Effects of Opium
Cannabis, Coca,& Poppy:Nature’s Addictive Plants
With its array of colors ranging from white to pink to red to purple to blue, the poppy is a flower that has graced gardens around the world. Yet the juice from this botanical beauty has sparked wars, created incalculable wealth, and wreaked indescribable suffering upon millions.
The poppy plant, Papaver somniferum, produces opium, a powerful narcotic whose derivatives include morphine, codeine, heroin and oxycodone. The term “narcotic” refers to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic substitutes. Narcotics are used therapeutically to treat pain, suppress cough, alleviate diarrhea, and induce anesthesia. However, they are some of the most addictive substances known to man. As drugs of abuse, they are often smoked, sniffed, or injected.
EFFECTS ON THE BODY
Good Effects of Opiates
No other substance has been found to be as effective as opiates for the management of extreme pain. In addition to its analgesic qualities, it is a very effective cough suppressant, anti-diarrhea medication, and sleep-inducer.
Bad Effects of Opiates
The major drawback of opiate use is the potential for abuse and addiction. Effects include drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss, pupil constriction, dilation of the blood vessels causing increased pressure in the brain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, hallucinations, sexual dysfunction, convulsions, and respiratory depression. Effects from using non-sterile needles and adulterants mixed with opiates include skin, lung, and brain abscesses, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), infected and collapsed veins, and diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.
The Heroin Molecule
Opium from poppy plants contains several natural alkaloids including morphine and codeine. All opiates share the same basic molecular structure, with just a slight change in the end molecules to differentiate heroin from morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and other varieties.
Heroin Changes the Brain
After heroin use is stopped, symptoms like depression, abnormal mood swings, insomnia, psychosis, and paranoia remain. These brain scans show a reduction in dopamine receptors which control judgment and behavior. This reduction is a result of regular heroin use. NIDA
How Heroin Works
Heroin binds to receptors in the brain and produces feelings of euphoria. Its structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter and taps into the brain’s communication system, interfering with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. This similarity in structure “fools” receptors and allows the drugs to lock onto and activate the nerve cells. Above is a model of an opiate chemical attaching to a receptor in the brain. NIDA, Courtesy: B.K. Madras