When it comes to distinguishing from the different types of drugs that exist, they’re typically broken into three unique categories: stimulants, hallucinogens, and depressants. Of course, stimulants include drugs that ‘stimulate’ the central nervous system, such as cocaine and crystal meth. By contrast, hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause dissociative feelings and/or visual or auditory hallucinations. Finally, there are depressants; these are substances that ‘depress’ the central nervous system, causing drowsiness, poor motor coordination, and effectively slowing down the body and many of its systems. A number of depressants are surely some of the most widely used (and dangerous) substances that exist, particular one known as opium. But what is opium, exactly? What are its effects and what are the symptoms that characterize opium withdrawal? Finally, how can a person overcome opium addiction?
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What exactly is opium?
There are many mind-altering substances that have been used — for one purpose or another — for a very, very long time. For instance, we have quite an extensive history with alcohol, which extends back thousands of years. Additionally, marijuana use has been documented as far back as ancient China. However, one of the most dangerous drugs, and one that served as the precursor to some of the most problematic of all the chemical substances used today, is opium.
According to archaeological records, the earliest cultivation (and presumed use) of opium was during the Neolithic Age at approximately 5000 BCE, i.e. roughly seven thousand years ago. At the time, opium seeds appear to have had uses involving food, ritual, and anesthetics for primitive medical procedures. However, there’s evidence of opium actually being used for its psychoactive purposes in ancient Greece where indications show that opium was being ingested via the inhalation of opium vapor, suppository, poultice (spread on skin in the form of a thick moist substance), as well as combined with hemlock as a means of committing suicide. In fact, many Eastern European, Mediterranean, and Asian locales made extensive use of opium, including Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Minoan, Assyrian, Indian, Persian, Greek, and Arab Empires.
One of the main uses of opium during ancient times was as a pain reliever. The use of opium allowed for a number of ancient surgical procedures that would’ve either not been possible or else been excruciating without the use of opium to help minimize physical pain. In fact, opium is so effective in treating pain that its use continued through the American Civil War, at which point the popularity of opium gave way to an opium derivative known as morphine.
Between 400 and 1200 CE, Arab traders introduced opium to China, which set the rest of the world’s illicit affair with the drug into motion. The drug became so popular in China that its Chinese heritage would come to be known as a very dominant part of the history of opium. In fact, it wasn’t until immigrants from China brought opium to the United States that the drug finally began to emerge in Western cultures. Over the course of the American Civil War and beyond, opium use became quite popular in the U.S., resulting in the emergence of many opium dens where users could go to use the drug.
Meanwhile, it was gaining a reputation for being highly addictive due to the opium problem in China and the growing opium presence in the West. As a result, chemists began trying to develop alternatives to opium that offered similar therapeutic effects, leading to the establishment of the group of drugs known as opioids. In fact, opioids have essentially taken the place of opium, which is very infrequently used in contemporary societies.
Effects of opium
Opium is obtained by allowing the sap that seeps from the seeds of the opium poppy to dry, at which point it can be collected and imbibed in one of several key ways. Over the height of its popularity, opium’s primary means of administration was by smoking, which happened to be one of the most effective means of intake when it comes to the drug’s bioavailability. Some of the most well-known effects of opium include intense euphoria and relaxation, tingling or numbness throughout the body, marked decrease in blood pressure and heart rate, noticeable decrease in respiration, the sense of having an out-of-body experience, reduced energy, impaired vision and coordination, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, and numerous other effects. Of course, the drug is also associated with a number of adverse effects, especially since it’s so easy to overdose; this includes difficulty breathing, lung disorders, emphysema, damage to various other bodily organs and systems, and so on.
Opium withdrawal symptoms
Although all mind-altering drugs are addiction to one degree or another, opium is certainly one of the most addiction. People who use opium don’t need to use the drug for very long before they become physiologically dependent. When a person has become dependent on opium, some of the withdrawal symptoms that he or she will experience when unable to obtain or consume the drug include intense physical discomfort or pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and/or vomiting, anxiety, sweating, unprovoked mood swings, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, panic attacks, and a variety of other unpleasant effects. While not typically considered life-threatening, opium withdrawals are often cited as one of the most intense and unpleasant of all withdrawal syndromes.