What Is Opioid Use Disorder

What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

(Last Updated On: August 16, 2023)

Opioids are medicine that works like a key in a lock on specific cells in our body and brain. Imagine them as special helpers that can soothe pain and relax us.

These cells, known as opioid receptors, are like little doors that only Opioids can open. When the opioid ‘key’ unlocks these doors, it changes how the cells work.

This can help to relieve severe pain, making people feel much better. This is why doctors sometimes prescribe opioids to their patients.

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a harmful substance use disorder that is harmful but is treatable.

Diagnosing OUD is based on factors such as addiction or being unproductive at work, school, or home, among other things. Let’s explore more on this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

OUD has the following signs and symptoms:

Physical Dependence.

Physical dependence is a persistent use of drugs such as opioids leading to addiction despite the harm and health outcomes.

Someone can become physically dependent on opioids even if they are not using them as a prescription.

For example, a patient with chronic pain may not suffer from addiction but physical dependence on opioids.

More Frequent, Unhealthy, or Dangerous Use.

The person keeps using an opioid even though it hurts their health, safety, financial security, or relationships with other people.

A person with an opioid use disorder can’t stop using opioids and is relentless in this lifestyle.


Cravings are intense physical and emotional urges to consume the drug, even though the person knows the health outcomes.

Spotting an opioid use disorder can be a challenge, but there are key signs we can watch for.

One of these is feeling sleepy more often than usual or experiencing changes in when and how well we sleep.

Weight loss can also be a signal, especially when it’s not planned or explained by other factors.

You might notice a loved one frequently seeming like they have the flu, showing symptoms like feeling weak or being sick.

Another sign could be a decrease in interest in intimate relationships.

Lastly, one of the most noticeable signs might be spending less time with family or friends, a withdrawal from social life.

What are the Causes of Opioid Addiction?

Several interconnected factors influence the onset of an opioid use disorder. These include:

Chemical Changes that Occur in the Brain

Opioids have a significant potential for addiction since they stimulate the nervous system. Opioids play a pivotal role in our health.

They are like the ultimate cheerleaders of our brains. They throw a small but delightful party in our brains whenever they’re around.

This wonderful process can bring relief and a sense of calm, making us feel better.

This neurotransmitter reduces the sensation of pain and induces feelings of happiness. As soon as the drug wears off, so do the sensations. Most users keep taking opioids to maintain the sensation.

In as little as 30 to 90 days, opioid use can result in high physical dependence.

Affordability and Availability of Opioids

The availability of opioids is a critical environmental risk factor. The availability and quantity of prescribed opioids, particularly in North America, Western Europe, and Australia, facilitate their accessibility.

Recently, powders and pills sold illegally as heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, or even prescription opioids contain dangerous and often deadly doses of fentanyl.

Human Biology and Genetics

There appears to be a vital hereditary component to the susceptibility to developing any substance use disorder, with 40-60% estimates.

There is an increased risk of developing OUD if a biological parent or sibling also suffers.

Mental Conditions

A history of any of the following mental health issues increases your risk of developing OUD; ADHD, Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, and panic attacks.

Negative Childhood Occurrences

Lifelong health problems, including substance use disorders, are closely linked to a person’s accumulation of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Even if a person has a problem with how they use drugs, they may ignore the severity and avoid any rehabilitation services.

Imagine you’re standing at the start of a journey toward feeling better, eager, and prepared.

Quick access to the right resources and treatments is like opening the door to a brighter, healthier future. It’s like a friendly hand, always there to guide you to better days ahead.


What is the meaning of opioid use disorder?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a medical condition characterized by a problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or distress. Symptoms of the disorder include a strong desire to use opioids, increased tolerance to opioids, failure to fulfill obligations due to opioid use, and withdrawal symptoms with abrupt discontinuation.

How does opioid use disorder happen?

Opioid use disorder typically starts with the voluntary act of taking opioids. This could be in the context of medical treatment for pain where a patient is prescribed opioids or through the recreational use of opioids. Over time, continued use or abuse of these substances can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. These factors, combined with the euphoric effects of the drugs, can contribute to the development of an addiction or disorder.

What is the characteristic of opioid use disorder?

Characteristic symptoms of OUD include cravings for opioids, inability to control or reduce use, persistent desire to quit using, tolerance (needing more of the drug to experience the same effects), and withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. It can also lead to problems at work, school, or home, and continued use despite these problems.

What is prescription opioid use disorder?

Prescription opioid use disorder is a subset of OUD that involves misusing prescribed opioid medications. This can occur when a person takes a medication in a way other than prescribed, takes someone else’s medication, or takes the medication to get high.

What is an example of opioid use?

An example of opioid use would be a person taking prescribed oxycodone to manage pain after surgery. This would be considered appropriate use if taken correctly and briefly. However, misuse could occur if the person continues to take the medication longer than prescribed or begins to take it in higher doses without a physician’s direction.

What are the behaviors of opioid addiction?

Behaviors of opioid addiction can include obsessively thinking about and seeking out opioids, neglecting responsibilities and relationships, engaging in risky behavior, and continued use of opioids despite adverse consequences. Also, individuals may try to hide their use, have unsuccessful attempts to quit, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

What is the most common cause of opioid addiction?

Opioid addiction can sometimes occur due to different reasons. These reasons might be your genes, the world around you, mental health concerns, or too many opioid medications. But remember, everyone’s different. Everyone can face this issue, and not all who face these factors end up with addiction.

Is opioid use disorder permanent?

No, opioid use disorder is not necessarily permanent. Yes, it’s a challenge, but remember, there’s always a beacon of hope for ineffective treatment options.
With these, plus a healthy dose of continuous support, one can reach the beautiful destination of long-term recovery. It’s like climbing a tall mountain – complex but immensely rewarding. So, let’s embrace the journey, knowing that the victory of recovery awaits at the end Treatment often includes medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies.

What are the 3 effects of opioid use?

Three effects of opioid use are a. Physical dependence: The body adapts to the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly. b. Tolerance: More of the drug is needed to achieve the same level of pain relief. c. Overdose: Too much of the drug can cause a dangerous or fatal overdose, especially if combined with other drugs like alcohol or sedatives.