Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder, or opioid abuse or dependence, is a pattern of opioid use that leads to significant negative impacts on a person’s life and daily functioning. Opioids are a category of synthetic drugs including painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and others. The term “opioids” can also refer to opiate drugs derived from natural plant matter such as opium, morphine, codeine and heroin.

The risk of misusing opioids or becoming addicted to opioid drugs is high because of the endorphins these drugs release in your brain, creating powerful feelings of euphoria, pleasure and well-being. In addition, even when opioids are being used as prescribed, such as for severe pain, they create physical dependence in the body that leads to withdrawal when the individual stops taking the medication.

Signs of Opioid Addiction


The following signs and behaviors indicate that an individual has become physically and psychologically addicted to opiates:

  • Running out of prescription opioids early
  • Developing a tolerance to opioids or requiring more and more of the drug to get the desired effect
  • Cravings
  • Trying unsuccessfully to stop using opioids despite wanting to quit or cut down
  • Crushing, snorting, smoking or injecting opioids
  • Feeling sick when abruptly stopping opioid use (withdrawal)
  • “Nodding off” or otherwise seeming intoxicated by opioids

Opioid use that interferes with a person’s relationships and responsibilities or requires them to seek out opioids from multiple sources (such as seeing more than one physician for prescription painkillers and/or buying opioids on the street) also indicate opioid dependence or addiction.

Facts About Opioids

  • 3 million U.S. citizens suffer from opioid use disorder
  • Individuals who are treated for pain using opioids, especially for more than 90 days, are at risk of developing an addiction
  • In 2017, opioid overdose was declared a national emergency by the U.S. government
  • In 2021, it is estimated that more than 80,000 people died from an overdose involving an opioid
  • Opioids are involved in more than 75% of all drug overdose deaths

Despite these grave statistics, through FDA-approved medications administered by a physician and/or proven therapeutic approaches as part of a structured treatment program, achieving freedom from opioid addiction is possible.

Get Help for Opioid Addiction

Individuals with opioid use disorder are never advised to attempt detoxification, withdrawal management or recovery on their own, without support from medical professionals, because of the risk of relapse, overdose and death.

At Real Recovery, you or your loved one can recover from opioid use disorder with effective, evidence-based treatments, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT), individual and family therapy, mindfulness skill development and more.