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Opium and Opioid Addiction Facts

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Learn about opium use in Boston

Opium is a highly addictive, non-synthetic drug that comes from the sap of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Opium sap is the chief source for many other opioid drugs, including morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and others. It is grown in many countries throughout the world and is generally sold in a liquid, solid, or powder form. Opium can be smoked, injected intravenously, or ingested. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists opium as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, putting on par with such drugs as morphine.

While opium use was historically prevalent throughout the Americas, today, natural raw opium is not a common street drug in the United States. Rehab centers in Boston rarely see cases of opium use, even given the wider scope of the current American opioid crisis. In the United States, natural opium has been largely superseded by both natural opiate products such as codeine and synthetic/partly synthetic opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.

Generally speaking, opium tends to have more value when processed into other opioid products, which has led to it becoming comparatively rare as a street drug. However, the United States, by far, is the largest consumer of both legal and illicit opioid products in the industrialized world, which means domestic demand directly fuels opium production.

Regular opium use causes opioid use disorder, which is characterized by a compulsion to find and use opioid drugs. Unfortunately, long-term users may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when the use of these drugs is stopped abruptly. Detoxification and withdrawal from opium and opioid products are safer and less difficult when medically managed under a doctor’s supervision.

How to tell if someone has an opium problem

If you believe that a loved one may have an opium problem or dependence on any other opiate drugs, you should become familiar with what typical opioid user behavior looks like:

  • The individual often appears to have no motivation.
  • He or she exhibits signs of depression.
  • He or she may randomly and unexpectedly appear to be hyperactive.
  • The individual is observed to be scratching a lot or feels itchy.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Mood swings or erratic behavior changes are observed without warning.
  • The individual often acts irrationally or has a distorted perception of reality.
  • The individual has slurred speech or impaired coordination.
  • The individual is no longer social and has lost interest in things he or she used to enjoy.
  • The individual has committed theft or is having legal troubles.

These are typical warning signs to watch for if you suspect that a loved one has an opium problem. If you observe these signs, consult a drug intervention expert before you approach the individual and encourage them to seek help. While you might believe your efforts are worthwhile, individuals with an opioid use disorder will typically not be receptive to getting help, initially. Having the advice or presence of an intervention specialist can help improve the chances that the affected individual will seek help.

Opium and opioid overdose statistics

It is important not to give up on loved ones hooked on opium, because treatment for opium addiction can prevent them from becoming drug overdose statistics.

Here are some drug overdose statistics as they relate to opioid misuse:

  • According to the CDC, the most common drugs involved in opioid overdose deaths include methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Ironically, these are drugs used for opioid replacement therapy to replace “harder” opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.
  • Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for misuse of opioids.
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.
  • From 2014 to 2015, heroin overdose death rates increased by over 20 percent, with approximately 13,000 deaths in 2015.
  • Opioids were involved in over 33,000 deaths in 2015, with overdoses quadrupling since 1999.
  • Chances of death increase significantly when other sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines and alcohol are involved.

Opium and opioid withdrawal symptoms

If you’re close to a person who uses opioids, you may be present when they go through withdrawal. When a long-time opium user suddenly stops taking opioids, severe withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Irritation or distress
  • Intense cravings that the individual is unable to hide in front of others.
  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle aches and intense cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Suicidal thoughts

Fortunately, physical and psychiatric effects related to opium use and withdrawal are well-understood and most Boston rehab facilities understand how to manage withdrawals from these drugs

Treatment for opium use disorder in Boston

While Boston has been recently dealing with the fallout from the current opioid crisis, opium use is a relative rarity in the area. However, as opioid drugs all broadly have similar effects on users, treatment for opium use disorder will likely follow the standard protocol for opioid drugs.

Withdrawal, detox, and stabilization

The first priority will be to stabilize the patient. A physician will assess the individual to see if they require drug replacement therapy or other treatments to ensure a safe withdrawal and detox. Co-occurring health and psychiatric conditions may also be treated at this time to ensure that the patient is more comfortable and better able to focus on recovery.

Opium rehabilitation

After the initial withdrawal and detox period, the patient may be referred to a residential or outpatient rehab program to continue their recovery. While they may no longer have traces of opium in their body thanks to the detox, strong cravings will remain for a few months. Unfortunately taking doses of opioids that one was previously accustomed to at this time can easily result in a fatal overdose due to a now-lowered tolerance.

This makes it critical to restrict the individual’s access to opioids while giving them the resources to better function without them. Residential rehab or closely-monitored intensive outpatient programs will usually offer counseling as well as cognitive-behavioral and dialectical-behavioral therapy to help recovering individuals better cope with lingering cravings. Alternative and supplementary therapies such as outdoor and art therapy may also be used to produce better long-term outcomes as well.

Continuing care

Some patients may require support through the rest of their lives. Alumni programs and regular meetings through groups such as Narcotics Anonymous in Boston can be beneficial for many recovering individuals. Continued counseling and therapy is also recommended in most cases to prevent a relapse.

Find help for opium use in Boston

Boston Drug Treatment Centers makes it easy to get in touch with substance rehab centers, therapists, and medical facilities experienced in treating opium and other opioid use. Call (857) 577-8193 today for a comprehensive listing of opioid treatment facilities in the Greater Boston Area. You may visit your local Narcotics Anonymous (http://www.usrecovery.info/NA/Massachusetts.htm) for support.

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