Archive for July, 2014

My Nephew Says He Uses Only Opium. Is Using Opium Not as Bad as Using Heroin? The Way He Looked Was the Same as When He Used Heroin. What Can We do?

Is Using Opium Not as Bad as Using Heroin?


Opium and heroin, although not one in the same, are extremely similar in many ways. Opium is the highly addictive, all –natural sap that comes from the poppy plant. Opium is often used as the foundation for various other drugs known as opiates, such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain pills. The effects of using any opiate are going to look very similar. These short term effects could appear soon after using an opiate and disappear a few hours later. Some of these effects include, a drowsy state (nodding off), mental functioning becomes clouded, respiratory depression, constricted (pinpoint) pupils and nausea. Some effects you may see when someone is experiencing withdrawal from opiates look very similar to the flu( muscle aches, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose)

Many people who use heroin began by abusing opiate pain pills( Codeine®, Vicodin®, Oxycontin®). Typically, once someone becomes dependent on heroin they develop a higher tolerance and need more and more to get high or just to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. Many opiate addicts will say that prescription pain pills no longer gets them high because their tolerance is so elevated. It would be uncommon to stop using heroin and revert to using prescription pain pills or another opiate without that leading back to heroin use.

Something called cross addiction or substitution is also common with individuals who are dependent on drugs. Some individuals will stop using one substance, let’s say marijuana, but then begin drinking too much. Or someone is willing to stop using cocaine but then is smoking marijuana frequently. Other substances that are commonly abused include prescription stimulant drugs, such as those used to treat ADHD(Adderral®, Ritalin®) as well as prescription drugs used to treat anxiety( Valium®, Xanax®). Addiction is a brain disease and once someone is addicted to one substance it is very likely they could become addicted or abuse other substances. Remaining totally abstinent from all substances, including alcohol, is the safest bet.

Unfortunately, when you believe someone has a problem with substances and that person does not feel it’s a problem it can be difficult to get them the help they need. They need to be willing to seek help, you cannot force help upon them. You may be able to set some limits and based on those limits inform the person they need to seek help or there will be a consequence for their behavior. Many local agencies offer programs to treat drug addiction, ranging from one on one therapy, Intensive Outpatient and residential treatment. It is also important that family members get some help, through counseling or support groups like Alanon. Addiction is a family disease and if the person struggling with addiction is not willing to get help the family member can get help for themselves.

Beth Sack
Manager of Addiction Services
Linden Oaks Hospital
852 West Street
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 305-5500

Posted in: Drugs & Alcohol, Heroin

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