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Getting Treatment for an Opium Addiction

Opium addiction treatment options are designed to help alleviate the physical and psychological dependencies that form through prolonged or excessive opium abuse. Opium is a naturally occurring narcotic, and has been used for pain relief and other medicinal purposes for centuries.

Today, opium forms the basis of many of the synthetic opioids that are used by the medical industry to manage pain. The drug can be highly addictive when abused, however, and those people who become addicted may find it difficult to stop using without professional help.

What Is Opium?

Opium is a narcotic that is made from the liquid in a poppy plant. The active alkaloids in opium are morphine and codeine, which are responsible for the substance’s euphoric effects. Morphine, in particular, is the problematic component of opium. Two grams of opium contain 120 to 250 milligrams of morphine, which is a lethal dose.

Harvested opium resembles a black or brown block of a tar-like substance. The substance is pressed into bricks and sun dried. It can either be smoked at that point or processed into other derived drugs, such as heroin. Opium is often converted into heroin, because it is less bulky and easier to smuggle in that form. Heroin is also approximately twice as potent.


The street names for opium include big O, OP, tar, hop, black stuff, midnight oil, gum, and block.


The primary producer of opium is Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan, Northern India, Thailand, and Turkey, but the United States is the number one consumer of opium in the world.

How is it Typically Used?

Opium is ordinarily smoked, but it can also be eaten, injected intravenously or taken in pill form. When opium is smoked, the material is not burned like tobacco. Instead, the opium is heated until the active alkaloids are vaporized. Those vapors are then inhaled. Typically, people use a special pipe to smoke opium.


Poppy seeds are commonly used in cooking to make breads and cakes. One gram of poppy seeds contains large amounts of morphine and codeine, the active ingredients in opium. Eating poppy seed cakes can cause a person to fail a drug test and can form the basis of a valid legal defense to a failed drug test.

The Effects Associated with Using

The way a person experiences an opium high depends on the dose and the way the drug is taken. The drug produces a feeling of euphoria that hits quickly if the drug is smoked. This euphoric rush is followed by feelings of drowsiness and general relaxation. Any pain that the person is feeling goes away. These effects can last up to 12 hours.

Opium users experience the type of numbness that is characteristic of “downers.” The opium high is very similar to the high a person experiences from heroin, which makes sense since heroin is derived from opium.

Dangerous Consequences

Opium use is often the precursor to the abuse of other types of opioids, such as heroin. There is also a tendency to combine opium with other drugs for heightened effects. Opium combined with marijuana is known on the street as “buddha,” while opium, marijuana, and methamphetamine are combined to form a street cocktail called “black.”

Further, the use of opium with other drugs that depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol, increase the risk of respiratory failure. Opium abuse can lead to breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, and death. If you or a loved one are ready to stop using opium, our treatment advisors are available to answer your questions.

What are the Signs of Abuse?

An individual who is addicted to opium often loses control of his or her life. The high experienced through drug use becomes the most important sensory experience to the user, and nothing can seem to adequately replace the feelings derived from drug use. The desire to use the drug becomes compulsive, and the user will do anything to get high, despite any negative consequence. Opium addicts often lose the motivation and ambition to pursue their careers, maintain relationships, go to school or to work, or do anything other than seek their next high.

Signs of opium abuse:

  • Increasing the dosage or taking the drug more frequently
  • Preoccupation with the drug, the amount on hand, and the ability to access it
  • Depression
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Loss of concern about physical appearance and personal hygiene
  • Severe weight loss
  • Disinterest in food
  • Inability to keep a job or meet obligations
  • Social withdrawal

Developing a Tolerance and Addiction

“Opium abuse damages a person’s nerve cells and interferes with the natural production of endorphins.”Opium is highly addictive and can cause physical and psychological dependency. Abusers can easily develop a tolerance for the drug, requiring them to take the drug in increasing amounts to achieve the same high. Once a person is physically dependent on the drug, it becomes harder to stop taking it because of withdrawal symptoms. Severe withdrawal symptoms can drive a person to start using the drug again to feel better, pushing the person into a cycle of cravings and withdrawals.

Long-term or heavy use of opium can significantly impact a person’s health. Opium abuse damages a person’s nerve cells and interferes with the natural production of endorphins. This is why discontinuing the drug after a period of abuse almost always requires professional help. The addict has effectively changed the working of his or her brain, and medical help is needed to control the mood swings, cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Potential health consequences of long-term opium abuse:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Liver disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to concentrate

What are the Symptoms of an Overdose?

People who are addicted to opium are at a high risk of overdose. The tendency for an opium abuser to develop a tolerance for the drug’s effects often results in the person taking increasing amounts of the drug, more frequently, in an attempt to maintain the same level of high.

It can be difficult to see the signs of an impending overdose before it happens. It can also be difficult to distinguish the ordinary stupor of a high from a situation that requires immediate medical assistance. If an opium user has any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency medical attention.

Signs of a potential overdose:

  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Blue fingertips or lips
  • Unconsciousness

The Withdrawal Process

Opium use over a long period of time can cause a physical dependency to develop, even if the person is not addicted to the drug. If the person tries to stop taking the drug abruptly or deceases the frequency of use, physical and psychological symptoms can develop.

Opium interferes with a person’s nerve receptors. Prolonged use changes the way those receptors respond to stimuli. The receptors develop the means to resist the effects of the drug, requiring the user to take larger doses to achieve the same results. When the user stops taking the drug, the receptors must change again to respond. These internal changes in the central nervous system can cause a person to become sick when he or she stops taking the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms, if they develop, can last approximately seven days.

Potential withdrawal symptoms:

  • Intense drug craving
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Aches and pains
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The Need for Medical Detoxification

Opium addition treatment for most addicts begins with a detoxification program that takes place under medical supervision. The doctors supervise opium detox can prescribe medication that can lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. Often, the withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, but they are extremely uncomfortable.

Without help to alleviate the symptoms, an addict is likely to start using the drug again in an attempt to feel better. Medical professionals use drugs like buprenorphine and clonidine to reduce anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, and other withdrawal symptoms.

Necessary Maintenance to Ensure Sobriety

Some addicts simply cannot or will not stop using opium or its derivatives, so getting them into a formal opium addiction treatment program that focuses on complete sobriety is not an option. In these cases, the medical industry has endorsed a maintenance program that switches the addict to a less destructive opioid, usually methadone. The maintenance medication is distributed from specialized clinics, which the addict must visit everyday.

The maintenance drug dose usually lasts between 24 – 36 hours and has few side effects. Addicts who switch to the maintenance drug are not sober, but they are better able to function in society and can avoid many of the illegal and destructive activities that were caused by previous drug-seeking behavior. Maintenance treatment can be continued indefinitely, or the dose can be gradually decreased as a precursor to intensive treatment and complete sobriety.

Available Options for Treatment

Detox Center

Drugged Alcoholic patient visiting a doctor, stethoscope on the table Finding the right detox center can be a tricky task if you are looking to help someone, whether it is yourself or a loved one, to get clean from drugs or alcohol. Different centers have different strengths and weaknesses, so you may need a little help to find the right one for you. Read More

Opium addicts are at a high risk of relapsing. Identifying the right opium addiction treatment option for yourself or a loved one can be difficult. It is important to closely match the user’s individual needs with the treatment methodology offered by the program facility to ensure long-term success. Addiction is a chronic disease, and finding a solution that sticks can be confusing, disappointing, expensive, and time-consuming.

Detoxification is only the first step in the recovery from opium addiction. Opium detox can help get the drug out of a person’s system, but it cannot stop the person from using again in the future. The process of recovery requires a period of rehabilitation that should last at least 21 days but can be extended for as long as 90 days. During this time, an opium addict must learn how to resist the temptation of using the drug again in the future.

Opium rehab generally consists of individualized counseling with a licensed psychologist and a platform of additional treatments that build on that basic therapy. You can choose to receive treatment as an inpatient or outpatient at a residential treatment facility, or you can self-direct treatment by picking a private practitioner and following an informal treatment program. In reality, opium dependency and addiction is not easily kicked by the individual involved without professional treatment. The majority of reported opium addicts required a substantial stay in professional treatment to achieve long-term sobriety.

Common types of treatments offered at opium rehabilitation centers:

  • Individualized therapy
  • Integrated psychiatric care
  • Alternative therapies, such as hypnotherapy, art therapy, and music therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Life skills development
  • Health and nutritional counseling

It is often difficult for an opium addict to change ingrained abuse habits in 21 or 30 days of intensive treatment. Many people need as much time as possible in a supportive environment before going out on their own. Experts have found that longer stays in rehab result in fewer incidences of relapse, so a 90-day stay in a residential facility is considered the gold standard of opium addiction treatment options by the drug rehabilitation industry.

A longer stay in intensive treatment is often highly recommended for anyone with a history of relapsing. Extended treatment is also recommended for people who are addicted to multiple drugs or have an underlying physical or mental medical condition. The additional time allows recovering addicts to develop stronger defenses to the problems and situations that encourage their drug use, before they have to test those defenses in the real world.

The end of the intensive treatment program does not mark the end of opium addiction treatment for the addict. Long-term sobriety often depends on the recovering addict finding the support he or she needs outside of the treatment facility. Many people rely on a 12-step program to provide ongoing group therapy and support with people battling the same problems.

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