The use of opium may seem like something that went on in the 1960s and 70s with opium pipes being all the rage. In actuality, the use of opium continues in today’s world with heroin and prescription pain pills topping the charts for addictive substances, second only to alcohol.
A loved may become exposed to opium through recreational drug use, or even through an injury that requires prescription pain meds as a treatment. In either case, the use of opium on a long-term basis sets a person up for real problems, both physical and psychological.
Though no two people will respond to opium-type drugs in the same way, recognizing the use of opium in a loved one should be fairly easy to spot the longer he or she uses. Considering how quickly drug problems can develop, the sooner loved ones get help the better.
The opium poppy seed plant produces over fifty different alkaloid substances. According to Wellesley College, a few of these substances carry the analgesic properties characteristic of opium-type drugs. Some of the more commonly used opium drugs include:
Synthetic opium-based drugs (of which there are many) produce the same analgesic and addictive effects as the natural alkaloids.
In general, opium drugs depress central nervous system functions by stimulating the release of endorphin chemicals in the brain. These chemicals not only produce pain-relieving effects, but also help users experience feelings of euphoria and calm.
While these effects may seem pleasant at the outset, over time, the use of opium damages brain functions and brain structures causing widespread chemical imbalances throughout the body.
Frequent use of opium starts to take a toll on most every major bodily process. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as brain cell functions start to break down, larger doses of the drug are needed to produce the same desired effects. Loved ones will likely increase drug dosage amounts as a result.
In the process, the brain and body become increasingly dependent on opium’s effects. As this dependency grows, loved ones start to experience withdrawal symptoms on a more frequent basis.
For most people, withdrawal symptoms take the form of:
- Stomach cramps
- Random aches and pains
The ongoing use of opium will only cause withdrawal symptoms to increase in intensity and frequency.
The ongoing use of opium essentially “rewires” brain functions and distorts normal cognitive and emotional processing functions. The longer brain chemical imbalances persist the more psychologically unstable a person becomes.
Psychological signs of opium use usually take the form of:
- Feelings of depression
- Anxiety episodes
- Confused thinking processes
- Poor decision-making abilities
- Inability to concentrate
Over time, the psychological effects of opium start to shape a person’s decisions, behaviors and overall outlook on day-to-day life. Once a person reaches this point, a growing addiction is at work. Eventually, a loved one’s entire lifestyle will center on getting and using drugs. At this point, all other priorities and interests fall by the wayside.