Opium Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment Help

Few substances are as storied and influential as the opium poppy, a plant that has been around for thousands of years. This narcotic depressant is responsible for helping to birth a whole class of opiates and opioids, which are currently wreaking havoc in the U.S. and elsewhere. As the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history, the opioid epidemic is reported to claim more than 130 lives every day.

Heroin and fentanyl, semi-synthetic and fully synthetic opioids, respectively, are what’s driving the current crisis. That’s not to say there isn’t a demand for opium, the pharmacological grandfather of all opiates, the term used for substances that come from it like morphine and codeine.

Opioids like fentanyl, methadone, and oxycodone are opioids, meaning they synthetic or semi-synthetic and are manufactured chemically.

The United Nations reported a worldwide surge in opium production in 2014. Like all the drugs that it has helped birth or inspire, opium remains a highly addictive and potent psychoactive substance that produces dangerous overdose effects just like heroin.

History of Opium

Opium comes from the poppy plant that was grown in the Mediterranean region as early as 5000 B.C. Some reports peg the origins of opium at 3400 B.C. In those days, the people of Sumeria referred to it as the joy plant. News of the plant’s popularity would travel along the Silk Road. It would soon be cultivated throughout the world, particularly in Egypt, Persia, India, and China.

In the 1600s, residents of Persia and India ate and drank opium mixtures recreationally. Opium was such a sought after commodity that Britain and China waged two wars over it in the 19th century: The First and Second Opium Wars.

The milky substance that comes from the seed pod of the poppy plant, which is later scraped by hand and air-dried, becomes a yellow latex material, which is the opium. That material contains alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, papaverine, and thebaine. In modern times, the drug is harvested for pharmaceutical use by extracting alkaloids from the dried plant.

That latex material is usually converted to heroin, which is two to four times stronger.

Opium, as we know it today, comes in the form of a liquid, solid, or powder. It’s most popular form is as a fine, brownish powder. The substance can be smoked, injected, or taken in pill form.

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When it is smoked, the opium attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, effectively blocking pain signals. All opioids profoundly impact the brain’s reward areas. When it is ingested, opium produces a euphoric rush similar to heroin, followed by feelings of relaxation and relief from physical pain.

Smoking opium remains a popular form of ingestion.

Those sensations are what drive people to use opium. Once they use, they can quickly develop a tolerance and dependency. As they march toward addiction, they will start to display noticeable signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Opium Addiction

The road to addiction for all substances begins when tolerance is established. That’s when a user will require more of the drug to experience the same effects a smaller, previous dose yielded.

Dependence is established when one starts to feel normal only when the drug is present in the body. Without the substance, they will begin to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

With all opiates, whether it is heroin or opium, users will begin to show early symptoms of withdrawal, which include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • A runny nose
  • Tearing
  • Muscle aches

As withdrawal progresses, a user will also exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking where people use despite adverse consequences” — consequences like health complications and legal trouble.

Addicted persons will display behavioral signs related to compulsively seeking opiates. They can include:

  • Depression
  • Changes in social circles
  • Insomnia or other changes in sleeping patterns
  • Financial difficulties
  • Lying and/or stealing
  • Withdrawing from different social activities/obligations
  • Financial difficulties
  • Cravings for opioids
  • Inability to stop taking opioids despite the negative consequences

Once an opiate addiction takes hold, it will begin to cause physical changes in the body. For example, one concerning side effect is severe and painful constipation, which occurs in 90 percent of people who use opioids, according to Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease.

When an addiction progresses, a user will put themselves at risk for succumbing to life-threatening overdose symptoms such as respiratory failure. The best solution to treating opium addiction, or any opioid addiction for that matter, is through professional treatment. Undergoing a medically supervised procedure can be life-saving.



Opium Addiction Treatment

Opioids, in general, are so powerfully addictive that if someone were to attempt to quit on their own, the withdrawal symptoms alone would compel them to relapse. In fact, fewer than a quarter of the people who try to stop opioids on their own, without any professional help, can stay drug-free a year following last use.

With help from a professional addiction treatment program, a client will undergo the full continuum of care which means that they will receive the appropriate amount of medical and clinical intervention at every stage of recovery.

Professional treatment begins with medically supervised detoxification. At this stage, a medical staff of doctors, nurses, and other personnel will conduct a medical assessment and formulate an individualized detox plan specific to your needs.

You will be provided detox medications that will alleviate withdrawal symptoms, quickly, safely, and comfortably. A team of therapists, case managers, and support staff will treat the psychological symptoms of addiction as well. They will administer therapy and counseling designed to get to the underlying causes of your addiction.

The primary goal here is to get you medically stabilized for the next phase of treatment. After detox, it is recommended that the client receive ongoing care at a facility. Inpatient or residential treatment, the next phase in the continuum of care, will also address the psychological and emotional aspects of opium addiction.

Inpatient requires a stay at an opioid treatment facility where a person will undergo full-time addiction therapy. This is the “heavy-lifting” phase of your treatment program. Inpatient is designed to address the root cause of your addiction and any emotional or mental health issues that co-occur through dual diagnosis.

You will live with other people in recovery and attend therapy sessions and groups designed to impart life skills, coping mechanisms, and relapse prevention techniques.

After the inpatient phase of your recovery, the next step is intensive outpatient treatment, which lasts six to eight weeks. Here, you will no longer live at the facility. Instead, you will arrange offsite housing and attend therapy sessions. The big difference between inpatient and intensive outpatient is that your therapy sessions will drop down from a full-time to a part-time load. Nevertheless, you will still receive intensive clinical intervention and therapy techniques for your recovery.

Routine outpatient is the final phase of opiate addiction treatment. Typically, outpatient sessions will occur for one-hour sessions per week.

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Though this phase is less intensive than residential or intensive outpatient, routine outpatient programs last a few months. Attendance at these sessions is still mandatory. This step in the process is designed to keep you connected to a recovery community to maintain your sobriety.

What’s more, past clients have used outpatient programs in tandem with other aftercare approaches like alumni programs or 12-step programs to increase the likelihood of success in recovery.

How Dangerous Is Opium?

Like other opioids, opium, the grandfather of all of those medications, can produce overdose symptoms that can be fatal. Those can include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Slow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Possessing opium is a criminal offense, as the substance is listed as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Opium/Opiate Stats

  • 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use And Health.
  • About 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Afghanistan still produces 90% of the world’s opium, according to Global Information Network About Drugs (GINAD)

Get Help for Opium Addiction Now

Professional addiction treatment will allow you to safely recover from the ravages of opium addiction. Let us help you reclaim your life.

Call (855)-534-3574 anytime, day or evening, for a free consultation with a knowledgeable addiction recovery specialist at The Palm Beach Institute. They can help you locate the right treatment option. contact us online for more information.