Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder refers to an addiction to opioids. Addiction is defined as an irresistible craving for opioids, the continued use of opioids even when they are no longer medically necessary, or the misuse of opioids. Anyone who takes opioids is at risk for developing addiction due to the habit-forming nature of the drugs.

People Affected

Opioid misuse is currently one of the major contributors to overdose deaths in the U.S., making up approximately 70% of deaths. Since 2013, a large portion of these overdose cases has involved synthetic opioids such as Tramadol and Fentanyl, both prescribed or illicitly manufactured according to the CDC.

Risk Factors

Taking prescription opioids, or using them recreationally, is the main risk factor for developing an addiction to them. Others factors can also contribute to a higher risk of addiction, such as: 

  • Family history of addiction

  • Mental health disorders

  • Peer pressure

  • Lack of a strong support system

  • Early use

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and misuse include: 

  • Reduced sense of pain

  • Agitation, drowsiness, sedation

  • Slurred speech

  • Difficulty focusing and remembering

  • Constricted pupils

  • Lack of awareness

  • Coordination problems

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Constipation

  • Runny nose

  • Nose sores (if snorting drugs)

  • Needle marks (if injecting drugs)

Medical Experts

Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health disorders, which include substance abuse such as opioid use disorder. 

Psychologist: Psychologists are licensed counselors who may aid in the diagnosis and treatment of opioid addiction alongside a psychiatrist. 

Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor: Certified alcohol and drug counselors specialize in addiction counseling, education, and support. They may serve a supplementary role alongside a psychiatrist as well.


Diagnosis of addiction typically requires a thorough evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine, and lab tests may be used in conjunction with this assessment.

Prescription Treatment

There are a variety of prescription medications that can help reduce physical dependence on opioids, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and increase safety in case of overdose. Called opioid partial agonists, these drugs cause a weaker version of the euphoria or respiratory depression you might feel when taking full opioid agonists (such as methadone or heroin). This means they have a lower potential for abuse.

  • Suboxone

  • Revia 

  • Vivitrol