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Opium Use on College Campuses

Opium Use on College CampusesOpium is a bitter brownish narcotic drug that has been used for centuries for both medicinal and recreational purposes. It consists of the dried latex harvested from immature seed capsules of the opium poppy. By mimicking the effects of endorphins in the brain, it generates a powerful sense of pleasure in as little as ten seconds.

Chronic opium users eventually lose the ability to produce feelings of pleasure naturally. Consequently, they become dependent on the drug to ward off agonizing withdrawal symptoms. Several include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety and agitation

Negative consequences of opium use can result from ingesting it just once. Health risks linked to short-term opium abuse include the following:

  • Depressed respiration
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Suppression of pain
  • Spontaneous abortion

Long-term health problems resulting from opium use include the following:

  • Infectious disease such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C
  • Collapsed veins
  • Bacterial infections
  • Abscesses
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems

In addition to physical harm, opium use creates severe psychological dependence. A person is said to be psychologically dependent when he craves a substance for the reinforcement it provides – typically the positive emotions it generates or the negative feelings it numbs. Signs include the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Preoccupation with finding and using drugs
  • Depression or anxiety when not able to take drugs
  • Loss of motivation
  • Inability to handle typical pressures
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed

Like many addictions that create neurological changes, opium abuse is easier to overcome during its early stages.

Opium And College Students

At one point in history, opium addiction was so rampant in China that roughly a quarter of the male population were addicts. Today, use of unprocessed opium is less common. Pungent, jelly-like opium is bulky and hard to smuggle. That is why growers frequently convert it into heroin, which multiplies its potency to approximately twice that of morphine.

Since 2001, the number of college students reporting heroin use has risen from 0.1% to 0.2%. The number of young adults who say they have used heroin at least one time has also increased, from 1.7% in 2005 to 1.9% in 2010. Other facts about heroin abuse include the following:

  • From 2010 – 2011 about 91,000 people over the age of 12 used heroin for the first time
  • The average age of first time use is 20.7
  • 3.8 million people say they have tried heroin at least once in their lifetimes
  • The rate of heroin lifetime use is higher among those in prison

About half of the people who abuse heroin become addicted, a fact that can give the drug a cache among thrill-seeking college students who want to experiment. Other factors that elevate this age group’s vulnerability include the following:

  • Fear of rejection or ridicule
  • Fear of loneliness and being excluded by former friends who use
  • Weak coping skills
  • Inadequate positive social support
  • High affirmation needs

Contrary to popular belief, individuals do not need to “hit bottom” before getting sober. In fact, those who seek assistance early on – before physical and psychological dependence become too severe – benefit from improved chances of recovering and preventing relapse.

Help for Opium Addiction

Recovering from opium abuse is difficult but you don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll-free, 24-hour helpline to guide you and your family to wellness. Please call today and take the first step.