It gets mentioned a lot when talking about addiction because it’s the main ingredient in heroin and most painkillers. Opiates are some of the most notorious drugs in the realm of addiction and cause nearly 30,000 deaths per year. Street names for opium include Buddha, Chillum, Easing Powder, Emerald City, Chinese Molasses, Aunti Emma, Midnight Oil, and others. It has a long history of abuse and has resulted in a number of conflicts between Western Empires and the Eastern Nations where it originates.
So What is Opium?
Opium is derived from the sap of unripened seedpods from the poppy flower, which grows in equatorial regions around the globe, primarily in parts of India, China, Afghanistan, and more recently Colombia and Mexico. The seeds are slit open to remove the sap, which condenses into a tar-like substance usually colored yellowish-brown. It can be found in powder, liquid, and solid forms.
Opium’s primary alkaloids are morphine and codeine. Morphine is the primary narcotic that is used to create heroin and the slew of painkillers that are commonly prescribed in western medicine. It works by mimicking the brain’s own endorphins, which are responsible for pain management and the euphoric feelings of calm and well-being.
The plant has been around for thousands of years and was known to ancient cultures like the Sumerians as the “plant of joy,” used for both ritual and medicinal purposes. For a long time, up until the twentieth century, opium was the only truly effective pain medication available to patients.
It can be administered in a number of ways, from smoking with other herbs, consumed, or injected. Short term effects include a disassociation from pain, a spreading euphoric feeling, followed by dehydration of the body and impaired cognitive functioning. As it affects the central nervous system and the endorphins, it can cause nausea, heart irregularities, tremors, and an overdose can cause heart failure, coma, and even death.
Over the long term, Opium users develop a tolerance to its effects and require larger doses. The leads toward addiction pretty quickly as the body becomes dependent on these false endorphins for any stimulation of the reward centers. Dopamine receptors get overloaded and become unable to produce endorphins of their own without the drug, resulting in an ongoing depression and anxiety in the absence of the drug. That’s why it can be so difficult to kick because you end up unhappy and lethargic for long periods of time without a fix.
If you develop an opium addiction, it’s imperative that you detox the drug from your system completely and spend some time allowing the body to repair and recover from the abuse of its endocrine and nervous systems. Treatment specialists sometimes rely on synthetic versions of opium to slowly coax the body off of its dependency without jolting it too dramatically with a cold turkey cut-off.
Opium is a miracle drug in the medical world but when abused can destroy the body’s natural systems and ruin lives. If you have a problem with opiates, get some help from a treatment specialist as soon as possible.