Pure opium, as well as opium-derived drugs, all produce strong analgesic effects that work well as pain-relief treatments. Examples of opium-derived drugs include:
Synthetically made opium-type drugs also exist in abundance, some of which include:
Whether natural or synthetic, short-term opium drug effects remain the same. According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, over time, opium drug effects can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Even though these changes become fairly noticeable to the drug user, opium drug effects inevitably alter brain functions along the way. As brain functions change, so do users’ overall perception of their everyday life. This change in perception makes a person even more susceptible to opium drug effects.
Opium’s Mechanism of Action
Opium drug effects alter a person’s perception of pain by interfering with nerve signal transmissions throughout the central nervous system. According to the University of California-Los Angeles, opium stimulates neurotransmitter chemical secretions at key brain cell receptor sites located in the brain, spinal cord and digestive tract.
These chemicals also produce feelings of calm and euphoria, which greatly contribute to the addictive properties of the drug. With repeated use, this process works to weaken brain cells and impair normal central nervous system functions. Over time, the affected areas become unable to function normally without the effects of the drug.
The brain’s tolerance level for opium determines how large a dose is needed to induce the desired drug effects. With each successive dose of opium, brain cell sites become less sensitive to its effects. Cell sites grow progressively weaker from ongoing use, which makes them less sensitive to the drug’s effects.
The brain also has a self-regulating mechanism that automatically reduces neurotransmitter chemical secretions when excess amounts are present. Over time, these short-term opium drug effects drive users to ingest increasingly larger doses in order to satisfy the brain’s rising tolerance levels.
With ongoing use, short-term opium drug effects snowball into a full-blown physical dependency on the drug. Once the brain and body become physically dependent, users start to experience withdrawal effects. Withdrawal effects result from pronounced brain chemical imbalances that grow worse with continued drug use.
For most people, withdrawal effects take the form of:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety episodes
With chronic, long-term drug use, the brain’s tolerance levels will reach a point where no amount of the drug can keep withdrawal effects from developing.
Widespread chemical imbalances throughout the brain inevitably alter a person’s cognitive and emotional experience to the point where opium drug effects take on top priority in his or her life. At this point, strong drug cravings become a driving force for users’ motivations and behaviors.
While it may seem as if drug cravings stem mostly from the body’s physical dependency on opium, drug cravings take root within a person’s thought processes and emotions. This accounts for why recovering addicts can experience drug cravings long after they stop using.