Opium for Pain Management


Opium is a painful, addictive drug found in both opium poppies and poppy seeds. The word comes from opium-meaning “inflamed or inflated.” Opium is extracted from the seed capsules of Papaver somnifera through a complex process. Approximately twelve percent of total opium is composed of the alkaloid opium, which is processed synthetically to make heroin and many other synthetic opioids for illicit use and for medical purposes. In China, the drug is known as “cookia”, which means “inflamed.”

Dependency upon opium increases with continued use. Heroin addiction, often beginning with the use of non-medical opium preparations, leads to physical dependence upon the drug. Heroin provides the user with both a tranquilizing and stimulant effect, producing both the euphoric sensations from sexual intercourse and the anxiety, irritability and cravings for the drug during the periods of abstinence. When taken in excessive amounts, heroin reduces the user’s sense of self and emotional control, producing feelings of paranoia and anxiety.

Because of these physical dependency and psychological withdrawal symptoms, most individuals attempting to recover from an opiate addiction will receive outside treatment from a qualified addiction treatment facility. Many opiate addicts initially enter a recovery village to receive care and assistance in their own emotional and physical situations. Patients will be paired with a primary care physician on a one-to-one basis in order to provide personalized, integrated care. A trained psychiatrist or psychologist provides ongoing support and guidance to patients in recovery. Treatment centers often incorporate yoga into the recovery program to increase strength and flexibility while focusing on deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

Aftercare is another important factor in successful long-term success. After every treatment session, patients are provided counseling in order to address any fears or feelings they may have regarding their next drug experience. Opioid analgesics are highly addictive substances and recovering addicts must be prepared to stay sober for a period of time in order to avoid relapse. Although most long-term users do not require continued access to prescription pain relievers, they should not overlook the possibility. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, including restlessness, sweating, insomnia, nausea and extreme anger.

In 1735, Charles Darwin first described opium as a natural drug. He claimed that after observing the effects of poppy seeds, he became convinced that it was “almost impossible to give up the use of tobacco.” Opium, which contains a number of alkaloids, is derived from the poppy plant. Poppy seeds contain the alkaloids hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methylcobalamin and hydrocodocusine. The active chemical in opium is mucoidhine.

In China, the poppy plant, also known as the butterfly plant, grows wild across the country. The highest production occurs in the northeast, where it flourishes in the thick forests there. Today, poppy plants are cultivated in countries such as India, Pakistan and Vietnam. The cultivation of poppy has expanded into Europe and the United States. Some argue that over planting has reduced the potential productivity of this perennial plant but the result is still noteworthy.

For those who are trying to break free from an addiction, the natural methods often work well. The problem with long-term heroin, cocaine and morphine use or abuse is that the body eventually builds up a tolerance to the drugs. This means that while the individual may feel enjoyment for a short time after use, they need a bigger amount to achieve the same level of enjoyment. Once the user has reached this point, additional doses of opium are required just to maintain the high.

In recent years, Mexico has grown increasingly receptive to the idea of regulating opium products. Mexico City has banned poppy cultivation completely. Heroin, however, remains highly addictive and Mexican authorities fear that without strict controls it will begin flooding the United States with prescription drug abuse. Mexico’s inability to supply heroin to the United States via the drug route has caused American pharmacies to start carrying Mexican-made opiates instead. If the euphoric effects of Mexican opium products are any indicator, the demand will only rise.