Opioids in the Workplace
Commonly Used Terms
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
OUD is a treatable chronic brain disease resulting from the changes in neural structure and function that are caused over time by repeated opioid use (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019).
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Diagnosis
OUD may be diagnosed in an individual who uses opioid drugs and manifests at least two of the following related to their opioid drug use within a 12-month period (American Psychiatric Association 2013):
- Takes more opioid drugs than intended
- Attempts to control opioid use without success
- Spends excessive amounts of time obtaining or recovering from the effects of opioids
- Has cravings for opioids
- Misses or fails at duties at home, work or school because of opioid use
- Continues use despite its causing relationship or social problems
- Gives up other activities because of opioid use
- Uses even when it is physically unsafe
- Continues to use even when aware it is causing a physical or psychological problem
- Develops tolerance or experiences physical withdrawal symptoms when opioids are not taken
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat an OUD (CDC 2019). The medications are used to reduce cravings while preventing euphoria or the dangerous side effects of opioids (SAMHSA 2018). MAT for OUD generally involves a phased approach beginning with stabilization and opioid drug withdrawal management, followed by psychosocial counseling and medication maintenance. In the final phase, providers and patients determine if and how drug treatment will be tapered or if long-term maintenance will continue.
Some experts recommend the term “medication-based treatment” or MBT instead of MAT. This change in nomenclature aligns with the premise that OUD is chronic disorder for which medications are first-line treatments, often an integral part of a person’s long-term treatment plan, rather than complementary or temporary aids on the path to recovery (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019).
American Psychiatric Association . Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . “Evidence-Based Strategies for Preventing Opioid Overdose: What’s Working in the United States.” National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, 2018. http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pubs/2018-evidence-based-strategies.pdfpdf icon
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine . Medication for opioid use disorder save lives. Leshner A, Mancer M, eds. http://nap.edu/25310external icon doi: 10.17226/25310
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) . “Medication Assisted Treatment.” https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatmentexternal icon