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Finding Enjoyment in Life Without Opium

Finding Enjoyment in Life Without Opium

Physical fitness routines like jogging that promote endorphin production can become a healthy new habit

Opium, or papaver somniferum, is a poppy plant species whose latex contains narcotic alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, thebaine and oripavine. Heroin and opioid painkillers (e.g. hydrocodone and oxycodone) are made by synthesizing specific alkaloids, most commonly morphine and codeine. Though more prevalent in other countries, some people smoke the plant itself to experience all the opiate compounds at the same time. To harvest opium for inhalation, individuals cut incisions into the seedpods and collect the latex sap that comes out. Once the sap dries, it takes on a dark tar-like form that people can smoke in papers, pipes and other delivery devices. Whether a person smokes opium or consumes the compounds in heroin or painkillers, an addiction and/or dependence causes physical and emotional changes that limit enjoyment from anything other than narcotics. During addiction treatment, therapists equip patients with recovery tools that help restore physical and emotional health. Joy and pleasure become more accessible as the recovery progresses, but recovering addicts who are committed to change can find new levels of enjoyment.

What Happens During Opium Addiction

Before discussing ways to find enjoyment in opium addiction recovery, it helps to understand the physical mechanisms that strip joy from addicts. Half a century ago, scientists started to assume that the brain had receptors specifically for opiates, and John Hopkins neuroscientists Solomon Snyder and Candace Pert made the first definitive discovery of an opiate receptor in 1973. Starting the following year, additional studies by various scientists identified specific neurobiological chemicals, or peptides, that act upon the receptors. Endorphin, for example, is a peptide produced in the central nervous system that binds to opiate receptors and produces joy and pain relief. The term endorphin is an abbreviation of endogenous morphine, or naturally occurring morphine produced by the body. The PBS show Frontline in 1998 described opium morphine as endorphin’s evil twin because it dominates the receptor sites meant for naturally occurring peptides.

When a person abuses opium or any other opiate-based drug, the narcotic plant compounds overtake the receptor sites and produce various undesirable effects, including the following:

  • The central nervous system starts to produce less natural opiate peptides
  • Elevated opiate levels cause the receptor sites to shrink and/or desensitize
  • Neural effects include unmasking or accelerating mental health disorders
  • A decrease or stop in use initiates uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
  • Opiates soon become the brain’s primary trigger for enjoyment and pain relief

For many opium addicts, the early stages of recovery might lack adequate levels of enjoyment and pleasure, but this is not indicative of the future. The addict’s central nervous system has become dependent on opium alkaloids, and the body needs time to restore normal receptor function and peptide production. As the healing process advances, opium cravings typically decrease, and all-natural enjoyment returns to daily life.

Healing Tools to Find Enjoyment

During rehabilitation, therapists utilize approaches that promote healing and renewed fulfillment, and tools like anger and stress management help reduce potential negative triggers. Likewise, recovering addicts can assist the process with healthy new habits and activities, such as the following:

  • Physical fitness routines like jogging that promote endorphin production
  • Holistic activities like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and relaxation techniques
  • Creative outlets like writing, music, dance, filmmaking and painting
  • Active pursuits like horseback riding, rafting, surfing and trekking
  • Making a list of small achievable goals and proceeding to accomplish them
  • Ensuring that each day includes at least one positive act for yourself or others

As noted by WebMD in 2014, an increase in natural peptides from exercise and other activities also improves other possible issues such as depression.

Recovering addicts can also aid the process by committing to a more positive mindset. Clinical studies confirm the benefits of positivity, which include the following:

  • Assists in stimulating growth in nerve connections in the brain
  • Improves energy levels, motivation, determination and self-confidence
  • Boosts the immune system and helps reduce inflammation
  • Defends against symptoms of anger, stress, depression and anxiety
  • Strengthens quality social connections and relationships

Regarding the latter point, a strong social network is an essential cornerstone of most successful recoveries. In addition to providing help in times of struggle, positive social circles can provide many enjoyable moments during recovery.

Ways Recovery Provides Enjoyment

Positive behaviors and activities help foster neurobiological healing and replace previous negative habits. Likewise, recovery produces various indirect benefits, including the following:

  • Physical and mental health typically improve during addiction recovery
  • Doctors can make more accurate diagnoses when the patient no longer abuses opiates
  • Sobriety improves finances with decreased drug-related expenses and job impediments
  • Recovery tools and sobriety empower people to handle a wide range of life issues
  • Addiction recovery helps restore healthy family and social relationships
  • The new support network often results in various new opportunities

Most self-improvement activities – exercise, education, healthy eating – require time to see the results unfold, and addiction recovery is similar. As recovering addicts stay focused on their goals, the enjoyment in life will start to grow, and the rate of growth will increase as the recovery matures.

Addiction and Recovery Help

Whether you are a current or recovering opium addict, our admissions coordinators are available to talk 24 hours a day if you need help. We can make recommendations, answer questions and discuss possible treatment options, and if additional care is necessary, we can even check health insurance policies for coverage. Please call our toll-free helpline now.