Opioid Use Disorder

Recovery can feel impossible. IU Health experts provide the help you need to succeed.

If you have opioid use disorder, you may find it difficult to stop or decrease your use, even while knowing the consequences.

At IU Health, our addiction treatment providers can help guide you to successful recovery.

Opioid use disorder is a substance use disorder. It occurs when you develop difficulty controlling your use of opioids (narcotics). Opioid receptors in the brain trigger pain relief and often a feeling of intense happiness.

Natural opioids in our body, called endorphins, use opioid receptors to help us manage pain. When we exercise regularly and at length, we may eventually experience a rush of endorphins that gives us the sensation of happiness. Our pain at this time is minimized. This is our body’s response—a natural high.

Opioid and Heroin Effects

Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive. Your body can quickly develop dependence on opioids, causing an additional cycle of pain. The more you use, the more difficult it becomes to get rid of pain and achieve the same results. This is called tolerance.

Opioid Examples

Some opioids, such as opium and morphine, are derived from the poppy plant. Others are created by people in laboratories.

Some examples of opioids created in labs include:

  • heroin
  • oxycodone (combined with acetaminophen in Percocet)
  • hydrocodone (combined with acetaminophen in Norco Lortab and Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • meperidine (Demerol) and fentanyl

You may have begun using opioids on your own or when you had a prescription to manage pain after an injury or surgery.

Regardless of how you started, long-term use leads to opioid dependence. This is a condition in which you develop withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using opioids.

When you develop difficulty stopping opioid use despite having problems with using, you have an opioid use disorder.

Understanding Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder is a substance use disorder. It occurs when you develop difficulty controlling your use of opioids (narcotics). Opioid receptors in the brain trigger pain relief and often a feeling of intense happiness.

Natural opioids in our body, called endorphins, use opioid receptors to help us manage pain. When we exercise regularly and at length, we may eventually experience a rush of endorphins that gives us the sensation of happiness. Our pain at this time is minimized. This is our body’s response—a natural high.

Opioid and Heroin Effects

Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive. Your body can quickly develop dependence on opioids, causing an additional cycle of pain. The more you use, the more difficult it becomes to get rid of pain and achieve the same results. This is called tolerance.

Opioid Examples

Some opioids, such as opium and morphine, are derived from the poppy plant. Others are created by people in laboratories.

Some examples of opioids created in labs include:

  • heroin
  • oxycodone (combined with acetaminophen in Percocet)
  • hydrocodone (combined with acetaminophen in Norco Lortab and Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • meperidine (Demerol) and fentanyl

You may have begun using opioids on your own or when you had a prescription to manage pain after an injury or surgery.

Regardless of how you started, long-term use leads to opioid dependence. This is a condition in which you develop withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using opioids.

When you develop difficulty stopping opioid use despite having problems with using, you have an opioid use disorder.

A trained professional at IU Health will ask you questions to diagnose whether you have opioid use disorder. A diagnosis of opioid use disorder can include some of the following criteria:

Opioids taken over longer periods or in larger amounts than intended

  • Unsuccessful efforts to decrease opioid use
  • Devoting excessive time to obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of opioids
  • Having strong cravings to use opioids
  • Not fulfilling obligations at work, school or home due to ongoing opioid use
  • Continuing to use opioids despite their causing physical or social problems
  • Reducing social and work activities and hobbies because of opioid use
  • Using opioids in unsafe situations, such as driving or swimming
  • Continuing opioid use despite health problems that are likely caused or worsened by opioid use. Health problems could include the following and more:
  • Needing more or stronger opioids to feel the same effect (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (see below) with reduced opioid use

Opioid use disorder can include periods of opioid intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.

Opioid and Heroin Intoxication

Opioid or heroin intoxication occurs when increasing doses of opioids enter the brain. In addition to diminished pain sensation and euphoria, opioid intoxication results in unconsciousness, slowed breathing rate, pinpoint pupils, and even death.

Opioid and Heroin Overdose

Opioid overdoses are common due to breaks in use or differences in strength.

Opioid and Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is common with long-term use due to changes in strength or lapses in use, whether intentional or not. Withdrawal frequently occurs between 6 hours and 2 days since the last dose of opioid or heroin. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Muscle pains
  • Joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea

Opioid Use Disorder Diagnosis

A trained professional at IU Health will ask you questions to diagnose whether you have opioid use disorder. A diagnosis of opioid use disorder can include some of the following criteria:

Opioids taken over longer periods or in larger amounts than intended

  • Unsuccessful efforts to decrease opioid use
  • Devoting excessive time to obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of opioids
  • Having strong cravings to use opioids
  • Not fulfilling obligations at work, school or home due to ongoing opioid use
  • Continuing to use opioids despite their causing physical or social problems
  • Reducing social and work activities and hobbies because of opioid use
  • Using opioids in unsafe situations, such as driving or swimming
  • Continuing opioid use despite health problems that are likely caused or worsened by opioid use. Health problems could include the following and more:
  • Needing more or stronger opioids to feel the same effect (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (see below) with reduced opioid use

Opioid use disorder can include periods of opioid intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.

Opioid and Heroin Intoxication

Opioid or heroin intoxication occurs when increasing doses of opioids enter the brain. In addition to diminished pain sensation and euphoria, opioid intoxication results in unconsciousness, slowed breathing rate, pinpoint pupils, and even death.

Opioid and Heroin Overdose

Opioid overdoses are common due to breaks in use or differences in strength.

Opioid and Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is common with long-term use due to changes in strength or lapses in use, whether intentional or not. Withdrawal frequently occurs between 6 hours and 2 days since the last dose of opioid or heroin. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Muscle pains
  • Joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea

At IU Health, a team of addiction specialists will work with you to determine the best treatment for your addiction to opioids. Treatments can include therapy and medication.

Therapy can help you identify changes you can make in your life to increase the likelihood of successful recovery. It provides tools and strategies to help you make these changes.

Medications such as naltrexone, buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone can help decrease your cravings for opioids and heroin.

Learn more about addiction treatment services at IU Health.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

At IU Health, a team of addiction specialists will work with you to determine the best treatment for your addiction to opioids. Treatments can include therapy and medication.

Therapy can help you identify changes you can make in your life to increase the likelihood of successful recovery. It provides tools and strategies to help you make these changes.

Medications such as naltrexone, buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone can help decrease your cravings for opioids and heroin.

Learn more about addiction treatment services at IU Health.

Patient Stories for Opioid Use Disorder