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Opium Overview

Opium overviewOpium is a well-known drug extracted from the seed capsules of the poppy plant. Opioid drugs such as morphine, codeine and even heroin are made with opium. Opium is one of the oldest and most addictive drugs on the planet.

Papaver somniferum is the Latin name for opium poppies, a hearty flowering herb plant. When the immature seed capsules of the papaver plant are sliced open, a milky liquid is revealed. This latex liquid is often dried to form small black chunks of opium, which is then processed into medicinal drugs or illegal derivatives like heroin.

Mature (full-grown) seed capsules of the papaver somniferum plant are small, black seeds. You probably know them as poppy seeds, which are often found on baked goods such as muffins and bagels. Poppy seeds used in baking do not contain the opium drug, but in extremely large doses, they may return a false positive on a drug test. This has been overplayed a bit in popular media, most notably as a running gag on the 126th episode of the popular comedy show Seinfeld, in which the character Elaine tests positive for opium after eating a large amount of poppy seed muffins.

Opium has been used since ancient times—originally as a treatment for diarrhea and later used as a treatment for pain. Opioids are medicines made from opium. Some common opioids are codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Heroin is a strong, deadly derivative of opium that has caused major problems in society.

Opium History

Several successful ancient societies (including the Greek, Roman, Persian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Minoan and Arab Empires) used opium as a medicine for pain relief and various other ailments.

Many Americans associate opium with Chinese history and culture. In China, recreational opium use began as early as the fifteenth century and quickly became a national crisis. Great Britain began delivering large quantities of opium to China in the eighteenth century, which led to the Opium Wars in 1839 and 1858. After the Opium Wars, more than 25% of China’s male population was actively addicted to opium. It took decades for Chinese society, culture, and family structure to recover from the devastating effect of opium use.

In the US, opium was even used during the American Civil War as a method of pain control. Doctors observed that opium was useful for treating pain initially, but it soon became seriously addictive and led to deadly consequences. Because of the hazards of opium, doctors developed morphine and other opioid drugs that were more controlled than raw opium. These new opioid drugs were successful because they could be given in measured doses, but even these drugs continued to be addictive and prone to abuse. Opioid drugs have proven to cause as much of an addiction problem as raw opium.

Modern Opium Use

In North America, opium use is a serious public health issue. It is estimated that more than 600,000 people in the US suffer from opium dependency. Opium use has been linked with violence, criminal activity and family dysfunction. Many studies show that opium addictions are often supported by illegal means and cost the average user more than $150 a day.

Opiate addiction often leads to infectious disease (often Hepatitis C and HIV), loss of functioning, overdose, brain damage, crime (in order to support the addiction) and domestic violence. As of 2010, opium has been largely produced in Afghanistan, and political unrest has contributed to the rate of opium production tripling there since 2001.

Methods of Opium Use

Besides taking opioid medicines, there are many ways that those addicted to opium ingest the drug. Opium can be smoked, processed into opium tincture, laudanum, wine, opium powder, opium syrup and more. Many times opium abuse leads to heroin and morphine abuse.

Opium Street Names

  • Mandak
  • Ack ack
  • Tar
  • Dope
  • Big O
  • Black Tar
  • Skee
  • Joy Plant
  • Pen Yan

Opium Addiction Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from an opium addiction, please call our toll free 24 hour helpline. Our trained counselors are available 24-hours a day and can help you learn more about addiction, assist with interventions or help you get the assistance you need. Please don’t hesitate. Call today.