Opium is an addictive substance derived from the seeds of a poppy plant. Morphine, an alkaloid used to produce both legal and illegal drugs, is the primary component of opium.
Opium has a high potential for abuse, dependence, tolerance, and overdose. The drug is most often smoked but can be eaten, consumed as a tea, or injected. The method of use impacts the onset of drug effects – injection results in a more rapid high than other means.
Why Opioid Causes Dependence
Opium dependence can develop over time due to brain changes – opium hijacks the brain’s natural reward pathway, and releases a massive amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with a general sense of well-being.
Opium use also reduces heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Chronic, long-term use causes the brain to adjust to all of these effects, and reward pathways are structurally altered. Therefore, the brain starts to rely on opium to feel pleasure, and it begins to bypass the natural reward pathway. This action results in the user requiring increasing amounts of the drug to continue feeling the desired effects.
When dependence develops, drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms are common and occur when the user tries to cut back or stop use altogether. These effects are the brain’s way of attempting to restore balance.
Symptoms of Morphine Withdrawal
Opium withdrawal symptoms can begin with just a few hours of the last use. These symptoms typically peak between 48-74 hours and may include:
- increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- difficulty feeling pleasure
- anxiety and/or depression
- muscle aches and pains
- stomach pain
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- drug cravings
Most symptoms of withdrawal symptoms will ease between 5-7 days, but the intensity and duration of symptoms are often influenced by contributing factors, such as:
Amount and Duration Of Drug Use
Greater amounts of drug use coupled with a longer duration of use often lead to a more serious dependency and more severe withdrawal effects.
Biological and Genetic Influences
A personal and/or family history of substance abuse, in addition to other biological factors, can influence the user’s level of dependence.
Medical or mental health issues that co-occur with drug use, such as anxiety and depression, may contribute to both dependence and the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Other conditions may include but are not limited to bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Use of multiple substances including drugs and alcohol, in addition to opium, can influence a person’s level of dependence and must be addressed during a detox. Drugs that may contribute to addiction include, but are not limited to cocaine, methamphetamine, stimulants, benzodiazepines, sedatives, and other prescription and illicit opioids.
Stress, peer pressure, and a patient’s environment can also impact drug use and dependence. Interpersonal conflict involving family and friends may contribute to excessive drug use, and therefore, addiction.
Who Becomes Addicted To Morphine?
Anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, or socioeconomic status can become dependent on opium, due to its potentially addictive properties. However, certain people are at a heightened risk. These include those who have a personal or family history of addiction to any substance, or who suffer from co-occurring mental illness such as anxiety.
Also, a history of childhood trauma or neglect increases the likelihood that someone will abuse and become addicted to a substance such as opium.
What To Expect During A Morphine Detox
A medically-supervised opium detox takes place under the care of medical and mental health professionals using around-the-clock supervision. Opioid replacement therapy, such as the use of naltrexone, is often used to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Upon intake, patients will undergo comprehensive medical, physical, and social assessments. Information gathered during these assessments will be used by professional to develop a detox plan that is appropriate and effective for that individual.
Mitigating Morphine Detox with Medications
Medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are all approved by the Food and Drug Administration to ease the symptoms of opium withdrawal and reduce cravings.
Treatments include psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, 12-step programs, and holistic approaches such as art and music therapies, meditation, and yoga.