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What is Opioid Use Disorder?

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

May 4th

By definition, “Opioid is a term for a number of natural substances originally derived from the opium poppy and semisynthetic or synthetic chemicals with similar properties that bind to specific opioid receptors in the human brain.”  While opioids are potent pain killers, unfortunately they are also common drugs of misuse because of their wide availability and highly addictive capability.

Opioid use disorder is the chronic use of these opioids that causes clinically significant distress or impairment, including the desire to obtain and take opioids despite serious social, physical and professional consequences.   Opioid use disorder involves compulsive, long-term self-administration of opioids for non-medical purposes. Some common behaviors that can signal opioid use disorder, or misuse of opioids, are as follows: 

  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or for a longer time than intended
  • Persistently desiring or unsuccessfully attempting to decrease opioid use
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from opioids
  • Craving opioids
  • Failing repeatedly to meet obligations at work, home, or school because of opioids
  • Continuing to use opioids despite having recurrent social or interpersonal problems because of opioids
  • Giving up important social, work, or recreational activities because of opioids
  • Using opioids in physically hazardous situations
  • Continuing to use opioids despite having a physical or mental disorder caused or worsened by opioids
  • Having tolerance to opioids (not a criterion when use is medically appropriate)
  • Having opioid withdrawal symptoms or taking opioids because of withdrawal

Since the beginning of 2020, the number of opioid overdose deaths has increased dramatically. Florida experienced a 39% increase in overdose deaths in just one year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 100,000 Americans were lost to overdose deaths in 2020 –with more than 7,800 deaths in Florida.  Opioid use disorders affect over 16 million people worldwide, over 2.1 million in the United States, and there are over 120,000 deaths worldwide annually attributed to opioids. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing opioid use disorder, here are some things you can do.  First, is carry Narcan with you at all times. Sudden death due to acute opioid intoxication is always a risk. Narcan is used to reverse an opioid overdose, and comes as a nasal spray. Narcan is usually given by a friend, caregiver or loved one if they think opioid overdose has occurred. After Narcan has been given, 911 should be called right away. Administering Narcan is not a substitute for emergency medical care for opioid overdose.

Next, you can seek treatment.  SMA Healthcare offers a comprehensive set of medical and clinical services to help you treat opioid use disorder and bring it under control or in complete remission.  SMA’s Medication Assisted Treatment program can provide maintenance medications using buprenorprine, an oral opioid. Oral opioids suppress withdrawal symptoms and drug craving without providing a significant high or over-sedation and, by eliminating supply problems, enable those fighting opioid use disorder to be socially productive.  Buprenorphrine can be tapered over time for those desiring to enter into complete opioid remission.

SMA also offers individual and group counseling services to assist individuals in treating the environmental and psychological issues associated with opioid use disorder.  Personal trauma is a significant issue for many experiencing opioid use disorder that can be addressed by motivational, cognitive-behavioral and mutual help counseling services and programs.  

Learn more about SMA Healthcare’s programs for treating opioid use disorder by contacting our crisis response team at 800-539-4228.