What is opium?

pium is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between your brain and body. Derived from the poppy (Papaver somniferum), it was traditionally cultivated in the Mediterranean and Asia. The Opium Poppy is one of the oldest plants in recorded history, with information dating back to 5,000 BCE.1, 2, 3

A milky exudate called latex is collected from the poppy, air dried and manufactured into a brown powder or resin.4 This latex contains a combination of active chemicals such as morphine and codeine.

What does it look like?

Opium is a sticky dark-brown gum with a strong odour. It can also be manufactured into a liquid, powder, or solid resin.

What does it look like?

Aunti, Aunti Emma, Big O, O, Black pill, Chandu, Chinese Molasses, Dopium, Dream Gun, Fi-Do-Nie, Gee, Guma, Midnight Oil, Zero.

How is opium used?

Opium is commonly smoked, but can also be injected, swallowed or drunk.8 Raw opium has a bitter taste due to the alkaloid levels.
Ingesting and injecting opium may increase the chance of overdose. Some of the most common ways to take opium are to smoke it via a bong or a pipe or take it in the form of a pill.10

If injecting drugs there is an increased risk of:

  • tetanus
  • infection
  • vein damage.

If sharing needles there is an increased risk of:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV and AIDS.


There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

The main effects of opium are exerted by its collection of alkaloids collectively known as ‘opiates’. Opiates predominately affect the functioning of the brain and spinal cord.  The levels and potency of alkaloids in opium can be difficult to measure, as they vary between batches, area of growth and growing techniques.1

The effects of opium last for two-to-three hours, though this is dependent on individual characteristics of the batch. Tolerance to the effects of opium increases quickly.

Opium affects everyone differently, based on:

  • the person’s size, weight and health
  • Regularity of use
  • whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • the amount taken
  • the strength of the drug (which varies between batches).

Symptoms of use include:

  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • analgesia
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