National opioid-related fatal overdose rates have skyrocketed in the last decade. In 2021 alone there were 80,411 opioid-related deaths, doubling the recorded amount in 2017 just a few years prior. Opioid use disorder (OUD) has devastatingly grown into an epidemic that impacts our entire nation, and touches almost every family personally. As this epidemic continues to grow, it’s important to understand OUD and to recognize how the Millions of individuals suffering from it are being impacted currently. In this post we will outline what OUD is, as well as some commonly prescribed opioids. We will also dig into symptoms and treatment for OUD later in the post, keep reading to learn more.

What is Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)?

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a substance use disorder that is classified by a problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or stress. A diagnosis of OUD is based on specific criteria such as unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use or use resulting in a failure to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home, among other criteria.

OUD can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic class or other social identifiers. OUD is classified as a medical condition, and is the leading cause for overdose rates in the U.S. – learn more about overdose prevention and reversal medications like Narcan here.

a photograph of a narcan nasal spray, still in sterile packaging, in front of the box it comes packaged in.

Some Commonly Prescribed Opioids

Prescription opioids are powerful pain-relievers, also known as pain killers, that are often prescribed in a clinical setting. While there are commonly known opioids that are non-prescribed, such as heroin, the increased misuse of prescription opioids can be tied directly to rising opioid overdose rates. For this reason, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with commonly prescribed opioids.
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone
  • OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®, vinza®)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Tapentadol

Symptoms of OUD

According to the DSM-5, OUD can be defined by the repeated occurrence, within 12 months, of two or more of the following problems:

  • Continued use despite worsening physical or psychological health
  • Continued use leading to social and interpersonal consequences
  • Decreased social or recreational activities
  • Difficulty fulfilling professional duties at school or work
  • Excessive time to obtain opioids, or recover from taking them
  • More taken than intended
  • The individual has cravings
  • The individual is unable to decrease the amount used
  • Tolerance
  • Using despite it being physically dangerous settings
  • Withdrawal

During diagnosis a full medical history of each patient will also be considered, including physical injuries, as well as social and mental health history.

Treatment for OUD

While comprehensive treatment options may vary from client to client, treatment for OUD typically begins with a cognitive behavioral approach. A comprehensive treatment plan will likely include therapy, long-term or short-term treatment program (in-patient or out-patient), recovery coaching or peer service support, and potentially medication-assisted treatment. To learn more about medication-assisted treatment options like Suboxone check out our post here. Below are some treatment resources:

  • Medication-assisted treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Peer support
  • 12-step groups, like AA or NA
  • Inpatient and residential treatment
  • Individual and group counseling

The first step in getting help for OUD is getting a chemical health assessment. From here, you can work with a licensed professional, or other support options to find a program that fits for you. If you need to be connected with someone who can help guide you through this process, try talking to a Peer Professional. Peers have gone through similar lived experiences and have extensive knowledge and resources to provide you with.

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Is Treatable

OUD currently accounts for over half of reported overdose fatalities, and while that figure is quite grim, it’s critical that we continue raising awareness. Increasing access to resources, raising general awareness, and breaking the stigma surrounding OUD are all ways we can combat this epidemic. Check out our blog for more resources, and get in touch with someone who can help immediately below!

Need to Refer Someone for an Assessment?

If you know someone who is struggling with OUD and needs to take the first step towards help, refer them for an assessment today. Use our online instant booking tool to schedule an assessment now!


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