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Last updated : August 8, 2018
Opium is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between your brain and body. Derived from the poppy (Papaver somniferum), it was traditionally cultivated in the Mediterranean and Asia. The Opium Poppy is one of the oldest plants in recorded history, with information dating back to 5,000 BCE 1, 2, 3
A milky exudate called latex is collected from the poppy, air dried and manufactured into a brown powder or resin.4 This latex contains a combination of active chemicals such as morphine and codeine.
Opium is a sticky dark-brown gum with a strong odour. It can also be manufactured into a liquid, powder, or solid resin.5, 6
Aunti, Aunti Emma, Big O, O, Black pill, Chandu, Chinese Molasses, Dopium, Dream Gun, Fi-Do-Nie, Gee, Guma, Midnight Oil, Zero.7
Opium is commonly smoked, but can also be injected, swallowed or drunk.8 Raw opium has a bitter taste due to the alkaloid levels.
Ingesting and injecting opium may increase the chance of overdose. Some of the most common ways to take opium are to smoke it via a bong or a pipe or take it in the form of a pill.10
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
The main effects of opium are exerted by its collection of alkaloids collectively known as ‘opiates’. Opiates predominately affect the functioning of the brain and spinal cord. The levels and potency of alkaloids in opium can be difficult to measure, as they vary between batches, area of growth and growing techniques.1
The effects of opium last for two-to-three hours, though this is dependent on individual characteristics. Tolerance to the effects of opium increases quickly.
Opium affects everyone differently, based on:
Symptoms of use include:
Opium use has been closely linked to lead poisoning. People who smoke opium may demonstrate higher levels of lead in their blood. This is because when temperature is applied to the opium, lead vapor is created, which is more readily absorbed by the lungs.
The source of lead in opium is still unclear, though it is either thought to be a byproduct of processing, or may be added to increase its weight at the point-of-sale.13, 14
The alkaloids present in opium are well known to cause respiratory and cardiac suppression.15 Ingestion at high levels has been reported to cause severe suppression of heart function, coma and death.16, 17
Symptoms of opium overdose:
In the days after opium use, the following may be experienced:
Long-term use can inhibit smooth muscle function in the bowel, leading to constipation. It can also cause drying of the mucous membranes, leading to dry mouth and nasal passages. Tolerance to opium is established quickly, and as a result, physical dependence may increase the chance of overdose.20
Regular use of opium may cause:
The effects of taking opium with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous.
Opium is commonly taken with other drugs such as cannabis and/or methamphetamine. Black is the mixture of marijuana, methamphetamine and opium, and Buddha is the mix of potent marijuana spiked with opium.23
Taking multiple depressant drugs can significantly increase the chances of respiratory and cardiac depression and overdose. Similarly, taking depressants with stimulants may mask the negative effects of either, also leading to overdose.
Giving up opium after using it for a long time is challenging because the body must get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within six to 24 hours after the last dose and can last for about a week – days one to three will be when the worst withdrawal symptoms are experienced. These symptoms can include:
Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, cultivating or selling opium, or driving under its influence.
Current statistic on opium use in Australia are unknown.