Opium and heroin are commonly not fully understood and are believed to be the same thing or completely different drugs with different effects, both of these assumptions are not fully correct. Heroin is made from opium, without opium there cannot be heroin. Opium is the substance that produces all opiate drugs, hence the name opiates.
Breaking it down, opium is the sap that is produced from the opium poppy plant. From that sap distributors and manufactures will dilute the drug and extract its alkaloids. The two main alkaloids from opium are codeine and morphine. These two substances are used to make painkillers in the medical field. Morphine is also sent to hospitals to help people deal with pain.
Heroin is morphine which has been illegally made, not through the same legal manufacturers that produce the morphine for hospitals. Heroin is made so that it converts to morphine once it enters into a user’s body. Heroin is rarely distributed in pure form; instead it is diluted with other drugs or other products, such as milk or baking soda.
Most people who abuse heroin, do so because they enjoy the euphoric effects of the drug. However, heroin abuse commonly leads to addiction, and it can be dangerous.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, after an injection of heroin, people report feeling a euphoric rush, as well as dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of extremities, and clouded mental functioning. After this euphoria, the user goes into an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Users who do not inject heroin may not experience the initial rush, but the other effects are the same.
Are Heroin Effects Worse than Opium?
Heroin and opium are both dangerous, especially in large quantities, but heroin can be more dangerous since it is illegally made. Heroin simply converts back into morphine once it is in a user’s body, but it is usually mixed with other chemicals and drugs, so a user never fully knows what they are putting into their body.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when heroin enters the brain it is converted back into morphine. The morphine then binds to molecules on cells, which are called opioid receptors. The opioid receptors are located in many areas of the brain and in the body, especially those involved in the perception of reward and pain. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, arousal, and respiration.
Both opium and heroin will cause a person to feel highly sedated and can cause a person to feel pain free, but heroin, since it gets to a person’s brain quicker and with more potency, will cause users to feel a euphoric rush almost immediately after being taken. Due to this feeling, heroin’s effects seem to be more powerful than opium.