The opium poppy seed plant has given rise to a range of both legal and illegal drug substances. Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol and heroin are just a few of the drugs derived from opium. As natural pain-relieving agents opium and opium-derived drugs offer effective treatments for pain-related conditions.
When used as prescribed, opium presents little real danger for users. On the other hand, opium abuse practices turn this medicinal agent into an addictive force in users lives.
Consequences of opium abuse tend to grow worse the longer users continue to take the drug. With long-term use, opium abuse damages a person’s physical and psychological health as well as his or her overall quality of life.
Brain Chemical Imbalances
The feelings of euphoria and well-being users experience from opium result from the release of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. According to Columbia Health, these same chemicals also work to slow down any bodily process regulated by the central nervous system.
Opium abuse practices eventually throw off the brain’s chemical balance and overall equilibrium. As brain cell receptor sites continue to release large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, these same sites grow weaker in the process and so demand increasingly larger doses to produce the same desired effects.
Physical & Psychological Dependency
With continued use, opium abuse causes both physical and psychological dependency to develop. As brain cell sites grow weaker, they become more and more dependent on opium effects to function normally. With an increasing demand for larger doses, this physical dependency grows worse over time.
Psychological dependency develops as drug cravings and withdrawal effects drive users to engage in compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. Over time, these behaviors turn into a lifestyle that ultimately encourages ongoing drug use.
Long-term opium abuse impairs overall brain function, which in turn weakens most every major system in the body. Slowed metabolism processes result in poor food digestion, leaving users in a perpetual state of fatigue.
Opium effects also weaken the body’s immune system functions, so users become more prone to developing sicknesses and disease. Other health effects arising from ongoing opium use include:
- Diminished cognitive functions
- Respiratory difficulties
- Heart irregularities
- Gastrointestinal problems
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the brain’s tolerance level for opium increases at a faster rate than the rest of the body. So while the brain continues to demand increasingly larger doses, other major bodily systems have already reached a heavily sedated state.
The respiratory system in particular is most vulnerable to large doses of opium. In effect, respiratory distress and failure account for the majority of overdose deaths resulting from opium abuse.
Quality of Life Effects
Consequences of opium abuse become most apparent within a person’s overall quality of life. Ongoing opium use inevitably leads to addiction.
Addiction drives users to direct most of their energy and time into getting and using the drug. For most people addiction takes the form of:
- Losing a job or declining work performance
- Relationship problems
- Money problems
- Legal problems
Over time, a person’s lifestyle can’t help but reflect the damaging effects of the drug.