Opium is the crudest form and also the least potent of the Opiate family. Opium is the milky latex fluid contained in the un-ripened seed pod of the opium poppy. As the fluid is exposed to air, it hardens and turns black in color. This dried form is typically smoked, but can also be eaten. Opium is grown mainly in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Afghanistan. Today opium is sold on the street as a powder or dark brown solid mass and is smoked, eaten, or injected.
Being of similar structure, the opiate molecules occupy many of the same nerve-receptor sites and bring on the same analgesic effect as the body's natural painkillers. Opium first produces a feeling of pleasure and euphoria, but with its continued use the body demands larger amounts to achieve the same sense of well-being.
It is possible to overdose on opium. It is easier to overdose via an oral dose of opium. The habitual use of opium produces physical and mental deterioration. An acute overdose of opium causes respiratory depression which can be fatal.
- Overdose is usually not fatal, but is far more likely to be fatal if the person is alone.
- 2 out of 3 overdoses (fatal and non-fatal) occur when the person is alone at home.
- Heroin is not the only cause of overdose. People can become unconscious as a result of using other illicit drugs and/or alcohol.
- After not using or reducing use for any period of time, or while on a treatment program, a return to previous levels of use presents a high risk of overdose.