Updated on April 12, 2024
6 min read

Opium Addiction and Its Treatment

Is Opium Addictive?

Opium, derived from the poppy plant, has provided pain relief for centuries. However, it comes with a significant risk. Opium and the powerful opioids created from it are highly addictive.

These include:

While these medications have legitimate medical uses, they carry the same risk of addiction. That's why it's so important to use them only under strict doctor supervision.

Why is Opium So Addictive?

Our brains are wired to respond positively to things that make us feel good. When used, opium triggers the release of chemicals like dopamine, creating feelings of pleasure and reward. People also misuse it for its psychoactive and euphoric effects. 

Our bodies quickly adapt, wanting more opium to achieve the same effect. This can lead to a cycle of dependence and addiction.

If you or someone you know struggles with opioid dependence, there is help available. Understanding addiction is the first step towards recovery.

Risk Factors of Opium Addiction

It's important to understand that becoming addicted to opium isn't a sign of weakness or a moral failing. Several factors outside of someone's control can increase their risk, including:

  • Family History: Your family's history of addiction can increase your likelihood of also being predisposed to it.
  • Environment: Difficult living situations, easy access to opioids, or a lack of support from family and friends can make addiction more likely.
  • Mental Health: People who experience trauma, depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions may be more likely to seek relief through substances like opium.

These risk factors don't mean someone will become addicted, but they significantly increase the chances. If you're concerned about yourself or someone you love, understanding these risks is a crucial first step in getting help and support.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Opium Addiction?

Opium addiction doesn't just affect the body⁠—it seeps into every aspect of a person's life. If you're worried about yourself or a loved one, look for these signs.

They may display changes in mood and behavior:

  • Feeling down or depressed much of the time
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Struggling to keep up with responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Unexpected mood swings or irritability

They can also show physical changes:

  • Seeming constantly tired or "nodding off"
  • Neglecting their appearance or hygiene
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Memory problems or difficulty concentrating

A person addicted to opium may also experience these concerning patterns:

  • Intense cravings for opium
  • Going to unusual lengths to obtain more, like visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions
  • Experiencing financial or legal troubles possibly related to their drug use
  • Using drugs without a prescription altogether

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. If you recognize these signs, reach out for help. It's the first step toward healing for you or your loved one.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Opium Use?

When someone becomes dependent on opium, their body adapts to its presence.  Stopping the drug suddenly throws the body into a state of crisis, leading to a range of difficult withdrawal symptoms. It's important to understand these symptoms because they can be a major obstacle to recovery.

These symptoms include:

  • An intense craving for the drug
  • Profuse sweating and clamminess
  • Runny nose
  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia

Opium withdrawal can be incredibly difficult, but with the right support and medical care, it’s possible to manage these symptoms and break free from addiction. If you or someone you love is facing withdrawal, know there’s help available.

What Are Overdose Symptoms of Opium Use?

Opium overdoses can be deadly, as even a tiny excess can be toxic. This powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressant has severe consequences for the respiratory system and other bodily functions, including:

  • Vomiting and stomach cramps
  • Slurred speech and loss of basic motor functions
  • Slow pulse and low blood pressure
  • Pin-point-shaped pupils
  • Blue lips and fingertips
  • Feeling cold to the touch
  • Clammy skin
  • Seizure

These symptoms may cause permanent, irreversible damage or even death. Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose.

Naloxone (often known as Narcan) can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. However, its effects can wear off quickly, so emergency medical help is still vital. If you suspect an overdose, don't wait. Getting help fast could save a life.

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What Are the Severe Side Effects of Opium?

Opium's effects go far beyond the risk of addiction. Even without addiction, this drug poses serious dangers to both your body and mind. It's important to understand these risks.

Short-term side effects include:

  • Confusion, blurry vision, and even hallucinations
  • Intense stomach pain and difficulty urinating
  • Agitation, dizziness, and fainting
  • Dangerous drowsiness and slowed breathing

Long-term risks include:

  • Addiction and the devastating cycle of dependence and withdrawal
  • Changes in the brain that make it harder to control behavior and resist cravings

Understanding these risks is crucial⁠—it could save your life or the life of someone you love. If you or someone you know struggles with opium use, help is available. There's no shame in seeking support.

In 2020, opioids contributed nearly 75% of all drug overdose fatalities. Over 13,000 people lost their lives due to heroin overdose.

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How Do You Treat Opiate Addiction?

The physical and psychological effects of opium addiction can be devastating, so it’s vital to seek professional help. Treatment for opioid addiction includes:

  • Detoxification: Cleanses the body of opioids, which is crucial to initiate treatment and helps manage withdrawal
  • Inpatient treatment: Involves checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision 
  • Outpatient treatment: A treatment program where you are freely allowed to leave the rehab facility
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A short-term therapy technique that explores the link between thought patterns and addiction
  • Medication-assisted treatment: Drugs like Methadone, Buprenorphine (Subutex), or Naltrexone can help manage the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and cravings
  • Support groups: Offer invaluable emotional support during recovery and can provide access to resources for help with addiction

What’s the Outlook for Opium Addiction Treatment?

Opium addiction or opioid use disorder (OUD) is a challenging disease, but it doesn't have to control your life. With the right support, people do recover from it.

Treatment often includes a combination of medication to manage cravings and withdrawal, along with therapy to learn healthy coping skills and address underlying issues.

Recovery isn't always a straight line. There might be setbacks along the way, but that's normal. The most important thing is not giving up on yourself or your loved one.

Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist. They can create a personalized treatment plan to give you the best chance of long-term success. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start rebuilding a healthier, happier life.

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Updated on April 12, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on April 12, 2024
  1. Opium.” Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2023.
  2. Bandyopadhyay, S. “An 8,000-Year History of Use and Abuse of Opium and Opioids: How That Matters For A Successful Control Of The Epidemic ? (P4.9-055).” Neurology, 2019.
  3. Truth Initiative. “Opioids.” Truth.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.“Opioid and Nicotine Use, Dependence, and Recovery: Influences of Sex and Gender” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Drug Overdose Death Rates.” National Institutes on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Data Overview.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.
  7. Eckardt et al. “Opioid use disorder research and the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science priority areas.” Nurs Outlook, 2020.

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