Opium: Effects, Addiction and Withdrawal
Opium poppy, scientifically known as Papaver somniferum, belongs to the family Papaveraceae. Opium is the milky latex harvested from the seed pods of this plant. The unripened pod is cut open and the latex oozes out and dries on the outer surface of the pods. This yellow-brown latex, which is bitter in taste, is scratched off from the pods for the purpose of consumption. The prime chemical constituents of opium are codeine, morphine, thebaine and papaverine.
Heroin is obtained from the morphine alkaloid found in opium poppies and is 2 to 3 times powerful than opium. It is a white powder with a bitter taste. Alternative names of heroin include brown sugar, smack, junk and black tar. Papaverine is non-addictive and alleviates from muscle pain. While morphine works as a painkiller, it is also addictive. Codeine is a narcotic substance.
How Opium is Consumed
- Opium is usually injected, but it can also be smoked, orally consumed and sniffed. Intravenous injection is much potent in producing a quick euphoric high than other methods of consumption. However, any method of opium ingestion can be fatal and make a person addictive.
Production of Opium
- Opium is a native of the regions east of the Mediterranean to Iran. It is now grown in various subtropical, tropical, and warm climates all around the globe. It is grown in India, China, Thailand, Burma, Laos and many other parts of Asia. The cultivators of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Asia are forced to grow large amount of illegal opium poppy.
Opium as a Medication
- Opium is popular as a folk treatment to cure large array of diseases including cancer, cold, cough, conjunctivitis, asthma, catarrh, malaria, fever, nausea, hysteria, and even snakebites. Earlier, opium was regarded as a medicine, and not a drug of abuse. But, lately the use of opium has gone beyond these limits and is mixed with other drugs for temporary euphoric high. The use of opium has been substituted by heroin use in the Unites States.
- During the 19th century in China, opium smoking was regarded as a social status by both the poor people and the elite group. However, gradually this social status took the form of addiction among many people who were leading a difficult life with meager amusements. The addiction of opium forces the users to get engaged in crime and theft to support their habit.
- With the rise of twentieth century in the United States, it was completely realized that the country has its own drug abuse complications
- More than 300 opium dens were found in New York itself. Children also get addicted to the drug and sometimes died of extreme overdose.
- In 2000, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicates the use of 82, 000 emergency room due to drug abuse.
- In 2003 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report their findings that approximately 119,000 American teenagers had used heroin at least once.
Effects of Opium
Opium is generally considered a depressant. Thus, the effects of opium are similar as alcohol and it makes people sleepy, drowsy and happy. The effect of opium depends on the way it is consumed.
- Opium effect slowly when it is eaten or consumed as a liquid. This is mainly because the chemicals of opium have to pass through the intestine before moving on to the brain.
- However, opium works pretty fast when it is smoked since the molecules of opium pass into the lungs and easily gets absorbed by blood vessels and passed to the brain.
After consuming opium, the person experiences a feeling of elation, relaxation and freedom from physical pain and mental disturbances. When the opium reaches the brain, it binds itself with the pleasure-enhancing endorphins group and painkilling enkephalins group. They both are responsible for promoting a sense of well-being and positive stimulus. However, regular smoking of opium can have disastrous outcomes. Smokers can easily become addicted to opium and develop a tolerance towards the higher dosages of the drug. They then require stronger and much dangerous doses of opium to reach the same level of euphoric pleasure.
Short-Term Effects of Opium
The short-term effects of opium occur soon after an opium dose is taken and probably last a couple of hours. The consumption of opium leads to euphoria (usually known as getting high), a feeling of relaxing drowsiness, dry mouth, and an increase in body temperature. For the next few hours, the person alternates from a drowsy state to a wakeful state until the effect of drug wears off.
Long-Term Effects of Opium
Long-term effects of opium occur after the continuous use of opium over a long period of time. Some of the huge risk includes infections in the lining of the heart and valves, collapsed veins, liver diseases and abscesses. The defense and immune system of an opium addict gets weakened and they become more vulnerable to diseases and infections. Pneumonia may occur in long time user due to respiratory complication and poor health.
- When the opium is taken regularly, it builds up the tolerance to the drug so the user increases his dose of opium to feel the same high and pleasure. Gradually, the user increases their dose overtime and develops their dependency on opium, also known as Opium Addiction.
- Opium addiction is basically the state where the body had got used to the drug use, and requires the presence of opium to function optimally.
In easy words- an irresistible desire to consume opium on a daily basis is known as Opium Addiction.
If the person fails to fill the body with the drug, very uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms may occur. Death usually occurs when a “highly addicted individual” is unable to consume opium for some time.
- Withdrawal from opium can be very tough, and in several cases very dangerous for opium addict. After quitting the drug, a chemical imbalance starts throughout the body. The withdrawal symptoms begin only a few hours after the last use.
- Some of the withdrawal symptoms of opium include overwhelming desires for opiates, restlessness, insomnia, vomiting, cold flashes, nausea, weakness, cramps, depression, anxiety and body ache. The torturous withdrawal process can last for a week to 10 days.
- After withdrawal of the drug, most of the opium users suffer an extended period of dysphoria. This is a long lasting period of depression, anxiety, and lessened enjoyment of life. This condition pushes the person to consume the drug for relief. Unfortunately, the whole cycle of abuse starts again.