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What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

What is opioid use disorder?

People typically want one thing for themselves and their loved ones — to live happy, healthy lives. Many factors and lifestyle choices can lead someone down a path that can harm their overall health. Opioid use disorder is one factor that is affecting people all over the nation today.

Opioid use disorder describes the chronic use of and dependence on opioids. Many people associate opioids with heroin and other illegal substances, but anyone can develop a dependency on opioids after misusing their prescribed medication for pain relief. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 92,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2020. Opioid use disorder is an epidemic in the United States, and knowing the treatment options available can help improve your life or that of your loved one.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic drugs that help the brain provide pain relief to the body. Natural opioids derive from the opium found in poppy plants. Semi-synthetic drugs are a mix of both natural opioids and synthetic drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxymorphone. Synthetic opioids are developed in a lab. Some of the most common opioids include prescription opioids, fentanyl and heroin. Both prescription opioids and fentanyl are controlled substances, and heroin is an illegal semi-synthetic drug.

Signs of Opioid Use Disorder

Substance use disorders describe the behaviors and surrounding drug dependency and how it hinders a person’s life. Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a challenging medical condition that can create a physical dependence on prescription or illegal drugs. Once a person is physically dependent on opioids, they may experience various symptoms when they stop taking them. These symptoms of withdrawal can include severe cravings, elevated heart rate and sweatiness.

You can spot the signs of opioid use disorder in yourself or a loved one when you understand what you’re looking for. Here are some warning signs:


  • Losing control: The first signs of opioid use disorder include taking the substance for longer than intended or taking more of the substance than was prescribed. The person may spend a significant amount of time searching for and obtaining opioids. They may be unsuccessful at limiting their use of the substance even if they try.
  • Social and commitment issues: People may show signs in their social interactions or other aspects of their lives. The use of opioids may start to hinder a person’s ability to successfully fulfill commitments and other big obligations, including work, home or school. Someone may stop attending important work or social events they used to enjoy because of substance use. Opioid use may also continue although the person recognizes it’s impacting their interactions with people in their circle.
  • Risky usage: Signs will begin to increase in severity as opioid abuse continues. People may show continuous habits of using opioids in dangerous scenarios or prolonged use regardless of psychological or physical issues that occur.
  • Other signs: Some other symptoms or signs of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) include weight loss, poor sleep habits, social isolation, drowsiness, flu-like symptoms and decreased exercise habits.

Some individuals may be more susceptible to opioid use disorder because of their genetics or environmental factors. It’s important to remember that developing a substance use disorder doesn’t reflect a person’s moral compass or lack of control. Addiction is a brain disorder that can impact your loved ones or yourself. If you notice signs of opioid use disorder, finding treatment methods is crucial to recovery.

When to Get Help

Seeking help for yourself or a loved one is the first step in treating opioid use disorder. Like other chronic diseases, you can treat addiction. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and substance use counseling are a few ways to overcome the effects of addiction.

Medication-assisted treatment includes the use of medication and counseling sessions to help treat a person with a dependency on opioids. Treatment often includes buprenorphine with naloxone. The brand name for the combination of these drugs is known as Suboxone®Methadone is another effective medication treatment for opioid use along with counseling.

Treatment for opioid use disorder includes various behavioral approaches and encouragement to learn more about relapse prevention and self-help techniques. People can find a treatment path that aligns with them and helps promote recovery.

What to Do if You Are Struggling With Opioids

If you recognize your struggles with opioid use disorder or people in your life are encouraging you to seek treatment, it’s time to get help. The sooner you reach out to an outpatient program, the better. Treatment can help you guide yourself back to a happy and healthy lifestyle free from addiction.

Some ways that people find the inspiration to recover include:

  • Intrinsic motivation: You have the drive to accomplish something for solely yourself. You want to stop using opioids because you want to become healthier and live a better life.
  • Losing important things: Sometimes relationships and things you hold close to you begin to go away because of your struggles with opioid use. That loss can give you the motivation to find treatment.
  • Support: Sometimes a loved one or a group of people that care about you can help motivate your drive to find treatment. They may recognize the signs before you do.

What to Do if Someone You Love Is Struggling With Opioids

Watching a person you care about struggle with opioid use disorder makes a huge impact on your life. You want the best for your loved ones, and you want to help them find recovery options. Sometimes an outside perspective is what it takes for a person to realize how deeply their opioid use is affecting them.

You can help your loved one seek treatment for opioid addiction by:

  • Educating them on the process.
  • Being honest with them about their struggles.
  • Showing them empathy.

Where Can Someone Get Treatment for Addiction?

Change for you or your loved one can start today. Finding a treatment program that provides beneficial counseling options and medication-assisted treatment can make all the difference. BAART Programs is here to support you or your loved one searching for treatment for opioid addiction.

Take the First Step With BAART Programs

BAART Programs offers medication-assisted treatment along with harm reduction techniques and counseling that aims to stop opioid dependency. Find a BAART Programs location near you to embark on your recovery journey or contact us to learn more about our treatment options.

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