December 6, 2017

People with an opioid use disorder are at higher risk for other, co-occurring psychiatric disorders (called “psychiatric comorbidities”). For example, those who abuse opioids are more likely than their peers to suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, antisocial personality disorder, and/ or other substance use disorders (abuse of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, stimulants, and/or benzodiazepines). Some opioid users experience psychiatric symptoms only while using a drug or when in withdrawal from a drug. For example, opioid users often experience symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping, and/or anxiety when in withdrawal. For some people, these problems stop after a period of time with no drug use.

Psychiatric Diagnoses Associated with Opioid Intoxication and Withdrawal [1]
DepressionSleep Disorders Sexual Dysfunction Delirium Anxiety (in withdrawal)

Sometimes, psychiatric disorders exist independently from a person’s drug use, and do not end after a person has stopped using opioids. These disorders can only be diagnosed if they continue after a person has stopped using drugs for a period of time. For example, in order for an opioid user to receive a psychiatric diagnosis of depression, he or she would have to experience depression before beginning to use opioids and/ or after stopping their use and completing withdrawal.

Adults with a mental illness are more at risk to abuse opioids or other drugs.
  • About 20% of adults with mental illness also have substance abuse issues (8.4 million people).[2]
  • Over half of these individuals do not receive any treatment for substance use problems.[3]
  • People with co-occurring psychiatric disorders may find recovery from substance addiction to be more difficult, and may require more intense treatment.
  • The most effective treatments address substance use disorders and all other active psychiatric disorders at the same time.

[Link to Psychiatric Comorbidities Brochure] — [1]American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. [2]Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013. [3]Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.