Last updated: 01/3/2022
Author: Lisa Conatser
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Laudanum is a tincture made up of 10 percent opium powder dissolved in high-proof distilled spirits, also known as alcohol.1 Because of laudanum’s opioid and alcohol components, people may use it for the euphoric and calming effects it produces.2 Chronic laudanum use can lead to many harmful consequences, such as tolerance, dependence, and laudanum addiction. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and effects of laudanum addiction can help you to know when to seek help for you or someone else.
In this Article:
Signs and Symptoms of Laudanum Addiction
If you find yourself continuing to use laudanum regardless of the negative consequences on your life, you may have an addiction. Laudanum addiction often mean you take more laudanum than you intended, repeatedly try to cut down or stop using it, spend a lot of time obtaining the drug and recovering from its effects, or give up other pursuits for the sake of the drug.3 Laudanum addiction is a chronic and progressive condition, which means it tends to worsen over time without professional treatment or intervention. If you are concerned about someone you love, here are some signs and symptoms of laudanum misuse and addiction to look out for.
Physical and Psychological Signs
If you are worried someone you know is struggling with laudanum misuse, they may exhibit a myriad of physical and psychological signs, such as:4,5
- Constipation (perhaps taking laxatives to overcome this)
- Euphoria followed by “the nod”
- Slowed breathing
- Rapid, purposeless movements or slowed movements and thought
- Impaired judgment
- Constricted pupils
- Slurred speech
- Memory or attention issues
You also might notice changes in someone’s appearance, such as weight loss or changes in hygiene. Additionally, if someone injects laudanum tincture, you may notice:5
- Puncture marks
- Track lines
- Collapsed veins
- Peripheral edema
Symptoms of Laudanum Addiction
There are many behavioral symptoms of laudanum addiction that may indicate that you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive laudanum use. These symptoms are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as the criteria for opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Symptoms of a laudanum addiction include:5
- Laudanum is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control laudanum use
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain laudanum, use it, or recover from its effects
- A strong desire to use laudanum
- Recurrent laudanum use fails to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
- Continued laudanum use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of this drug
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of laudanum use
- Recurrent laudanum use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
- Continued use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by laudanum
- Tolerance, or needing higher laudanum doses to experience the previous effects
Another prominent symptom of laudanum addiction is the development of physiological dependence, which means your body has grown accustomed to the presence of laudanum and requires it to function optimally. If you are dependent on laudanum and abruptly reduce or stop use, you will experience painful withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, tremors, agitation, hot and cold flashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and muscle aches.5
Long-Term Effects of Laudanum Addiction
Long-term laudanum use can have many negative effects on your physical and mental health. The sooner you seek treatment for an addiction, the lower your chances of experiencing these long-term effects. These effects can include:4,6
- Chronic constipation
- Sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea
- Increased risk of heart failure and heart attack
- Dizziness and sedation leading to falls, fractures, and respiratory depression
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Sexual dysfunction and infertility in men
- Osteoporosis in women
- Weakened immune system
Those who inject laudanum may experience harmful long-term consequences, such as:5
- Hepatitis C
- Endocarditis (infection of the heart lining)
Another risk of long-term laudanum use is the increased chance of experiencing an overdose. As your tolerance increases and you need higher and higher doses to feel high or intoxicated, the higher the risk of overdosing, which occurs when you take a toxic dose of a drug that your body cannot handle.
Understanding Laudanum Addiction: Who Is at Risk?
Anyone who uses or misuses laudanum is at risk of developing an addiction. Some risk factors increase the likelihood of a laudanum addiction. These risk factors include:7
- Past or current substance misuse
- Family history of substance addiction
- Untreated mental health disorders, such as depression, borderline personality disorder, or panic disorder
- Younger age
- Family or social environments that encourage drug use
- Poor social support
- Psychological stress
- History of trauma
- Childhood sexual abuse
- History of legal problems
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Thrill-seeking behavior
It’s important to understand that risk factors do not guarantee someone will develop a laudanum addiction—many risk factors often interact, along with genetic influences, to lead to laudanum misuse and addiction. But many protective factors also exist, which counteract these risk factors.
Treatment for Laudanum Addiction
There are two main treatment settings for those seeking help for a laudanum addiction. These include inpatient and outpatient services, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the right treatment setting for you or a loved one is determined by preferences, priorities, personal needs, and more.
Inpatient facilities offer 24-hour, 7-day a-week care in which patients receive constant supervision by a medical professional. Inpatient services include intensive management of symptoms related to addiction and monitoring of the physical and mental complications resulting from substance use.8 Inpatient rehabs typically utilize a myriad of therapies and therapeutic interventions to provide patients with comprehensive care. These treatment modalities may include:
- Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group counseling
- Family therapy
- Drug education classes
- Relapse prevention classes
- 12-step meetings or alternative support groups
- Recreational, substance-free activities
Every inpatient rehab is going to use a variation of different services and will have a different approach or philosophy to laudanum addiction recovery. For instance, some inpatient facilities are holistic rehabs, which means they treat the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—and offer alternative and complementary services like meditation, yoga, equine therapy, and acupuncture. There are also faith-based programs that integrate a spiritual approach into recovery, often offering religious studies. Meanwhile, luxury inpatient rehabs take place in an upscale setting offering luxurious amenities and features like gourmet meals, massage therapy, and private rooms. Dual diagnosis inpatient programs specialize in treating laudanum addiction and any co-occurring psychiatric conditions so that patients can recover fully from each disorder, as the disorders typically impact one another.
Inpatient care can sometimes consist of a long-term residential treatment with planned stays between six and 12 months or a short-term option that includes a 3-6 week stay.8 Inpatient treatment is best for those who:
- Have a severe laudanum addiction
- Have a polydrug addiction
- Have co-occurring disorders
- Do not have a sober support system at home
- Do not have stable housing
- Need the structure of a daily routine
- Want to escape their everyday using environment
Outpatient laudanum addiction treatment involves living at home while attending scheduled treatment sessions at a center or facility. Outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered and typically costs less than inpatient treatment. This makes it more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social supports.8 Many outpatient programs involve group counseling and are designed to treat patients with medical or other mental health problems in addition to their substance use disorders.8
There are three levels of outpatient care, including:
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs): The most intensive outpatient option, PHPs include several hours per day of treatment, for at least five days per week. They are a great option for someone who needs a highly-structured environment similar to inpatient care but with the ability to return home each night.
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs): A step down in intensiveness from PHPs, IOPs include at least nine hours of treatment per week, though it may be more.
- Standard outpatient care: The least structured option, standard outpatient involves therapy for one or two times per week, for one or two hours at a time. This type of laudanum addiction care may be best for someone with a mild addiction or as step-down treatment after completing inpatient or a PHP.
How to Find a Laudanum Addiction Treatment Program
If you or someone you love is struggling with a laudanum addiction, many treatment options are available. It is never too soon or too late to seek treatment—no matter where you are in your addiction, you can always take the steps necessary to change your life. If you need help finding a laudanum addiction treatment program, we are here for you. Give our 24/7 helpline a call at (800) 662-HELP (4357).
- Encyclopedia Britannica. Laudanum Definition.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011). Commonly Abused Drugs.
- Harvard Medical School. (2019). Treating Opiate Addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Prescription Opioids Drugfacts.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
- Baldini, A., Von Korff, M., & Lin, E. H. (2012). A Review of Potential Adverse Effects of Long-Term Opioid Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 14(3), PCC.11m01326.
- Webster, Lynn R. (2017). Risk Factors for Opioid-Use Disorder and Overdose, Anesthesia & Analgesia. Chronic Pain Medicine 125 (5): 1741-1748.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs.