In Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts, Family Resources, Heroin Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Personal Resources

The current opioid epidemic in the United States has led to further research and questions concerning both the legal and the illicit drugs that fall into this category. Given the addiction, overdoses, and deaths caused by opioid addiction, our drug rehab in Massachusetts finds it necessary to share more information about these drugs. If people can better understand how these drugs work and why they’re dangerous, then the rate of addiction and other tragedies related to them could be diminished. With that said, we’re going over the difference between opium and heroin.


What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an illicit drug derived from the opioid morphine. There’s black tar heroin, which is sold in a thick, dark, tar-like substance or as a dark rock that looks like coal, and then there’s the more common kind of heroin that comes in the form of a white powder. People use heroin by smoking it, snorting it, injecting it, or swallowing it. Some people also combine heroin and cocaine, which is a practice called speedballing. Both heroin and black tar heroin are transported from other countries and illegally distributed in the U.S.


Heroin works by entering the brain rapidly and binding to opioid receptors on cells located in different areas of the body, particularly in those involved with feelings of pain and pleasure. Heroin works to relax the central nervous system, slowing down basic functions like heart rate and breathing.


Other common effects include:

  • Euphoria or sense of well-being
  • Flushed skin
  • Heavy limbs
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sedation
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded mental function
  • Impaired judgment
  • Going “on the nod” or slipping in and out of consciousness


Because heroin is often injected, chronic use, which most often involves sharing needles, also increases the risk of contracting diseases like HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis. Despite the consequences of heroin addiction, many people are unable to quit without the help of a heroin drug rehab because the drug is so addictive.


What Is Opium?

Opium is a non-synthetic (meaning natural or not man-made) narcotic that’s extracted from the opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. Opium is the key source for many other narcotics, including morphine, codeine, and heroin. The opium poppy plant was originally growing in the Mediterranean region as far back as 5,000 B.C. Since then, it’s been cultivated, sold, and distributed across the globe. Opium looks like a milky fluid that seeps from the incision made in an unripe seed pod. It’s then scraped by hand and air-dried. Today pharmaceutical companies and labs extract opium from alkaloids of the natural dried plant.


Opium produces intense euphoric side effects on the brain, depending on the dose and how it was used. It works quickly when smoked because its chemicals pass through the lungs and get absorbed into the bloodstream. When comparing opium vs. heroin, both of their highs are similar.


Common side effects of opium include:

  • Rush of euphoria
  • Constipation
  • Hives or welts
  • Itching
  • Flushed skin
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sedation or drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Brain fog


In its purest form, opium is highly addictive. Taking too much can cause an overdose and symptoms like anxiety, blue lips and fingernails, chest pain, and difficulties breathing. A person with an addiction to opioids who does not receive inpatient drug treatment is more likely to reach a point in their physical dependence where they’re taking a toxic dose just to get high. However, you don’t have to be an addict to overdose on drugs, which is why you shouldn’t use street drugs and practice caution when taking prescribed medications.


What Is the Difference Between Heroin and Opium?

Although opium is in heroin by way of morphine, they’re both very different. The difference between opium and heroin is that opium is the natural substance from which drugs like morphine are derived, and heroin is a synthetic opioid derived from morphine. In other words, opium can be thought of as the original opioid. Opium comes directly from the naturally occurring opium poppy plant, while heroin is created from other opioids, like morphine, in a lab. Additionally, heroin often contains additional substances, from burned corn starch to fentanyl, to make it weigh more and intensify its side effects. Opium is the source from which both prescription and illicit opioids are made, making it more potent and dangerous. Opium and heroin also differ in appearance. While heroin comes in the form of a white powder or sticky black substance, opium comes in the original form of a milky-colored sap.


Despite their slight differences, both opium and heroin are dangerous and addictive substances. Many people have lost their health and their lives to these drugs, which is why offering effective addiction treatment is so important to us. Call Clearbrook Massachusetts today at 570-536-9621 to learn how our opioid addiction treatment or other substance-specific programs can help you regain your sobriety.



Related Reading:

What It’s Like To Die From An Opioid Overdose

Red Flags Of Opioid Addiction: Know If A Loved One Needs Help

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