The holidays, depression and opioids: coping with a delicate combination

The holiday season is a festive time of year, filled with family, friends, presents, parties and laughter. But some people find all the hosting and party hopping overwhelming. Sometimes, beneath the eggnog and mistletoe, lingers depression and anxiety. Add to this an opioid prescription, the weight of the holidays can lead to larger problems. Priority Health wants to help you identify depression and opioid abuse, and offer support through the holidays and all year round.

While many people take narcotics or opioid pain relievers for chronic pain, others may reach for them when feeling depressed or anxious. Depression or anxiety can lead to opioid abuse—and vice versa—which can spur many health risks, including addiction. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, "Opioid abuse has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders." What's more is that opioid use can be habit-forming—especially when administered outside of your doctor's care. Before you look to pain medication to help you cope, seek support.

If you're uncertain whether you or a family member is at risk or struggling with opioids, depression, anxiety or all three, the following can help you spot signs of struggle—and offer ways to get the help you need.

Some signs of depression include:

  • Lack of interest or energy
  • Feeling down or irritable
  • Unable to sleep or sleeping too much
  • No appetite or overeating
  • Trouble focusing
  • Suicidal thoughts

Beyond depression, your body may also become tolerant to the prescribed dose you're taking for your chronic pain and you may need more pills to get back those happy feelings and continue to block your pain. Know your warning signs:

  • Do you take more pills than prescribed or for a longer period of time than prescribed?
  • Do you need a higher dosage for the same effect?
  • Do you experience cravings for the drug?
  • Does taking the drug interfere with work, school or other activities?

What are your options if you believe you or your family member is depressed and/or may be addicted to an opioid?

Call us. We will direct you to counselors who can help you for the long term. Our highly trained team members will listen to your situation and walk you through potential support options.


  • All calls are completely confidential
  • You don't have to call your primary care doctor first
  • Please keep your membership card handy to verify your coverage

Call: 616.464.8500 or 800.673.8043, Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. or Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After hours: If your situation is life-threatening, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. If it's not an emergency, call us at the numbers above. Remember, the most important thing is to reach out.