Author: Rick Nauert PhD
An unexpected finding from a small study suggests a link between negative emotions, such as sadness and anxiety, and higher opioid use. Johns Hopkins researchers found that among people with sickle cell disease, opioid use hinged on negative emotions when pain levels were self-reported as relatively low.
Investigators discovered the linkage from an analysis of data obtained from daily electronic patient diaries. Nevertheless, they caution that their study wasn’t set up to show that negative emotions or thinking causes people to take more opioid pills but only to see if there was an association.
People with the inherited disorder have misshapen red blood cells that clog blood vessels, causing chronic pain and episodes of severe pain that frequently send patients to emergency rooms.
Their study, described online in The Journal of Pain, adds to efforts to better identify those at risk for overuse of opioids, improve pain control, and decrease dependency and side effects of long-term opioid use.
“We showed that the way we think about pain is associated with opioid use even if our pain levels are low,” said Patrick Finan, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“These data argue that physicians need better communication with patients on how to take their medications from day to day to minimize fluctuations based on mood or way of thinking.”
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