Research shows the prevalence of opioid misuse has increased substantially in recent years, which can be largely attributed to the increased prescribing of opioids in the United States. Opioid use disorder is recognized as a chronic and relapsing illness that can be associated with increased morbidity and mortality if not identified and treated.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 1.9 million people had an opioid use disorder related to pain relievers, and about 586,000 had an opioid use disorder related to heroin use in 2014.

A recent study presented at the American Society of Addiction Medicine 47th Annual Conference noted that patients with opioid use disorders are not receiving treatment methods optimally, and researchers discovered fewer than half of the patients were given a medication-assisted treatment (such as buprenorphine/naloxone) after they were diagnosed with the disorder.

The study also found more instances of outpatient care for opioid use disorders compared to inpatient, but the factors that affect this lack of access to treatment requires further studies to identify the contributing factors. Still, it can be viewed as alarming given the rising abuse and misuse of opioids that is experienced in the United States.

As it currently stands, the use of opioids has the ability to decrease a person's perception of pain, but it can also produce hallmark signs of drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and even respiratory depression. The symptoms that can be associated with the disorder can include a strong urge to acquire the drug, the inability to reduce or stop use, impairments in activities of daily living or social functioning, and the development of tolerance.

When opioids are misused, they can cause major health effects and can even prove to be fatal when an overdose occurs. Overdoses attributed to opioids led to approximately 17,000 deaths in 2011, a staggering increase of 265 percent for men and 400 percent for women since 1999.

The withdrawal symptoms that can be associated with opioids can be one of the reason individuals may not want to reduce or stop using, and some of these symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, fever or negative mood. With the growing prevalence of opioid use, there is a growing need for access to assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder.

Ultimately, the goal for any patient diagnosed with opioid use disorder is to strive for timely diagnosis and the implementation of a treatment program. Programs designed to manage as many patients as possible can help capture those who might have fallen through the cracks.

The risk of fatality is too great if an individual does not have access to the necessary treatment methods to adequately address his/her disorder, whether treatment involves the use of medication or psychosocial care or a combination of both.