Opium, a nature-based substance, comes from the sap found inside opium poppy plants. Once dried and packaged, opium – in its natural form – can be smoked or taken orally. In its processed or purified form, opium can be used to make several other drugs, some of which include heroin, codeine and morphine as well as a range of prescription pain relief medication.
When ingested in large enough doses, opium produces feelings of mild euphoria, calm and sedation. According to Columbia Health, opium side effects result from the chemical processes that cause these seemingly pleasant sensations. The human brain contains actual opiate receptor sites that secrete endorphin chemicals when activated. Endorphin chemicals create pain-relieving effects as well as a calming effect on the emotions. Normally, stress and pain sensations activate these sites, which helps a person cope with everyday stressors and injuries.
Ongoing opium use causes receptor sites to secrete unusually large amounts of endorphins, which accounts for the “high” effects the drug causes. Long-term opium use damages cell receptor sites, which accounts for most if not all of the opium side effects a person experiences.
Over time, potentially serious opium side effects will develop. The 10 most serious opium side effects to watch out for include:
The damaging effects opium in the brain leaves receptor cells at the mercy of opium’s effects. When this happens, brain processes become dependent on the drug’s effects to function normally.
2. Rising Tolerance Levels
Within two weeks time, the brain’s cell receptors become less and less sensitive to the effects of opium. In effect, a person’s tolerance level for opium continues to increase for as long as he or she keeps taking the drug. When this happens, a person must take increasingly larger doses to achieve the same “high” and/or pain-relieving effects.
3. “Nodding Out”
Over time, opium side effects leave a person in a perpetual state of sedation. In this condition, he or she can easily “nod out” in the middle of a conversation or while performing everyday tasks.
4. Shallow Breathing
The sedating effects of opiumf slow all major body processes, including respiration. With ongoing use, a person starts to take shallow breaths on a continual basis, which ultimately depletes the body of needed oxygen supplies.
Opium’s ability to sedate or slow down brain processes poses an ongoing risk for opium overdose. Too much of the drug can shut down respiratory functions and ultimately result in death.
6. Impaired Cognitive Processes
Over time, opium causes widespread brain chemical imbalances to develop. When this happens, a person has difficulty thinking clearly. Impaired cognitive processing affects a person’s decision-making and ability to reason and/or use sound judgment.
7. Weakened Immune System Function
As brain and body functions deteriorate from ongoing opium use, immune system functions start to weaken. This opium side effect leaves a person vulnerable to colds, flu and viral infections.
8. Drug Cravings
Drug craving effects result from increasing tolerance levels for the opium. The longer a person uses the stronger drug craving effects become.
Chemical imbalances in the brain directly affect a person’s overall emotional state. Opium’s ability to disrupt brain chemical processes can easily give rise to opium side effects that take the form of anxiety symptoms.
Increased tolerance levels, ongoing drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms all contribute to the addictive potential inherent in long-term opium use. Anyone experiencing opium side effects on a regular basis may want to take this as a warning sign of opium addiction.