The Science of Opioids

Opioid Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder are medical illnesses that need to be treated with evidence based facts not shame or judgement.  Learn the science behind Opioids, find national data sources, and  read about the treatment options and the road to recovery.

previous arrow
next arrow

The Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic started with a rise in prescriptions in the 1990s. Now, in 2018 1.2 million people in America had Opioid Use Disorder according to the CDC.  To learn more in detail go to

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic, CDC  

Opioid Overdose Crisis,NIDA

Opioid Data Analysis and Resource, CDC


What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid Use Disorder occurs when opioid use takes over, interfering with regular functioning, relationships, and physical and mental health. The psychological addiction to the drug can eventually overcomes everything else in that person’s life. This coincides and is strengthened by the physical aspect of an addiction. Opioid use and other substance use forces the body to adapt, resulting in physiological changes in the body. This is why people experience severe withdrawal.  

How Long Does it Take for Addiction to Form?

Scientists estimate addiction takes a few weeks to form, but it really depends. Opioids are a highly potent, and addictive. Physiological changes in the brain can start to occur within the first few times of use. The longer the use, the more likely chance someone will become dependent on the drug, and the stronger the dependence. The risk of addiction is even higher for some people. Some people are more susceptible to forming a dependence on the drug. They may take pain medications after a surgery, and feel better and happier while other people would not like the affect. 


What Are The Treatment Options?

The decision to find help or get treatment is a big step. There are many different options, and it can be difficult to navigate through them all. 

Our Get Help page has a list of helpful organization names, phone numbers, and locations that can help you find and receive treatment or just help you start thinking about it. There you will also find information for those seeking local treatment services and for family, friends, and educators who want to learn more about how they can help. 

In-Depth Resources

More About the Science of Opioids

Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse

Opioid Use Disorders, National Council for Behavioral Health

Science of Addiction, John Hopkins School of Opioids

What Science Tells Us About Opioid Abuse Addiction,  National Institute on Drug Abuse 

The Surgeon General Spotlight on Opioids, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

America’s Drug Overdose Epidemic: Putting Data to Action, CDC 

Opioid Crisis, Health Resources and Services Administration 

Opioid Digital Media Kit, CDC

U.S. State Prescribing Rate Maps, CDC 

Mind Matters: The Body’s Response to Opioids, NIDA 

National Data Resources

National Center For Health Statistics, CDC 

This data visualization presents provisional counts for drug overdose deaths based on a current flow of mortality data in the National Vital Statistics System. 

ESRI Opioids Epidemic Map of Prescriptions 

A geographic view of opioid prescriptions made in the United States is helpful to understanding how counties and ZIP codes compare to each other, their state, and the nation as a whole.

CDC’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) 

CDC Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER) is a public resource. This application makes many health-related data sets available to CDC staff, public health departments, researchers, and others. The data help with public health research, decision making, priority setting, program evaluation, and resource allocation.

CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS™)

CDC’s WISQARS™ is an interactive, online database that provides fatal and nonfatal injury, violent death, and cost of injury data. Researchers, the media, public health professionals, and the public can use WISQARS™ data to learn more about the public health and economic burden associated with unintentional and violence-related injury in the United States.

Close Menu