Chinese molasses, dreams, gong, O, skee, toys, zero. People who inject opium feel a rush of pleasure, followed by
a dreamy, pleasant state in which they have little sensitivity to pain.
Opium is a narcotic drug that is obtained from the
unripe seedpods of the opium
poppy (Papaver somniferum), a plant of the family Papaveraceae. Opium is
obtained by slightly incising the seed capsules of the poppy after the plant's
flower petals have fallen. The slit seedpods exude a milky latex that
coagulates and changes colour, turning into a gumlike brown mass upon exposure
to air. This raw opium may be ground into a powder, sold as lumps, cakes, or
bricks, or treated further to obtain such derivatives as morphine, codeine, and
Opiates exert their main effects on the
brain and spinal cord. Their principal action is to relieve or suppress pain.
Like all opiates, opium causes a pleasant, drowsy state, in which all cares are
forgotten and there is a decreased sense of pain (analgesia). Immediately after
injection, the feelings are most intense. This feeling is described as similar
to a sexual orgasm. The drugs also alleviate anxiety; induce relaxation,
drowsiness, and sedation; and may impart a state of euphoria or other enhanced
Opiates also have important physiological effects;
they slow respiration and heartbeat, suppress the cough reflex, and relax the
smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. Opiates are addictive
drugs--i.e., they produce a physical dependence (and withdrawal
symptoms) that can only be assuaged by continued use of the drug.
The poppy plant evolved to match the biology of their
predator/pollinators by developing opium alkaloids, a compound that acts on a
class of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain of mammals. Opiates act by
binding to specific receptor melocules for the endorphin/enkephalin class of
neurotransmittors in the brain. These are among the neurotransmittors that
control movement, moods, and physiology.
The pharmacologically active principles of opium reside in its alkaloids, the
most important of which, morphine, constitutes about 10 percent by weight of
raw opium. Other active alkaloids such as papaverine and codeine are present in
smaller proportions. Opium alkaloids are of two types, depending on chemical
structure and action. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine, which represent one
type, act upon the central nervous system and are analgesic, narcotic, and
potentially addicting compounds. Papaverine, noscapine (formerly called
narcotine), and most of the other opium alkaloids act only to relax involuntary
With chronic use, the
body develops a tolerance to opiates, so that progressively larger doses are
needed to achieve the same effect. The higher opiates--heroin and morphine--are
more addictive than opium or codeine. The habitual use of opium produces
physical and mental deterioration and shortens life. An acute overdose of opium
causes respiratory depression which can be fatal.
Opiates achieve their effect on the brain because their structure closely
resembles that of certain molecules called endorphins,
which are naturally produced in the body. Endorphins suppress pain and enhance
mood by occupying certain receptor sites on specific neurons (nerve cells) that
are involved in the transmission of nervous impulses. Opiate alkaloids are able
to occupy the same receptor sites, thereby mimicking the effects of endorphins
in suppressing the transmission of pain impulses within the nervous system.
drug warriors ·
$400bn business ·
Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson. Buzzed : the straight facts about the most used and abused drugs
from alcohol to ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
portions reprinted from:
"opium" Britannica.com. Vers. 2001
1999-2001. Encyclopædia Britannica.
1 Sep. 2000
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