Understanding Opioid Use Disorder

Table of Contents

Opioid Use Disorder, or OUD, is a medical condition that involves a strong desire to use opioids and trouble controlling or stopping their use. This includes prescribed drugs like painkillers or illegal ones like heroin.

People with OUD can face health issues, broken relationships, and challenges in their everyday life. They’re also at risk of a dangerous overdose. But the person using opioids isn’t the only one affected. OUD can have a ripple effect, touching families, friends, and entire communities.

Understanding Opioid Use Disorder

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid Use Disorder, often known as OUD, is when a person struggles to stop or control their use of opioids, even when it’s causing problems in their life.

But why can’t people just stop using opioids? Here’s the simple reason:

  • The brain gets hooked: When opioids are used, they attach to something in the brain called an “opioid receptor.” This sends signals of pain relief and sometimes a feeling of happiness. The brain likes this, and it starts to want more opioids to keep these good feelings going. This is called physical tolerance.

  • Avoiding bad feelings: As the brain gets used to opioids, it reacts badly when they’re not there. This reaction is known as withdrawal symptoms, which can include things like being very unhappy, having trouble sleeping, or feeling sick. Using opioids again can relieve these bad feelings, so the person is tempted to keep using them, even if they don’t want to.

Types of Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a broad category of drugs that include both legal prescription pain medications and illegal substances. Opioid addiction can manifest in several forms, depending on the specific type of opioid that is being misused. Here are some of the most common types of opioid addiction:

  • Prescription Opioid Addiction: Prescription opioids are often prescribed by doctors to manage acute pain following surgeries or severe chronic pain conditions. Common prescription opioids include Oxycodone (OxyContin), Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Morphine, and Fentanyl. While these medications can be safe when used as directed, misuse can lead to addiction.

  • Heroin Addiction: Heroin is an illegal opioid that is often used by those who have already developed an addiction to prescription opioids but are unable to obtain them any longer. Heroin use comes with its own set of risks, including the potential for overdose and contraction of diseases from shared needles.

  • Fentanyl Addiction: While Fentanyl is a prescription opioid, it is often used illicitly due to its high potency. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs like heroin or cocaine, often without the user’s knowledge, increasing the risk of overdose.

  • Codeine Addiction: Codeine is a less potent opioid often found in prescription cough syrups or combination pain medications. Misuse can still lead to addiction and other health complications.

How Many People Have Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid Use Disorder is a widespread problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 1.6 million people in the U.S. had OUD in 2020.

Why Do People Develop Opioid Use Disorder?

There are many reasons why someone might develop OUD. These can include:

  • Pain control: Some people start using opioids because they have severe or acute pain. The opioids provide pain relief, and the person may end up using more of them to keep the pain away.

  • Environmental factors: The people around us and where we live can affect whether we start using drugs. If a person is around others who misuse opioids or live in an area where opioid use is common, they might be more likely to start using them.

  • Mental illness: People with mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, may be more likely to develop a substance use disorder, including OUD.

  • Unused opioids: Having unused opioids around can tempt a person to use them, leading to potential misuse and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid Use Disorder, or OUD, can affect people in many ways. It can change how they act, how they feel, and even how they look. If someone you know is dealing with OUD, they might have some of these signs or symptoms:

Physical and Behavioral Signs

Several physical and behavioral signs may suggest a person has OUD:

  • Taking more opioids: Someone with OUD might take more opioid medications or drugs than they mean to, even if they want to stop or have tried to quit.

  • Looking different: They may seem tired a lot, have pupils that look smaller than usual, or lose weight without trying.

  • Changing habits: They may spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from opioids.

  • Having withdrawal symptoms: If they try to stop or use fewer opioids, they might feel sick. These withdrawal symptoms can include shaking, sweating, feeling nervous, and even feeling physical pain.

Psychological and Social Effects

Having OUD can also cause changes in a person’s mood and relationships:

  • Feeling down: They may feel anxious, sad, or even have thoughts of suicide.

  • Having trouble at school or work: OUD can make it hard to focus or do well in these areas.

  • Fighting with loved ones: They might start having more arguments with friends or family members because of their opioid use.

Long-Term Risks of Opioid Use

Over time, OUD can lead to some serious problems:

  • Risk of overdose: Opioid use, especially when opioids are taken in large amounts or mixed with other substances, can lead to overdose deaths.

  • Becoming physically dependent: With OUD, the body can become used to having opioids. This physical dependence means a person might feel very sick (experience withdrawal symptoms) if they stop taking opioids. This is one reason why it can be so hard to quit.

  • Chronic health problems: Long-term opioid use can also lead to other health problems, like chronic pain or trouble sleeping.

  • Potential for other substance use disorders: Some people with OUD may also struggle with using other drugs or substances, leading to other substance use disorders.

Opioid Use Disorder can cause a lot of harm, but it’s important to remember that it’s a medical condition. Just like with other medical conditions, people with OUD need help, not judgment, to get better. If you or a loved one is dealing with OUD, it’s okay to reach out. We are here to offer compassionate and personalized support. Give us a call today at (323) 307-7997, or send us a message from our contact page to schedule your consultation.

Causes of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a complex condition, and its causes are just as intricate. Several factors can contribute to the development of this disorder, making it a combination of biological, environmental, and circumstantial influences.

Biological and Genetic Factors

While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, our biology, especially our genes, can play a critical role in determining our risk for OUD:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some people might be more likely to develop the disorder because of their family history. Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests certain genes and genetic traits can make an individual more susceptible to addiction.

  • Opioid receptors and physical dependence: The human brain contains opioid receptors, which are activated by opioid drugs, producing pain relief and feelings of euphoria. Over time, a person can develop a physical dependence on opioids, where their body needs the drug to function normally.

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors

Our surroundings and the company we keep can also greatly influence the likelihood of developing OUD:

  • Availability of opioids: If opioids are common where you live, or among your friends or family, you might be more likely to start using them. Easy access to opioids, both prescription and illicit, can increase the risk of misuse.

  • Social and peer pressure: Pressure from peers or a cultural environment that normalizes drug abuse can significantly contribute to opioid misuse.

Chronic Pain and Opioid Dependence

Medical conditions and the way they are managed can also contribute to the onset of OUD:

  • Prescription for pain management: Sometimes, doctors prescribe opioids to help with severe or chronic pain. They are powerful painkillers and can be highly effective in the short term.

  • Misuse and dependence: Over time, a person might start to misuse opioids, taking more than the prescribed dose to achieve the same pain relief. This can lead to a cycle of increasing use, leading to physical dependence and the potential for addiction.

While these factors might make a person more prone to develop OUD, having these risk factors does not guarantee the onset of the disorder. Also, not having them does not make a person immune. Understanding these factors, however, can provide information for preventive measures and early intervention.

Treatment Options for Opioid Use Disorder

Medication and Therapy

Medications can help treat opioid use disorder. They can prevent withdrawal symptoms and relieve opioid cravings. Behavioral therapies can also help people learn new ways to cope without opioids.

Detoxification and Rehabilitation

In detoxification programs, medical professionals help a person safely stop taking opioids. Rehabilitation programs help a person stay away from opioids in the long term.

Comprehensive Care and Support Systems

For successful recovery, a person needs more than just medical treatment. Support from family members, counselors, or groups like Narcotics Anonymous can be very important.

Seeking Help and Recovery Resources

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a challenging battle to fight but remember: no one has to do it alone. There are several resources available to support those grappling with OUD. It’s advised to reach out and take advantage of these avenues of help.

Finding Help for Opioid Use Disorder

If you or a loved one is struggling with OUD, seeking professional help is a crucial step. The sooner you reach out, the sooner recovery can begin.

Reach out to addiction medicine specialists. Professionals specialized in addiction medicine have the training and knowledge to diagnose and treat OUD effectively. They can devise a tailored treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, and other strategies to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and support recovery.

Support Groups and Community Resources

Support groups and community resources are invaluable in the journey toward recovery. They offer a safe and understanding environment where individuals can share experiences, learn from each other, and draw strength from mutual support.

  • Participate in local support groups: Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous provide a platform where people with similar experiences come together. It’s a place where stories are shared, advice is given, and listening ears are always available.

  • Explore online resources: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, among other organizations, provides comprehensive online resources, including information on OUD and guidance on finding local treatment services.

Aftercare and Ongoing Support

Recovery from OUD is not just about stopping drug use—it’s about building a new life where it’s easier not to use. Aftercare and ongoing support play a vital role in maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse.

  • Maintain regular follow-ups with healthcare providers: Consistent engagement with healthcare providers can help monitor recovery progress, manage withdrawal symptoms, and adapt the treatment plan as necessary.

  • Stay connected with support groups: Continuing to attend support group meetings can provide a continuous source of encouragement, motivation, and practical advice.

  • Consider sober living homes or recovery housing: These provide a safe and supportive living environment for individuals recovering from substance use disorders. They can be particularly helpful for those who don’t have a supportive and stable home environment.

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Recovery from OUD is possible, and with the right support, anyone can navigate their path to a healthier future.


Opioid Use Disorder is a serious medical condition that affects many people. It has many causes and can lead to harmful consequences like overdose. However, there are treatments available and resources to help those in need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OUD, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. You are not alone, and there are many people and resources ready to support you.

Take Action Now with NuView Treatment Center

Every journey starts with a single step, and that includes your journey toward recovery from Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). NuView Treatment Center is here to be your ally, guiding you on the road to recovery with comprehensive care.

NuView’s team of specialists understands the unique challenges presented by OUD, and we’re prepared to help you navigate each one. We provide individualized treatment plans for your needs, considering factors like your personal history, lifestyle, and goals for recovery. You’ll not only receive medical care but also the emotional support and guidance that are crucial for long-term recovery.

Take that first brave step towards a healthier, opioid-free future. Reach out to NuView Treatment Center today, and let’s walk this journey to recovery together. Call us today at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page to schedule your friendly and personalized consultation.

“Data Overview | Opioids | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Jun. 2022, www.cdc.gov/opioids/data/index.html.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)?

    Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a medical condition. It is when a person cannot stop or control their use of opioids. Opioids are a type of drug that includes both legal drugs, like prescription pain relievers, and illegal drugs, like heroin.

  • What are the Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder?

    Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder might include strong cravings for opioids, inability to control or reduce use, and withdrawal symptoms like restlessness and mood swings if someone stops taking opioids.

  • What Causes Opioid Use Disorder?

    There are many factors that can contribute to the development of Opioid Use Disorder. This might include things like genetics, environment, and lifestyle factors. It can also occur in people who were legally prescribed opioids for things like pain relief.

  • How is Opioid Use Disorder Treated?

    Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder often involves a combination of medication and behavioral therapies. Medications can help to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while behavioral therapies can help people change their thinking and behavior related to drug use.

  • Where Can Someone Get Help for Opioid Use Disorder?

    Help for Opioid Use Disorder is available from many sources. This might include healthcare providers, mental health professionals, and addiction treatment programs. There are also support groups available both in-person and online.

  • What is Being Done to Address the Opioid Crisis?

    Many things are being done to address the Opioid Crisis. This includes measures like better access to treatment, increased distribution of naloxone (a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose), and laws to regulate how opioids are prescribed.

  • How Can I Help Someone With Opioid Use Disorder?

    If you know someone with Opioid Use Disorder, there are several ways you can help. This might include offering emotional support, encouraging them to seek help, and educating yourself about Opioid Use Disorder so you can understand what they’re going through.

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