Depression & Oxy Addiction: Finding Coping Tools in Recovery

Teenage girl struggling with addiction

A study from Saint Louis University suggested that long-term or chronic use of opioid painkillers significantly increases the risks of major depression.

Medical records of about 50,000 veterans were analyzed who were given opioid painkillers for the first time in their life and had no history of depression. It was concluded that patients who, over 180 days or more, consumed opioids had a 53 percent greater risk of developing depression.

“These findings suggest that the longer one is exposed to opioid analgesics, the greater is their risk of developing depression,” said Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study. “Opioids have long been known to allay pain and suffering, but reports of adverse effects are abundant and continue to emerge.”

In fact, recent studies have indicated that the use of prescription opioid analgesics, such as Oxycodone, has increased fivefold, as more than 200 million prescriptions were issued in the U.S. in 2009.

“Even though the risk is not huge, there is enough exposure that we may have a public health problem,” Scherrer concluded. [1]

Woman laying in the leavesWhat is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone, an opioid analgesic, is a potent painkiller used to manage moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone influences the brain and central nervous system (CNS), targeting brain cells called neurons that enable the perception and interpretation of pain.

Neurons in other regions of the brain can be affected by this drug as well, giving rise to side effects such as depression.  Contrarily, it has been reported that opioid analgesics can relieve the user of depressive symptoms, as well. As an opiate, Oxycodone shares close similarities with heroin.

It elevates levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps register pleasure in the brain and create a euphoric high. [2]

The Importance of New Healthy Coping Tools

Substance abuse is, in itself, a coping strategy. It is not, however, a healthy or effective one in the long term as it leads to building up a tolerance and, ultimately, dependence. Most individuals resort to alcohol or drugs because they struggle to deal with life events.

Since recovery is essentially learning to give up an ineffective coping strategy, it leaves a void that needs to be filled with new coping strategies to effectively handle any challenges. Hence, the main goal of the first few years of sobriety should be developing and testing new coping strategies.

Whilst in recovery, the feeling of not being able to cope can quickly lead to relapse. This is because recovery is unsatisfactory when people feel overwhelmed by problems. The easiest thing to do then is to just go right back to substance abuse knowing that it does work, even if temporarily.

There is no tailor-made system; each individual needs to pick their own set of effective coping strategies, what works best for them.

Tips for Healthy Coping Tools in Addiction Recovery

Below are discussed a few of the many coping strategies that you can benefit from during addiction recovery:

Relaxation techniques. Relaxation is essential to recovery. These techniques may range from simple acts, like going for a walk, to structured activities, such as meditation and yoga. It is important to take out some time everyday to just relax and recharge yourself to cope with anxiety and stress.

Meditation. Even though meditation is often accompanied with a religious association, you do not necessarily have to be religious to reap the benefits of this highly effective coping tool. It doesn’t always involve an elaborate structure, but can be as simple as taking out a few minutes during a day, retreating into a quiet place and sitting in silence, focusing on just your breathing.

Exercise. Exercise is easily considered one of the best coping mechanisms in addiction recovery. Not only does it help maintain good physical health, a better sleeping schedule and decrease the probability of developing several serious physical ailments, it can also help enhance emotional well being.

Research has shown exercise to have an elevated effect on mood and act as effective as any antidepressant. It also helps manage stress, elevate levels of self-confidence and enhance self-esteem.

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active attention on the present, a focus on your thoughts and feelings without any judgment involved. This is particularly important, as one of the best ways to avoid a relapse is by staying positive. It doesn’t mean to trivialize the negativity, but rather acknowledge it and deal with it in all awareness.

Support groups. Social isolation during recovery is probably one of the biggest triggers of relapse. It is important to have an outlet, a trusted friend or peers who share your experience, to express your feelings, thoughts and fears to.

Support groups are a highly effective support system to have under such circumstances where you can willingly and openly exchange your experiences with individuals who are going through the same thing. Therapy is also a common coping tool to talk about your experiences and transition with ease into the daily life.

Channeling your emotions positively. It is important to steer away from negative emotions, like anger, and transform them into more enriching experiences. One way to do this is to become a part of charities, volunteer organizations or propagate your message through a self-help book or motivational speaking.

Whether you initiate your project or join someone else’s, channeling your emotions into helping someone else is mutually beneficial and helps healing through recovery.

Woman seeking funding for addiction treatmentStress/anger management. Handling disabling emotions, such as stress and anger, is vital for a successful recovery because any such vulnerability can push you into a downward spiral where you lose control over yourself. This could be something as simple as just taking a deep breath, that is deep breathing exercises, or enlist the help of other options, such as art or music therapy. [3]

What’s most important is to be aware that you are given a second chance at life and for your own and your loved ones’ sake, you have to make the most of it. Resorting to Oxycodone is not your only option to handle difficulties in life. Understanding that is your first step to recovery.

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 30, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 30, 2017
Published on

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.