated to treat the damaging effects of opioid abuse on brain function.  Methadone acts as a type of medication therapy similar to how insulin is used as a medication therapy for treating diabetes.

Methadone’s therapeutic effects offer considerable relief from depression symptoms, drug cravings and the overall state of malaise that chronic opioid abuse leaves in its wake.

If you or someone you know struggles with chronic opioid abuse and have more questions about methadone treatment, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.