Today many people suffer from different addictions. The substances can easily ruin the life of a human, fulfilling it with pain, illnesses and, of course, social isolation.  Moreover, the addicted individuals make suffer their close people: relatives, friends, soul mates. In fact, during last several decades of years, the addiction broke many families.

Opium is a narcotic drug made of the poppy plant. This substance is actually available only by prescription; it is used as the medicine and typically issued for the abatement of diarrhea or other similar symptoms in cancer patients. The substance comes in liquid form; it is usually given orally in traditional liquid or tincture although street drug use is a tarry-like dark substance which is smoked.

For the patients who suffer from cancer, use of opium has significant benefits that really outweigh the risks of malnutrition, caused by cancer treatments and progressive decline. It should be mentioned that this drug, is prescribed legitimately and needs to be closely monitored by patient’s caregivers and physicians, as an accidental overdose is potentially fatal.  But at the same time, uncontrolled street use of opium is rightfully considered to be extremely dangerous and often lethal to the user.

The duration of chemical effects of opium usually lasts about four hours. The drug produces relief of pain, relaxation, and anxiety, impaired coordination, decreased alertness and serious problems with constipation. Opiates are great painkillers, as being of similar structure, the opiate molecules occupy a lot of the same nerve-receptor sites and after that bring on the same analgesic effect. Opiates first produce a feeling of euphoria and pleasure; however, with their continued use humans’ body each time demands larger and larger amounts to reach the same sense of well-being.

Effects of Opium

  • Euphoria and relaxation;
  • sense of emotional detachment;
  • absence of stress, pain and rueful feelings;
  • altered mood and mental processes;
  • inability to concentrate;
  • loss of appetite;
  • sleepiness;
  • vomiting;
  • increased urination;
  • itchy skin;
  • sweating;
  • reduced sex drive;
  • impaired vision;
  • various health concerns.

Opium brings many negative effects to physical and mental health of a human. Below the main effects are listed.

Opium side effects include:

  • malnutrition;
  • various respiratory complications;
  • severe constipation;
  • lung, liver, kidney and brain damage;
  • low blood pressure;
  • menstrual irregularities;
  • mental and physical health problems;
  • loss of weight;
  • contracted pupils;
  • moodiness;
  • collapsed veins from injecting the drug;
  • reduction of sex hormone levels;
  • frequent infections;
  • pregnancy complications including still birth;
  • critical conditions or even death.

It should be noted, that opiates provoke severe allergic reactions, especially in case of overdose, which cause extremely negative effects to human health. There is actually a large number of allergic reactions attributed to opium addiction, most of them are really serious to life-threatening.

The reactions to opium can provoke rash, hives, breathing difficulties, itching, tightness in the chest, and swelling of the face, mouth, lips and tongue. Further complications usually result in confusion, irregular heartbeat, urination problems, and severe dizziness. Acute respiratory failure may appear and lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Obviously, one of the most detrimental side effects of this substance is addiction. In most cases opium addiction occurs very rapidly, often it happens within such a short period of time as two or three weeks. Once an individual becomes addicted to opium, he or she will continue to use the drug not only in order to relieve the symptoms of intoxication, but also to avoid the painful side effects associated with withdrawal that naturally come with opiate addiction.

Opium is extremely addictive. Tolerance (i. e. the need for larger and larger doses to maintain the same effect) and psychological and physical dependence develop really quickly. Many individuals who realize opium addiction usually try to withdraw; however, the withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable, and the individual typically continues taking the drug in order to avoid pain, rather than to achieve the initial state of euphoria.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • slow breathing;
  • weakness;
  • seizures;
  • dizziness;
  • confusion;
  • small pupils;
  • tiredness;
  • cold and clammy skin;
  • nausea;
  • tearing;
  • yawning;
  • chills;
  • sweating;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • coma

Opium addiction brings many countertransference issues to those counselors who would like to help opium-addicted individuals. Such issues are caused by specific reasons. Opium addiction is the only disorder which remains the dominant treatment model a major psychosocial intervention alongside psychotherapy and also the only one whose care system remains largely.

Beside of that, it is unique in being both really serious psychiatric disorder (as substance dependence can be equated to mental illness in some way) and also a socially accepted and valued activity, when used in small amounts for medicinally purposes without obvious problem. This substance abuse is the only disorder in which treatment is provided in most cases by the counselors or 12-step groups, but not the advanced-degree specialists (social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists) typical of mental health.

Patients with substance use disorder (in this particular case, opium addiction) may effect heightened countertransference, as they are typically perceived as much more difficult than other patients. Beside of that, the “ideal clinician” for patients who suffer from substance use disorder, is often pictured in terms of particular emotions, such as optimism, a high degree of charisma, and enjoyment working with opium addicted patients; the counselor also has to possess a low degree of cynicism, boredom, hostility, blame, and control

It is proven by the scientists that a strong positive association exists between the interpersonal functioning of the counselors and their opium-addicted patients’ abstinence from drug-using 6 to 24 months after treatment. As the specialists state, the more anger and anxiety the patient hears in doctors’ voices during the initial interview, the less likely this patient is to follow through on opium addiction treatment. Therefore it is extremely important for the counselor to possess specific personal qualities and avoid expressing negative feelings and emotions when communicating with the patient.

There are four factors in clinicians’ emotional responses, which influence the relations between patient and counselor. These factors are listed in descending order: “counselor in conflict with himself or herself,” “counselor focused on his or her own needs,” “positive connection between counselor and patient,” and “counselor in conflict with the patient”. (Thombs & Osborn, 2013)

It is required to compare a supportive counselor style with a confrontational counselor style in the treatment of opium addiction in order to determine some countertransference issues. As the treatment specialists state, the more clinicians confronted opium-addicted patients, the more patients continue using opiates. The use of confrontation as a style particular to substance use disorder treatment is strictly prohibited.

Beside of that, counselors may find it quite difficult to relate to patients effectively and to maintain the balance of providing enough (and at the same time not too much) support and distance. Patients with abuse may actually pose many different relational challenges to the counselor. The patients are often mistrustful; however, at the same time that they need to enter trustworthy relationship with the counselor. In result, the “push-pull” dynamic may occur.

Counselors can easily find themselves invested in and overly fascinated by a patient’s abuse; besides that, they may want to avoid discussion of the abuse due to certain personal reasons. Counselors have to be aware of these possible reactions and try to develop appropriate strategies in order to ensure effective care of the patient. The counselor has to remain trustworthy and offer a safe relational context, which is opposite to the client’s past experience and can present a unique opportunity for healing.

In general, opiates use disorder treatment often presents particular challenges for counselors beyond those inherent in mental health treatment. Individuals with substance use disorder are considered to be more difficult to treat and more likely to cause difficult countertransference than many other types of addicted individuals. Their case management may be really enormous, with homelessness, medical complications, legal problems, financial issues, family problems, and mental health risks, many of which result directly from chronic substance use.

There are several situations and people which trigger me more than others. After all the problems with opiate addiction in my family members, which took place in my past, now I can easily recognize opium-addicted people.  Individuals who have developed opiate dependence usually take opiates frequently; it causes certain specific signs to appear. In case the opiates are being administered via intravenous injection, the individual may display small marks (also known as track marks) from needle punctures on the skin; also the addict can develop multiple sores which are filled with bacteria (abscesses).

Opiate substances also cause constriction of the pupils, often by making them appear as tiny pinpoints. Besides that, frequent opiate use can also lead to an elevated heart rate; at the same time the euphoric state can appear as an abnormal relaxation. Opiates can also cause respiratory depression, expressed as slowed breathing, which can develop into a coma in case if an overdose is taken.

Below all main symptoms are listed which may point to opiates addiction:

  • needle marks or small scabs on an individual’s arms, feet, legs, groin, or anywhere  along vein lines;
  • the perforated nasal septum, irritation of the nose lining (usually occurs in long-term users who take the substanceintranasally);
  • pupillary constriction;
  • complaints of constipation,  dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, or irregular menses, etc.

It is an open fact that opiate dependence in most cases causes a large number of changes in an individual’s social behavior. This includes avoiding one’s normal activities and social withdrawal. It may lead to problems with maintaining relationships with close people (friends and family), as well as with colleagues.

Often the above-mentioned social changes cause problems for the addict’s career; moreover, in most cases, they potentially lead to job loss. Individuals who are dependent on opiates are also likely to be engaged in risky behavior. In general, opiate dependence may cause a person to only pursue relationships that facilitate opiate procurement and use; at the same time, the addict usually neglects other aspects of his or her own life.

The following psychosocial issues are considered to be red flags among patients suspected of opiates abuse:

  • depression, anger, mood swings, irritability;
  • marital problems;
  • missing work or school;
  • poor performance at work or school;
  • financial problems;
  • social isolation, loss of friendships or soul mates;

I can personally help opiate abusers by reducing the positive feelings that they have associated with opiates so that they’re less likely to use, abuse or overdose on opiates.

To schedule an appointment e-mail me at [email protected]


Thombs, D. L., & Osborn, S. J. (2013). Introduction to addictive behaviors. (4 ed., pp. 41-44). New York: The Guilford Press.