Opium Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Treatment Explained

Last Updated: May 12, 2021

Opium Addiction

Opium addiction is one of the most devouring problems.
Although opium is obtained from a flower – the opium poppy – there’s nothing fragile or beautiful about the drug.

Also, it’s one of the plagues of society as opium leads to unrepairable family and financial problems. What’s more, historically speaking, the drug had caused wars and even led to the end of the flourishing strength of the Chinese Empire.
All this might sound too general because people can’t comprehend the actual pain that opium addiction causes unless they experience it. Maybe pure opium consumption and opium dens are long in the past but still, some of the worst drugs come from opium: the devastating morphine and heroin, the semi-synthetic Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, and the synthetic Methadone and Fentanyl.
Unfortunately, even though the drug has been used to treat pain, now opium addiction causes more pain than ever.

Opium Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Opium is illegal, but still, many people abuse the drug due to its recreational effects: euphoria, pain relief, relaxation, and pleasant feelings. When the effects wear off, a person can feel confused, empty and depressed, which can lead to more intake, tolerance, and addiction. It’s easy to develop opium addiction, and even people who think they are psychically and mentally strong can find themselves trapped in the addiction cycle – even after a single try.
Some of the signs of opium addiction are:

  • Taking more and more of the drug
  • Obtaining opium despite the legal consequences that come with it
  • Committing crime to get a hold of the drug
  • Mixing drugs and doctor shopping for other drugs
  • Continuing taking opium regardless health risks
  • Hiding problems from family and friends
  • Putting opium before loved ones
  • Social isolation
  • Apathy and inability to take any responsibilities
  • New “friends” that take opium
  • Neglecting appearance
  • Aggressive behavior and irritability

Recognizing Opium Addiction

Opium addiction signs cause physical and psychological addiction and severe side effects. Being familiar with the effects of the drug can help people recognize opium dependence.
Some of the short-term side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Confusion

In addition, a person can be nervous, anxious, aggressive, sleepy, shaking, isolated, talking nonsense, or profoundly depressed.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a definite sign that indicates dependence and that will help people recognize opium addiction. Opium withdrawal is one of the most dangerous, uncomfortable and painful effects that drugs, in general, can cause. For individuals who are fighting their addiction, this can lead to relapse. It’s a terrible cycle: when an individual is in pain, the last thing they want is more pain. That’s why a person takes a bit more of opium to forget, which makes the rebound symptoms more severe and leads to more social stigma and guilt.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Body aches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Yawning
  • Changes in appetite

Some users describe the pain in their bones and joints as knife cuts.

Dangers of Opium Addiction

Opium addiction is very dangerous for the user. Long-term abuse can lead to lung cancer, brain damage, liver, and kidney failure. Renal failure is another dangerous consequence.
Opium use during pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage, premature birth, congenital disabilities, and withdrawal for the baby. An addiction to opium and having withdrawals can be dangerous for the mom and the baby, and that’s why substitutes like Methadone can be prescribed.
Due to dehydration or an overdose, ER visits are not an exception. The most dangerous risk consists in respiratory depression, which can lead to coma and death. In addition, the drug can lead to other serious respiratory diseases. In the case of an overdose, call 911. Some of the signs that will help one recognize an overdose are slowed breathing, vomiting, and hallucinations.
Opium addiction can cause divorce and financial problems. It can result in risky behavior, prostitution and crime, and at the same time, people high on opium can become victims of assault.

How to tell that a loved one is struggling with an Opium addiction and needs help?

Many physical and mental changes described above, such as withdrawal, can help one spot an addictive behavior.

  • If a loved one is sleepy, anxious, paranoid, irritated and demotivated
  • If he or she has lost weight and has difficulties sleeping
  • If one is interested only in the drug despite social, financial and legal problems
  • If one lies about their opium use

They might be struggling with opium addiction. Then it’s time to seek help.

Opium Addiction Treatment

Treating opium addiction is crucial as it can save lives. Often, the addict will be resistant to admit their problems. Withdrawal symptoms and cravings can be tormenting as it’s hard to kick opium out of the system. In fact, the drug affects the pain receptors and the dopamine levels, so trying to quit and stay clean is hard.
Hard or not, the only way to save an individual addicted to opium is to help them find the right treatment. Inpatient Methadone centers are great to cope with withdrawal and medical complications because the detox includes other medications. As it’s controversial if other drugs should be used to treat a drug addiction, other drug-free and holistic methods are more beneficial: counseling, support groups, and faith-based programs.
Leading a healthy life is important:

  • Safe environment that will prevent relapse
  • Plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration
  • Regular sleep and healthy diet to overcome withdrawal easier
  • Hot baths to deal with pain

Aftercare is crucial to coping with cravings.
Often, family therapy is needed to restore ruined social relationships and trust.

Page Sources

  1. Ray R., Kattimani S., Sharma H.K. Opium Abuse and Its Management: Global Scenario. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/activities/opium_abuse_and_its_management.pdf
  2. Ahmadi J, Fallahzadeh H, Salimi A, Rahimian M, Salehi V, Khaghani M, Babaeebeigi M. Analysis of opium use by students of medical sciences. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2006 15, 379-86.
  3. Ahmadi J, Babaee-Beigi M, Alishahi M, Maany I, Hidari T.Twelve-month maintenance treatment of opium-dependent patients. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2004, 26, 363-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14698800

Published on: April 27th, 2017

Updated on: May 12th, 2021

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


Leave a comment