Opium is a natural narcotic that comes from the poppy plant (which is the source for a wide range of narcotics, including morphine and heroin). It usually looks like a black or brown block of tar, and popular street names for opium Dream Stick, God’s Medicine, Zero, Dopium and Big O.
Opium is sometimes take in pill form or injected intravenously, but it is most often smoked. In addition, users commonly opt to combine opium with other drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamine.
Opium stimulates the opioid receptors in the central nervous system, dramatically decreasing the user’s sensitivity to pain and causing a rush of euphoria, heavy limbs and a feeling of intense relaxation. However, opium can also cause negative side effects, including nausea, mood swings, respiratory depression and dizziness.
Opium users quickly build up tolerance to the positive effects of the drug, meaning that they need to take more and more in order to experience anything other than constipation. Attempting to stop using opium then causes painful withdrawal symptoms such as muscle cramps, anxiety, weakness and depression.
Since people build up tolerance to opium, death by overdose is a significant risk. In addition, chronic use is linked to unintended weight loss and mental deterioration (involving delusions and detachment from reality). There is also some evidence that repeated opium use decreases immune system function, leaving users more vulnerable to disease.
Pregnant women should always avoid opium, as it may cause congenital defects in an unborn baby.
It can be difficult to manage the withdrawal symptoms associated with ending opium use, so detoxification should take place in a drug treatment center. At White Sands, part of the opium rehabilitation process also involves addressing the root cause of addiction through a carefully designed program of cognitive behavioral therapy.