Opium, derived from the poppy seed plant, has provided a remarkable array of medicinal treatments for moderate and severe pain symptoms. Prescription narcotic medications, such as morphine, codeine and thebaine all contain opium agents, in one form or another, that act as the active ingredients. Opium has also greatly contributed to the illegal drug market in the form of heroin.
Opium-based drugs occupy a class of drugs known as opiates. As these drugs commonly carry strong analgesic properties, they’re highly addictive whether used recreationally or as a treatment for pain.
Opium effects work to alter pain signaling between nerve cells and reduce a person’s perception of pain. The effects of opium not only relieve pain symptoms but can also produce intense feelings of joy and well-being. These resulting feelings account for the widespread abuse of opium and opium-based drugs.
People who use opium-based drugs on a long-term basis open themselves up for a wide range of damaging opium effects. As the drug naturally targets and alters vital brain processes, the long-term effects of opium can be catastrophic in more ways than one.
The opium poppy seed plant secretes a dark, milky sap that’s easily converted into the dark, powdery heroin sold on the streets. Opium was also the very first medicinal compound discovered, according to Columbia Health. Morphine, a natural extract of opium is just one of the many pain-relief agents derived from the opium poppy seed plant.
Opium (in any form) also delivers a powerful “high” effect along with its ability to relieve pain. Recreational users experience a rush of euphoria and calm when ingesting large doses of the drug. Even when used for medical purposes, these effects do occur, though milder in intensity.
As opium effects carry strong analgesic properties, most all opium-based drugs are considered controlled substances that carry highly addictive properties. When used on a regular basis, the effects of opium become more so harmful than beneficial regardless of its intended use.
As one of the most powerful opiate-based substances, opium effects alter brain chemical functions to the point where changes in brain cell structures cause actual physical damage. According to the University of California – Los Angeles, neurotransmitter chemical functions regulate pain signals between the body’s cells and also regulate the emotional centers in the brain. When ingested, opium effects replace the cell’s natural endorphin-releasing processes and force neurotransmitter secretions from the cells.
The effects of opium override normal cell secretion processes by making cell receptors less sensitive to normal secretion functions. Ultimately, opium effects alter the chemical make-up of brain cells. Over time, these alterations impair cell structure and weaken their ability to secrete neurotransmitter chemicals on their own.
With ongoing use, the damaging effects of opium on brain cell functions become progressively worse. After a while, users will require regular doses of opium in order for the brain to maintain any sense of equilibrium.
Once a person starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the effects of opiates, the brain and body have become physically dependent on the drug. Opium withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person, though the most commonly experienced symptoms include –
- Muscle aches
- Muscle spasms
- Feelings of fatigue
- Abdominal cramps
- Feelings of depression
- Feelings of anxiety
As opium effects leave brain cell functions in a state of disarray, these symptoms develop out of the brain’s attempts to maintain normal function when needed amounts of the drug are lacking.
With repeated use, the brain adapts its chemical processes to the ongoing presence of opium effects. As brain cell receptors become progressively weaker, a person’s tolerance for the effects of opium increases accordingly. As tolerance levels rise, the brain and body require increasingly larger doses of the drug to function normally.
Short-Term Opium Effects
When first ingested, opium effects result from the massive release of endorphin chemicals throughout the brain. Under normal, drug-free conditions, these chemicals appear when a person experiences pain or is under some sort of stress.
The effects of opium usually take the form of –
- Slowed breathing rates
- Coordination problems
- Pain relief
- Anxiety relief
- Decrease in alertness
Opium effects can last anywhere from three to six hours at a time. When used in heroin form, these effects can vary in intensity as different batches of heroin can vary in purity. Even in cases where a person has built up a tolerance to the drug, an unusually strong batch or a batch containing a combination of opiates can easily cause an overdose incident.
Opium effects from an overdose overpower certain processes within the body. In a worst-case scenario, respiratory failure or cardiac arrest can quickly lead to death.
Symptoms of overdose include:
- Shallow breathing
- Rapid pulse rate
- Slow breathing rate
- Clammy skin
Long-Term Opium Effects
With chronic, long-term use, the body’s tolerance levels reach a point where no amount of opium can eliminate withdrawal effects. The effect of opium also starts to fall short in creating the desired “high” users seek. As addicts ingest increasingly larger doses in an attempt to experience the desired “high” effects, the risk of overdose increases significantly.
Once a person reaches this point, opium effects actually start to induce an ongoing state of anxiety in users. Accumulated damage to brain and body functions results in considerable weight loss and mental deterioration. Liver, kidney and stomach damage are just a few of the areas affected.
The risk of addiction is by far the most dangerous effect of opium use. From the very first dose a person takes, the process of addiction takes root as the body becomes dependent on opium effects. From there, increasing tolerance levels drive users to ingest larger and larger doses with each successive use.
After a while, users start to believe they need the drug in order to cope with everyday life. Once users start believing they need the drug, addiction has taken hold in their lives. At this point, the opium effects have altered a person’s priorities and daily routines as everything he or she does will revolve around the drug.