Opioid use has been shown to contribute to depression as prolonged use can produce neurological changes as we established in an earlier blog about opioid use and brain damage.  Most anti-depressants are called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). SSRI’s ease depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain cells. SSRI’s block the re absorption of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available.

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Treating patients who have emotional disorders is one of my specialties, and I have assisted countless people who wanted to come off of their anti-depressant medications. It is a little tricky, as we want to use acupuncture for a couple of months before patients start weaning off of their meds. This is because we have to make sure the imbalances that led to depression in the first place is cleared up. I cannot recall a single unsuccessful attempt to resolve depression in this way with compliant patients. There is a common thread of reflection by patients following the successful cessation of SSRI’s: It goes something like this, “I felt numb taking the anti-depressants, not myself. It was if there was a thin film of gray blocking my ability to fully experience life.”

There is no question that anti-depressants can save lives of those who have suicidal tendency. However, it tends to be prescribed over long period’s of time instead of an acute stop-gap for a crisis. In my opinion, those recovering from opioid dependency should not rely on mood altering substances as this is not a true recovery. Instead, look to natural modalities that will lead to wellness and balance. After all, recent studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can have a profound effect on depression and repair the brain. In this way, one can lead a full and abundant life coping with all of the natural up-and-downs that that come with our existence on Earth.


Martins, S. S., Fenton, M. C., Keyes, K. M., Blanco, C., Zhu, H., & Storr, C. L. (2012). Mood/Anxiety disorders and their association with non-medical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder: longitudinal evidence from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psychological Medicine, 42(6), 1261–1272. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291711002145

Kou, R., Chen, H., Yu, M., Xu, T., Fu, S., & Lu, S. (2017). Acupuncture for behavioral changes of experimental depressive disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports7, 9669. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09712-1

Wang, Z., Wang, X., Liu, J., Chen, J., Liu, X., Nie, G., … Kong, J. (2017). Acupuncture treatment modulates the corticostriatal reward circuitry in major depressive disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research84, 18–26. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.09.014

Jiang, H., Zhang, X., Lu, J., Meng, H., Sun, Y., Yang, X., … Bao, T. (2018). Antidepressant-Like Effects of Acupuncture-Insights From DNA Methylation and Histone Modifications of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Frontiers in Psychiatry9, 102. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00102


Natural Therapies for Opioid Addiction

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