Opium is one of the oldest narcotics on the planet. It has been refined from the opium poppy for centuries. Now people primarily use it to make other drugs and medications. Researchers manufacture a few of the most popular pain medications from opium or synthetic opium. These painkillers are also highly addictive.
Throughout history people relied on opium for both its painkilling properties and as recreation. In its hay day when opium was mostly legal people would smoke it in what was known as opium dens. These opium dens were similar to bars only instead of alcohol people used opium. This was before the long term adverse effects of opium were discovered. Although it is rare to see opium in its raw form, people still smoke it in the United States. Opium is not as addictive as the medications and drugs made from it but it can still cause overdose and permanent long term damage.
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How is Opium Used
The most common way that people use opium is smoking it. In order to make opium workers take the seeds and split open the seed pod and let the sap leak out onto a collection tray. When the sap is dry, they scrape the residue off and that is they sell as opium. When a person smokes opium, they put the residue on ashes in a pipe and light it.
Although less popular it is possible to inject opium. Similar to heroin people melt the residue down, put it into a syringe, and inject it. The opium reaches the brain faster this way, but it is infinitely more dangerous. Injecting carries its own short and long term effects.
The last way people usually use opium is to ingest it. This is one of the ancient ways to use opium. You can steep the opium in boiling water and brew it into a tea. People sometimes sweeten the tea with honey or sugar. Although rarely used, this form of using opium is the least dangerous in the long run.
The General Long Term Effects of Opium
There are some generalized long term effects of doing opium. These effects are present no matter how a person uses opium (ingesting, smoking, or injecting.)
- Opium affects the kidneys. One of the things that opium causes is renal failure. If left untreated renal failure ultimately leads to death.
- Prolonged use leads to tolerance and addiction. This leads to:
- bone pain,
- high blood pressure, and
- heart, lung, or kidney disease.
- The symptoms of withdrawal worsen with the length of use.
- No matter what from you take it in, opium causes liver damage.
These are just long term effects in general. Each way of taking opium has its own long term risks.
Long term Effects of Injecting Opium
Injecting opium carries its own set of serious risks. Although most people inject another form of opium called heroin, it is possible to inject opium itself. According to the National Library of Health, those that do so are at risk from:
- injection site infection – people who use needles to inject a drug are not known for their cleanliness. If the needle is not sterile, it can lead to infection. Because addicts do not generally seek treatment these infections often lead to more serious problems including death. Abscesses under the skin can develop leading to amputation.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections also called STIs or STDs – because those who inject opium sometimes share needles, the risk of STIs is similar to those who have unprotected sex. Sharing needles might result in Hepatitis, HIV or Aids, a incurable virus that may stay dormant for years but eventually leads to death.
- damage to veins – injecting unknown substances mixed with opium can lead to sclerosis of the veins, vein weakening, and other circulatory problems.
- injecting may lead to blood clots – blood clots are extremely dangerous and can cause heart attack, death, stroke, and other problems.
These issues are extremely hard to avoid when injecting opium. Most people who use opium through injecting wind up with at least one of these issues if not more.
Long Term Effects of Smoking Opium
Although the long term effects of smoking opium exclusively are difficult to study, doctors know that smoking any substances causes serious issues with the respiratory system. People who smoke opium are at risk for:
- Lung cancer – opium along with other inhalants cause the lining of the lungs to replicate more often than they would normally. This puts people at a higher risk for lung cancer.
- COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, this disorder causes extreme difficulty breathing.
- Emphysema – damage to the alveoli causes chronic shortness of breath and eventual oxygen deprivation.
These are just a few of the risks of inhaling or smoking opium.
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Long Term Effects of Ingesting Opium
Ingesting opium is not nearly as hard on the body as injecting or smoking it. When opium is ingested either in a tea or in another form, it flows through the digestive process. This filters the drug considerably. There have been some reports of long term stomach issues with opium but these are mostly unsubstantiated.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opium, although not as popular as its derivatives is still extremely addictive. Most of the long term effects of opium use are present no matter what form the opium is in. By injecting, ingesting, or smoking opium, you expose yourself to all of these long term health problems. If you believe you are addicted to opium or one of its derivatives, it is important to seek treatment before it is too late.