Tulane University Logo Tulane University, School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

An Official Site of Tulane University

About Opioids

OUD Opioid Use Disorder

What is an opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include licit prescription pain relievers (like vicodin, oxycodone, and fentanyl) and the illicit drug heroin.

What is opioid misuse or abuse?

Taking a prescription opioid medication in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed is often referred to as prescription drug misuse or abuse. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides helpful information regarding prescription opioid abuse terminology and epidemiology. Click here for more info.

What is opioid use disorder, or OUD?

Opioid use disorder may develop after a period of time abusing opioids (whether prescribed, illicit, or both). Diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder consists of a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period of time:

  • Opioids are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of opioids
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use opioids
  • Recurrent opioid use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of opioids
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of opioid use
  • Recurrent opioid use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • Continued opioid use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance
  • Tolerance, as defined by: (a) a need for markedly increased amounts of opioids to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or, (b) a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of an opioid (* This criterion is not considered to be met for those taking opioids solely under appropriate medical supervision)
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by: (a) the characteristic opioid withdrawal syndrome; or, (b) opioids are taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

How many people have an opioid use disorder?

In 2015, an estimated 91.8 million American adults used prescription opioids. An estimated 11.5 million people misused these medications. Nearly 1 in 100 U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized adults (0.8%; 1.9 million) reported a prescription opioid use disorder. (1)

In 2015, an estimated 5.1 million people (1.9 percent of people aged 12 or older) had used heroin at some point in their lives, with an estimated 1 in 1000 U.S. adults reporting heroin use in the past month. (2)

What is the scope of the opioid epidemic in Louisiana?

The Louisiana opioid data and surveillance system site https://lodss.ldh.la.gov/ provides helpful, updated statistics on the impact of opioid abuse and overdose on Louisiana.

Where can I learn more about treatment and recovery resources available in Louisiana?


Do you have any downloadable materials available that summarize this information?  

Click to register for downloadable material.