Addiction Past and Present: How to Fight Opium Addiction

History of Opium Addiction

Other than alcohol, opium is historically the longest cause of substance abuse addiction in the world, according to Harvard Health Publications. The use of opiates and opioids, which are derived from opium and are chemically similar, has been traced back to ancient cultures, including that of Ancient Egypt. However, for thousands of years until the past century, very little was understood about how addictive opiates truly are.

In the 1800s, German chemists determined how they could create a liquid opium form, which was used as medicine. They called this drug "heroin". Heroin was used to treat everything from tuberculosis to diarrhea to alcoholism. People weren't safely using heroin then, just as they aren't today. According to an article in "The Atlantic," when the opium addiction crisis came to light in the 1900s, there were three times as many addicts then as there were in the 1990s.

Today, there are several different types of opium-derived and opium-"inspired" drugs that are synthetically made to resemble opium's chemical makeup. These include heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine. Instead of a liquid, they are available in pills, powders and as injectable liquids.

What Drugs Contain Opium Today?

Opium is derived from the opium poppy, which traditionally grows in Southeast Asia. The poppy seeds have morphine in them. Scientists have also figured out how to make opioids, which are structurally similar synthetic versions of opiates. Examples of drugs that contain opium or opium-like compounds today include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone, such as Vicodin
  • Hydromorphone, such as Dilaudid
  • Oxycodone, such as Percodan and OxyContin

These drugs are all pain relievers that can also reduce anxiety and produce a "high" or euphoria. Although some opiates, like hydrocodones, are legal for prescription use, they can be very addictive. If you start taking these medications by prescription, it's possible to develop a mental dependence upon the drug and its effects. Others may try these drugs at parties or on the streets and become addicted to the high it produces.

What Treatments Are Most Effective in Treating Opium Addiction?

For thousands of years, people of all ages and backgrounds have been vulnerable to opium addiction. Men today are no different. What you can learn from history, however, is that opium addiction can be life-threatening and can negatively affect a person's life. Because a young man has his whole life ahead of him, an addiction to opium-like drugs can affect his abilities to maintain a job and relationships with loved ones. Seeking treatment is vital to helping him overcome this addiction.

The treatment process depends upon the drug abused, the man's health history and how much/how long he abused the drug. Treatment typically starts with the detox process. This involves taking less of a drug or stopping it altogether to break physical addiction to the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms from opiates are not typically life-threatening, but they aren't comfortable either. Doctors and drug treatment centers can prescribe medications, such as methadone or Suboxone, if needed. These medications reduce the withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate dependence - but they aren't without their own side effects and require consistent monitoring.

The other important aspect of treatment is support for the mental addictions that occur with opiate abuse. Counseling plus group and individual therapies can help men learn how to resist the temptation to return to drug use, what to say to former dealers or friends associated with the drug and how to establish a healthy lifestyle.

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