People with an opioid disorder have an addiction to natural or man-made drugs known as opioids.1 Some opioids are legal such as prescription medication. But other opioids like heroin are illegal to make and distribute.2
Opioids are prescribed for toothache, back pain, or chronic illness.3 When an opioid disorder develops, the person’s life changes. The overuse of opioids can lead to irritability, mood swings, and difficulty performing daily tasks.4
But if you are dealing with an opioid disorder, you’re not alone. In the US, nearly 2.1 million people have an opioid disorder. Roughly 16 million people in the world have an opioid disorder.5 Yet opioid disorder doesn’t discriminate against age. Approximately 1.9 million adolescents had an opioid disorder in 2018.6
If you are dealing with an opioid disorder, please seek help because treatment is available.
An opioid disorder is caused by multiple reasons such as environment, genes, lifestyle, and the effects of opioid use on the brain.78 But the most significant influence is your brain’s reaction to the drugs. Opioids block pain and create artificial endorphins that increase feeling good. When too much opioid is consumed, your brain relies on artificial endorphins. In turn, your body and mind can’t function without the drugs.9
The signs and symptoms of opioid disorder include:
- Using larger than required amounts of drugs
- Taking drugs for longer than needed for an extended period
- Constant craving for the drugs
- Unable to reduce use of the drugs
- Wasting time trying to obtain the drugs
- Unable to complete school, work, or personal responsibilities
- Continuing to use the drugs even though your health is negatively impacted10
However, this isn’t a definitive list of signs and symptoms. If you think an opioid disorder is present, contact mental health services.
- Behavioral therapies and counseling
- Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
- Hospital-based or residential treatment
American Psychiatric Association. “Opioid Use Disorder | Psychiatry.org.” www.psychiatry.org, 2018,
www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/opioid-use-disorder. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
Dydyk, Alexander M., et al. “Opioid Use Disorder.” PubMed, StatPearls Publishing, 2020,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553166/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
familydoctor.org editorial staff. “Opioid Addiction: Signs & Treatment – Familydoctor.org.” Familydoctor.org, 1 July 2006,
familydoctor.org/condition/opioid-addiction/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
Hudgins, Joel D., et al. “Prescription Opioid Use and Misuse among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States: A National Survey Study.” PLOS Medicine, vol. 16, no. 11, 5 Nov. 2019, p. e1002922, journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002922, 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002922. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
MedlinePlus. “Opioid Addiction: MedlinePlus Genetics.” Medlineplus.gov, 18 Aug. 2020, medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/opioid-addiction/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
—. “Opioid Misuse and Addiction Treatment.” Medlineplus.gov, National Library of Medicine, 2019, medlineplus.gov/opioidmisuseandaddictiontreatment.html. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is Heroin and How Is It Used?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-heroin. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.