America’s ongoing struggle with an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction is no secret, with countless lives lost along the way. Opioid abuse is incredibly common in America, with an estimated 11 million Americans having abused opioids in 2016. Opioid abuse occurs in a variety of circumstances, with people turning to different drugs for different reasons. Some use heroin recreationally because of its euphoric effects on mood, while others fall into opioid abuse via prescribed painkillers for chronic pain or post-surgery pain management. While many stories of opioid abuse seem to lead to the same devastating ends, this does not have to be the case. Learning what constitutes an Opioid Use Disorder is the first step to seeking proper care and working towards recovery.
Defining Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid Use Disorder is defined in the newest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) as “a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress”. In simpler terms, “impairment or distress” refers to opioid use that interferes with one’s life or health to a significant degree. This may take the form of problems with relationships or work, an inability to control one’s behavior with regard to the substance, or the development of a tolerance and dependence on a given opioid.
Signs and Severity of an Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid Use Disorder may present differently in each individual, but it has specific
diagnostic criteria that differ in number and severity based on the seriousness of the individual’s disorder. The DSM used to differentiate between Opioid Abuse and Opioid Dependence, but these are now both included under the general Opioid Use Disorder. Common signs and behavior associated with an opioid use disorder include, but are not limited to the following:
General Signs of OUD
- Using prescription opioids in more volume or more often than directed in original prescription
- Using other drugs (prescriptions, alcohol, illegal drugs) when prescription opioids are not available.
- Using prescription opioids in combination with alcohol or other drugs.
- Intense cravings and need to use opioids
- Inability to use less or stop using opioids
Behavioral Signs of OUD
A person who has an opioid use disorder often exhibits a number of telltale behavioral signs that they are addicted to opioids. They often present as:
- Withdrawal from social settings
- Withdrawal from sports, clubs, activities they previously enjoyed
- Heightened mood swings
- Avoidance of family and friends
- Missing work or school
- Losing job or getting into trouble at school
- Increase in sleeping, lack of motivation
- Problems with finances
- Acting reckless, making poor decisions
Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, the DSM notes, “are not considered to be met for
individuals taking opioids solely under appropriate medical supervision” of these symptoms must have occurred within the past year for a diagnosis of OUD to be made.
Further, the number of these symptoms present indicates the severity of a case of OUD. The presence of 2 to 3 of the DSM’s symptoms indicates a mild case, 4 to 5 a moderate case, and 6 or more a severe one.
The Importance of Seeking Care for OUD
OUD can develop in anyone, but most commonly develops in the late teens or early 20s.
With the severe health risks of opioid abuse, whether in the form of prescription painkillers or illicit substances like heroin, seeking professional treatment and recovery is vital for anyone who feels they may be reliant on opioids. If one is unsure whether their use constitutes a disorder, the answer is to consult a medical professional. Addiction does not always look like the life-ravaging examples one hears about in the news, but seeking help through proper channels is no less necessary in these cases.
Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers a unique inpatient rehab program that combines a foundation of 12-step work with proven clinical treatment modalities. Our approach to addiction recovery includes therapy, life skills training, instruction in coping and relapse prevention techniques, and individualized care from a team of compassionate, experienced professionals. Our opioid rehab centers (also treating alcohol and other drug addictions) provide a supportive community and safe, beautiful environment in which to recover from Opioid Use Disorder and learn to manage and treat any co-occurring conditions that may be contributing to it.