An estimated 2 million Americans suffer from opioid painkiller abuse, with another 591,000 having a heroin use disorder. Despite these staggering numbers, opioid use disorder remains poorly understood. Many people do not understand the origins of opioid abuse, the toll it takes on people, or the best treatment options for opioid use disorder.
What Is Opioid Use Disorder?
Opioid use disorder is a medical diagnosis used to describe a set of symptoms and behaviors associated with opioid use. Opioids might include prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, or morphine, as well as heroin. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) states that people with opioid use disorder have two or more of the following symptoms:
- Taking opioids in larger amounts or for longer than intended
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to control opioid use
- Spending a large amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from opioids
- Craving for opioids
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work or home due to opioid use
- Continued use despite opioid use causing social or interpersonal problems
- Giving up important social, work, or recreational activities
- Recurrent opioid use in situations where it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving)
- Continuing to use opioids despite knowing that they are making a medical or psychological problem worse
- Tolerance, characterized by needing more opioids to get the same effect
- Withdrawal symptoms when opioids are not available
This list shows that opioid use disorder can involve two major classes of features. Physical dependence on opioids includes tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. These are signs that your body has grown to depend on the drugs to function normally. Addiction symptoms are behaviors like cravings or spending a lot of time using drugs. These are signs that you may have difficulty controlling your use of opioids. Effective treatments address both the physical and behavioral aspects of opioid use disorder.
What is the Best Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder?
Many people mistakenly assume that 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous are the best way to address addiction to opioids. However, these programs often fail to give people the support they need to maintain long-term sobriety. Scientific evidence shows that effective treatment programs must address the physical dependence as well as behavioral addiction symptoms.
For example, the Waismann Method offers medical detox combined with behavior therapy. The medical detox involves providing medications to cleanse the brain and body of opioids. This allows you to go through the withdrawal process in a supportive medical environment. Afterward, you will receive aftercare including behavior therapy. Therapy is the best way to address the behavioral symptoms of addiction, including cravings. It is important to learn new coping strategies now that you are no longer using drugs to manage stress. A good opioid treatment program focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your person. This comprehensive approach provides a good track to sustain recovery.