Opium Addiction: Side Effects, Risks & Treatment Explained
The opium poppy is one of the first plants used for medicinal purposes. People have been using its milky latex—opium—as a pain reliever and even a sleeping aid for millennia. Today, it’s no secret that opium is highly addictive. As effective as it can be in alleviating discomfort, it is also very dangerous, and anyone taking this drug faces the risk of developing an opium addiction.
Read on to learn more about the dangers of opium addiction and better understand its causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and more.
What Is Opium?
Opium is a potent opiate derived from the opium poppy plant (Papaver somniferum) in the form of latex. This latex contains alkaloids such as morphine, thebaine, and codeine, which are often used for pain relief or synthesized to manufacture semi-synthetic opioids like:
Used since at least the times of ancient Mesopotamia, opium is strictly regulated today due to its high potential for abuse and addiction. All opium products can only be obtained by prescription and should be taken as instructed to minimize the risk of opium use disorder.
Opium is a fairly popular street drug, also known as Joy Plant, God’s Medicine, Dopium, and Big O, among other names.
This drug is usually available as a fine powder, but it can also be found in liquid and solid forms. Opium can be consumed in various ways—taken as a pill or a tincture, smoked, and injected. Once consumed, opium alleviates pain by interacting with opioid receptors and induces a sense of euphoria, which makes it very addictive.
Side Effects of Using Opium
Opium can cause various side effects; however, while many of these should go away on their own, others may require medical attention. Even if you experience fairly mild side effects after taking opium, it’s best to inform your doctor about them.
Some of the most common side effects of opium are:
- Skin rashes
- Hives and itchy skin
- Pinpoint pupils
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mouth
Furthermore, taking opium for an extended period increases the risk of:
- Opium addiction
- Opioid overdose
- Respiratory depression
- Organ damage (liver, kidney, etc.)
Taking opium responsibly, i.e., as recommended by your physician, can reduce these risks.
Is Opium Addictive?
Like all drugs in the opioid family, opium is addictive. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means you can only obtain this drug legally by prescription due to the high risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction associated with it.
Anyone who takes opium risks becoming addicted, as this drug alters the central nervous system (CNS)—especially when taken for a prolonged period of time or abused. Any non-medical use of this drug constitutes opium abuse, including but not limited to:
- Taking opium without a prescription
- Taking it in larger doses than prescribed
- Taking opium more frequently than instructed
- Mixing it with other substances (e.g., using “Buddha,” or marijuana spiked with opium)
Since prolonged use significantly increases the risk of becoming addicted to opium, it isn’t recommended to use this drug or its derivatives for long-term pain management.
Opium Abuse Statistics
Here are some statistics that will shed light on the extent of opium abuse, addiction, and overdose in the United States:
- In 2022, nearly 83,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose. Slightly above 11,700 of these deaths involved natural and semi-synthetic opioids like opium and its derivatives.
- More than 10 million Americans abuse opioids, like opium, every year.
- In 2021, the three most commonly abused opioids among prescription painkiller misusers above the age of 12 were hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine, all of which are derived from opium.
- There were over 1.1 million opioid-related emergency department visits in 2021. 11% of these involved fentanyl, nearly 45% were linked to heroin, and around 44% were related to other opioids, including opium.
- With more than 30 million prescriptions issued to over 8.5 million patients, hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin®, Norco®, and Lorcet®) was the most commonly prescribed drug derived from opium in 2020.
Opium Addiction Signs and Symptoms
No matter the severity of your opiate addiction, it can be successfully treated. However, recovery from opium addiction is only possible if you recognize that your opioid use has become a problem.
If you aren’t sure how to tell if you or someone you love is addicted to opium, worry not. Here are some signs and symptoms of opium addiction you should look out for:
Opium Addiction Physical Symptoms
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms—such as fever, anxiety, cravings, and nausea—within a couple of days of quitting this drug is an unmistakable sign of opium addiction.
Besides withdrawal symptoms, those who are addicted to opium may suffer from:
- Slurred speech
- Unexplained weight loss
- Breathing difficulties
People addicted to opium will often experience not only physical but also psychological symptoms. These may include mood swings, the exacerbation of mental health issues such as depression, and suicidal ideation.
Over time, opium addiction can also affect your cognitive function, resulting in impaired decision-making, confusion, and low impulse control.
Opium Addiction Behavioral Symptoms
Some behaviors that may indicate you or a loved one has become addicted to opium include:
- Worsening work or school performance
- Failing to fulfill familial and professional obligations
- Becoming withdrawn from loved ones
- Trying to obtain opium by doctor shopping, lying, and in other similar ways
- Being preoccupied with obtaining and using opium
- Showing less interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Abusing opium (e.g., taking it more often than prescribed)
- Continuing to take opium when it’s no longer medically needed
- Having financial problems due to opium use
- Taking opium even though it harms your well-being
- Having trouble controlling opium use
Opium Addiction Causes and Risk Factors
The root cause of opium addiction is the chemical brain imbalance that occurs due to opium use. Everyone who takes this drug can get addicted to it, including those who take it exactly as prescribed by a doctor.
Opium stimulates the production of opioid receptors, leading to tolerance. Because of this, the usual opium dose eventually stops working. To feel the desired effects of the drug, you’ll need to increase its dosage, which can quickly lead to opium abuse and increase the risk of becoming addicted to the substance.
Tolerance itself is a sign of a dependence on opium. Dependence can quickly develop into an addiction if left untreated.
Even though anyone taking opium can become addicted to it, some people are at a higher risk of opium addiction than others. The main risk factors for opium addiction include:
- Abusing opium (e.g., increasing the dose without the doctor’s permission)
- Taking opium for a prolonged time
- Having easy access to opium
- Being pressured into taking drugs
- Being exposed to opioids at an early age
Opium Withdrawal Symptoms
Opium withdrawal symptoms occur when people dependent on opium stop taking this drug or reduce their dose abruptly. These symptoms usually set in within the first two days after the last dose and continue for more or less two weeks.
Opium withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological, with physical symptoms typically resolving much quicker than psychological ones.
The symptoms you may experience during an opium withdrawal include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose and watery eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Intense opium cravings
- Sleep disturbances
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle cramps, joint pain, headaches, and other body aches
These symptoms can make it very difficult to discontinue opium use. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to relapse shortly after they stop taking this drug in an attempt to soothe their pain and discomfort. This is extremely dangerous, as relapse can lead to a life-threatening overdose due to a lowered tolerance to the drug.
If you want to quit opium, seek medical help. Not only can this help reduce the severity and duration of opium withdrawal symptoms, but it can also minimize the risk of relapse.
Risks of Opium Overdose
Opium overdose is, without a doubt, the greatest risk and danger of opium addiction. You may overdose on opium if you take an extra dose by mistake, which is why it’s crucial to track your opium intake. You can also accidentally overdose on opium if you mix it with other substances, such as alcohol.
A drug overdose happens when you take more of it than your body can handle. This is a life-threatening emergency that should never be taken lightly. Without timely medical care, it can lead to coma, brain damage, and even death.
Call 911 immediately if you recognize any of these signs of an opium overdose in yourself or someone else:
- Discolored lips and nails
- Cold and clammy skin
- Slowed breathing
- Extreme dizziness and/or drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils
How to Prevent Opium Addiction
The only guaranteed way to prevent opium addiction is not to take this drug.
As mentioned above, even those who take it as prescribed risk becoming addicted to it. So, even though opium can do wonders in terms of pain relief, it’s in your best interest to avoid taking it unless you have no other option. Your doctor may be able to suggest other, less addictive alternatives to opioids.
If you must take opium, follow these tips to take it as safely as possible and reduce the risk of opium addiction and overdose:
- Always take opium as prescribed by a doctor, and store it away from children and pets.
- Do not increase your dose or frequency of opium use without talking to your doctor.
- Do not take opium with any other substances without your doctor’s approval, including herbal supplements.
- Inform your doctor about any side effects you feel after taking opium, especially if they persist for a long time.
ANR Treatment for Opium Addiction
If you’re looking for a safe and effective opium addiction treatment, Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is precisely what you need. As of today, ANR has helped more than 24,000 people overcome opioid dependency and the fear of relapse in the past.
ANR is unlike any other opioid addiction treatment, as it tackles opioid dependence at its core. By re-regulating the endorphin-receptor system, ANR restores your brain to its pre-addiction state, eliminating the risk of relapse. After the procedure, our patients experience no withdrawal symptoms—including cravings.
Most importantly, the ANR treatment is very safe. Not only is it carried out in an ICU setting by highly experienced medical professionals, but it also doesn’t involve any potentially addictive opioid replacement drugs, such as methadone.
We also tailor the treatment to suit each patient’s medical history and needs. As a result, it can be safely performed on virtually anyone, including those with underlying health issues.
Contact us today to book a free consultation and start your recovery journey.
If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that carefully following your doctor’s instructions is key to minimizing the risk of opium addiction. If possible, though, you should explore other treatment options before opting for opium or other opioids.
Now, let’s go over the key points we covered:
- Opium is an opiate derived from the poppy plant that carries a high potential for abuse and addiction.
- Some signs of opium addiction include withdrawal symptoms, weight loss, difficulty breathing, social isolation, and failure to fulfill personal or professional obligations.
- The main risk factors for opium addiction include opium abuse, prolonged use of this drug, and easy access to opium or other opioids.
Opium Addiction FAQ
Opium is highly addictive, which is why it is treated as a Schedule II controlled substance. The risk of opium addiction remains even if you take this drug as prescribed by a physician.
Some signs of opium addiction include experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing opium use, dedicating a lot of time to obtaining and using the drug, and avoiding contact with family and friends.
Opium is made by extracting the latex from the unripe seedpods of the opium poppy plant and then drying it. This dried latex can also be processed to extract alkaloids such as codeine.
How long the effects of opium last depends on various individual factors. These include the method of consumption (oral, injection, etc.), the amount of opium taken, and your metabolic rate, among others.
Opium derivatives like morphine and codeine are most commonly used for pain management. They can also be used to produce semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone, suppress cough, and treat diarrhea.
You can overdose on opium by taking too much of it. An opium overdose can be fatal if not treated on time. Some signs of an opium overdose you should look out for include shallow breathing, discolored lips and nails, and a loss of consciousness.
The Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) treatment is an ultra-modern treatment for opioid addiction. By repairing the damage opioids cause to the brain, ANR addresses the root cause of opioid dependence rather than just treating its symptoms, thus negating the risk of relapse.