The History of Opium Use and Abuse

a group discusses Opium Abuse

Opium poppies have a significant medical impact in history that dates back to 3400 B.C. Their medicinal effects were once thought magical, and it was a highly cultivated plant worldwide. Word of its medicinal properties quickly spread across the globe, and it was sought after by many powerful leaders, creating a trail of opium abuse and addiction where it went. The opium poppy is still a massive part of modern medicine. Scientists and researchers have learned how to isolate the beneficial chemical properties to create more potent and effective medicine. Although designed for medical needs, these drugs and medications are highly addictive.

At Northpoint Seattle, we understand the plight of addiction and are compassionate toward those who struggle. We strive to bring hope to those who suffer from addiction and provide them with resources to help them overcome their struggles. Our goal is to create a haven that offers peace, comfort, and acceptance, where individuals can look beyond their illness and find healing. Our opiate, opioid, and opium abuse treatment programs allow patients to break their dependence on addictive drugs and lead healthier, happier lives. Call 888.483.6031 to get started today.

How Opium Use Spread like Wildfire Across the Globe

The opium poppy, which is a small, green bulb, was first cultivated around 3400 B.C. in lower Mesopotamia by the Sumerians. They referred to the opium poppy as the “joy plant.” While they had no idea how the opium poppy worked its magic, they enjoyed its effects when ingested. The Sumerians then passed on this plant to the Egyptians, who cultivated their own in large poppy fields. As the Egyptians were traders, they introduced the poppies to the Phoenicians and the Minoans around 1300 B.C.

These traders then traded the opium flowers across the Mediterranean Sea into Carthage, Europe, and Greece. The magical, medicinal effects of the opium flowers were also a hit in those places. By 460 B.C., the usage of this plant changed. More people focused on its medicinal properties rather than its recreational usage. Poppy flowers were used to treat internal diseases and epidemics.

The Europeans largely kept the poppy seeds to themselves until 330 B.C. It was then introduced to Persia and India. It wasn’t until 400 A.D. that the opium plant was introduced to China. At this point, word of the plant’s magical and medicinal properties had basically spread across the globe. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1500 that the Portuguese introduced the world to smoking opium. By smoking opium instead of consuming the seeds, the chemical effects were immediately felt.

Types of Opium

There’s a lot of confusion about the differences between opium, opiates, and opioids. Most of the time, these words are used interchangeably with one another. However, there are minor differences. Opium refers to the opium poppy. Opiates are chemicals derived from the opium poppy and are a natural pain remedy. Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetically made. These types of medications have chemical properties similar to opiates.

Types of Opiates

Common types of opiates include:

  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine

Types of Opioids

Popular types of opioids include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone

Addictive Properties of Opium Leading to Abuse

Opium is extremely addictive because it affects the body’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter produced by the body. It is usually associated with motivation and learning. The body releases dopamine as a reward, like after sex or eating. This creates a sense of euphoria and joy, encouraging people to continue the activity that caused the release. Opium artificially increases dopamine levels in the brain significantly. This causes the brain and the body to associate the misuse of these drugs with positive feelings.

Long-Term Effects of Opium Abuse on the Brain

People struggling with addiction will find that opioid or opiate use has lasting effects on their brains. The brain adapts to the constantly elevated dopamine levels and normalizes them. As a result, it drastically halts natural production. This means that the brains of long-term users either no longer produce any dopamine or produce very little. Without artificially boosting the dopamine levels in the brain with opioids or opiates, they cannot experience pleasure or positive feelings. This reinforces the correlation and bond between addiction and drug use. It can take a long time for the brain to finally start producing dopamine at normal levels again.

Signs of Opium Addiction

Signs of opium abuse and addiction can be hard to identify. Many people are high functioning and can keep their addiction a secret. Some of the more obvious opium addiction signs include:

  • Experiencing memory problems
  • Feeling restless and agitated all the time
  • Feeling exhausted and lethargic constantly
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Lying to family and friends about drugs taken
  • No longer finding joy in once pleasurable activities
  • Not fulfilling or keeping up with familial and other responsibilities
  • Obsessing with getting, using, or recovering from the drugs
  • Performing poorly at work or school

Those experiencing signs of addiction should seek help immediately. The problem can easily worsen and spiral out of control.

Opium Withdrawal Symptoms

Both opioids and opiates have notoriously powerful withdrawal symptoms. Although the symptoms aren’t life-threatening, they could lead to life-threatening situations. Patients recovering from opiate or opioid abuse experience the following symptoms for a week:

  • Abdominal pain and stomach cramps
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Cold sweats
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Goosebumps and chills
  • Intense cravings
  • Mood swings, especially agitation

The severity of symptoms will depend on the dosage ingested regularly, the type and purity of the drugs, and the length of the addiction.

Evidence-Based Treatments for Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

While counseling and behavioral therapies are essential parts of rehab, the most effective way to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms is to partake in opioid replacement therapy (ORT). ORT involves using replacement drugs that have a similar effect on the brain as opioids and opiates. The drugs block cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing any high. The most common types of medications used in ORT include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Suboxone
  • Vivitrol

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Seattle

Outpatient opioid addiction treatment at Northpoint Seattle is designed to provide clients with the most comprehensive, evidence-based treatment available. The programs are tailored to meet the individual needs of each client, utilizing an integrated approach to care. Northpoint Seattle’s outpatient addiction treatment programs provide a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to help treat the physical, emotional, and social effects of addiction.

Contact us online or by calling 888.483.6031 today to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment program and to get started today.