Opium and opiates, types and effects

Opium and opiates, types and effects

The opium it is a set of substances obtained from the seeds of the opium poppy or real poppy. Opium has powerful narcotic properties and contains alkaloids, such as morphine wave codeine.


  • 1 Effects of opium
  • 2 Opium history
  • 3 From opium to opioids
  • 4 How do opioids work?

Opium Effects

The effects of opium are very strong, producing a state of analgesia and feelings of happiness, as well as general tranquility, although they can also generate vomiting, sweating, headaches, among others. Also cause abstinence syndrome in which there are effects such as depression, nausea or diarrhea.

Its constituents and derivatives are used as analgesics in extreme circumstances, as in the terminal stages of cancer, although its production is also intended for the manufacture of illegal drugs considered very dangerous due to its high addiction capacity.

Opium History

Opium is known as one of the oldest drugs in the world. The most remote reference we have today about opium consumption comes from the old Mesopotamia, during approximately 3400 BC. The ancient Sumerians referred to the poppy flowers from which they extracted opium as "the plant of joy."

Its cultivation was continued by the ancient Greeks, Persians and Egyptians, its use being very notable during the reign of Tutankhamun (1333-1324 BC). Already Homer in the Odyssey, he was referring to the enormous healing powers of this narcotic.

Its consumption by ancient civilizations was used to help people sleep, relieve pain, calm children and even as an anesthetic in operations. However, it is likely that they were also used for recreational reasons, without probably being aware of their addictive effects.

Opium was probably introduced in China and East Asia in the 6th or 7th century and its trade has been and is so widespread that competitiveness for its control has caused conflicts such as the Opium Wars during the nineteenth century, which culminated in the defeat of China. By 1900, it was estimated that in the USA. UU. there were 200,000 opium addicts.

From opium to opiates

The opiates They are psychoactive chemicals that come, either directly or indirectly, from the opium poppy plant and that mimic the analgesic power of endogenous opiates, those that our central nervous system produces on its own, known as endorphins, enkephalins and dinorphins. These exogenous opiates They are divided into three types according to their origin and manufacture:

  • Natural opiates They are opium alkaloids. They come directly from the plant and are not synthetic. These are the morphine, considered the principal of the alkaloids, the codeine and the thebaine.
  • The semi-synthetic / artificial opiates, are created in laboratories from natural opiates. These may be the hydrocodone, synthesized from codeine; the oxycodone synthesized from thebaine; and the heroin, synthesized from morphine and much more potent than this.
  • Synthetic opiates They are completely artificial and mimic the effect of the previous ones, although their structure it is not related to opium alkaloids. These might be pethidine or methadone.

How do opioids work?

In the central nervous system of humans and animals, there are opioid receptors. When we consume opiates, these bind to these receptors blocking pain perception. In addition, they cause a feeling of well-being, but also side effects such as nausea or drowsiness.

Opioids make the nervous system free dopamine, the neurotransmitter considered as pleasure center and that discharges in the brain the immediate feeling of euphoria and reward. This generates a high motivation, making the consumer need new doses to regain that discharge of satisfaction. Its continued use generates a high tolerance to the substance and causes a very dangerous addiction.

Consuming opium or its derivatives, without medical and pharmaceutical supervision, can be very dangerous. The use of opium-derived drugs is extremely limited by their high risk of addiction, many of them being illegal. The consumption of medications such as morphine is restricted to medical opinion and is only used when a medical professional considers it appropriate given its pain relieving properties. However, the high addiction generated by these substances and the dire consequences for health They can carry. The continued consumption of illegal derivatives, such as heroin, continue to cause suffering and the loss of thousands of lives.