Opioid addiction is characterized by a powerful and compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer medically necessary. Opioids have a high potential to cause addiction in some people, even when medications are properly prescribed and taken as directed. Opioid addiction, or technically “opioid use disorder,” is defined as the loss of control over opioid use. This means that the person continues to use opioids despite the negative consequences or cannot stop using them even though they want to.
This person may also be worried about using opioids, getting them, or feeling like using opioids. These patients may also develop tolerance or experience withdrawal when they stop using them, but those symptoms alone do not define an opioid use disorder. Opioid dependence occurs when the body adjusts its normal functioning based on regular opioid use. Unpleasant physical symptoms occur when medication is discontinued.
Some people think that opioid addiction is just psychological or a weakness of character, and that people who are addicted simply don't have the willpower to stop. In October, Yale Medicine doctors launched a new program on addiction medicine that will improve addiction research and care for Yale patients.