What is Opioid Use Disorder? - Riverwalk Recovery Center
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What is Opioid Use Disorder?

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Understanding Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is one part of the ongoing health crisis around opioid use. Because opioids are very effective painkillers, people overuse them at a higher rate. Opioid overuse happens often if they are not used sparingly and carefully. Unfortunately, the number of opioid overdose deaths is rising as a result. Some people develop a condition called Opioid Use Disorder. Here is a detailed look at what it is and how it is treated.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

OUD is a condition where a person uses opioids because they have become dependent or addicted to them. Opioids are highly effective at relieving pain symptoms, which is why they are used as a stronger form of pain control. People can continue taking opioids after they don’t need to anymore, which leads to OUD.

Dependence vs. Addiction

OUD is caused by two distinct conditions: dependence and addiction. They are not the same although many people may think that they are. Dependence is a condition where a person learns to rely on medications. They may start taking medications because they need to, but they do not stop once the need is gone. Instead, they use those medications to hold off the pain that they would otherwise be able to handle without medication. For example, if a person gets used to using opioids as a method of avoiding pain whether they need them or not, that person is dependent on them. They choose to take medications rather than dealing with their pain as a matter of habit. Addiction is a condition where people need to continue taking medication because their bodies adjusted to it. There is a biological need to continue and they likely will until they can get the right treatment.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Options

It is possible to treat Opioid Use Disorder, although it is something that needs to be monitored and controlled for the rest of that person’s life. Once OUD is treated, it is easy to fall back into the same behavior under the right circumstances. This is why treatment must include short-term behavioral change options and long-term behavior management.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

OUD can be treated by a combination of medications, treatments, counseling, and behavioral therapy. Medications for treatment include the following:
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine
These medications are used to replace opioids so that patients can wean off of opioids slowly. Using them raises your chances of successfully detoxing and continuing treatment. They are also used to manage withdrawal and ongoing symptoms so that patients can focus on counseling and other treatment methods.

Counseling Options

Counseling and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OUD treatment options are recommended for anyone trying to stop using opioids. To do so, patients need help changing their behavior. CBT, in particular, helps patients analyze their behavior and reprogram it so that they can make better decisions in the future. Counseling and treatment options for Opioid Use Disorder include the following:
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Community support groups
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Treatment programs coordinate the medication with counseling and other treatment options to create a more comprehensive approach to recovery.

Long-Term Outcomes for Opioid Use Disorder

Once the primary treatment method, such as a detox program, is completed, patients need long-term care. Before leaving a treatment program, patients should work with a treatment specialist to develop a comprehensive aftercare plan. That way, there is no interruption to their care. Continuing therapy, especially CBT, can be beneficial to patients. Opioid Use Disorder can come back after it has been treated. The patient feels the influence of OUD for the rest of his or her life. CBT and other forms of counseling can help control any urges to take more medication.

Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

Most people who take opioids as a means of pain control develop a mild dependence. Those people have no problem controlling their use or taking the medication in the right amounts. A mild dependence means that they can go months without opioids, but they do not want to. They may just prefer to have them around for comfort. A person with full Opioid Use Disorder will experience the following symptoms:
  • Frequent opioid use
  • Using opioids for a longer duration than originally intended
  • Taking opioids in higher doses than initially intended
  • Obsessing over getting opioids
  • Continuing to use even if there
Overcoming opioid use disorder may seem overwhelming at first. However, the work is mostly in the detox process. There are different options for treatment. These options can be used in various combinations to create the best treatment plan. Work with your pharmacist to see if there are any other treatment options. An opioid use treatment program can help you overcome opioid use. At Riverwalk, patients seek treatment for a variety of conditions, including opioid overuse situations. Contact the Riverwalk Recovery Center at (423) 264-2600 to discuss your Opioid Use Disorder treatment options, as well as completing an assessment to determine if the program is right for you.  
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