What is the Difference Between Opium vs Heroin?

Opium vs Heroin

America’s current opioid epidemic has made people hungry for information about the legal and illicit drugs that fall into this category. Given the tragedies we are witnessing because of heroin and fentanyl overdoses, offering more information about opioids is a good idea. If people can better understand how drugs work and how they affect the human body, it’s possible that understanding will curtail abuse. In this writing, we will address the differences between opium vs. heroin.

Statistics show approximately 13.5 million people use opioids such as prescription drugs and heroin in the world. This includes approximately 9.2 million who use heroin worldwide. In the United States, there are less than 900,000 heroin users.

Opium vs. Heroin

Both opium and heroin offer similar effects, namely creating euphoria and suppressing pain. Of course, there are many differences when we look at heroin vs opium. Opium comes directly from the naturally occurring narcotic manufacturers extract from the sap of unripe bulbs of the poppy plant. The drug counts morphine as its active ingredient, which works to suppress pain receptors in the brain.

So is opium heroin? Heroin is a synthetic substance that uses opium as its primary active ingredient. The manufacturing process dictates manufacturers convert the opium into pure morphine, which then turns into chemically-changed heroin. The process produces a substance that has a higher level of potency than the opium extract. The higher potency leads to more euphoria and eventually, more significant problems.

From a legal standpoint, the FDA classifies opium as a legal substance when manufacturers make the substance in legal labs/factories. A doctor will prescribe this medication for the treatment of moderate to severe pain issues. Heroin is an illicit substance, meaning people cannot legally manufacture or sell the drug in the US. Because of the drug’s potency, it is very much in demand on the streets. As such, it creates a mound of problems that affect our society as a whole.

Heroin and prescription pain relievers have similar chemical qualities. Heroin is an opioid and there are places in the United States where this drug is cheaper than prescription opioids.  Some surveys state that approximately 5% of people who abuse prescription drugs then progress to heroin use. Heroin abuse has doubled in the past decade.

The Difference Between Opium and Opiates

There is a difference between opium and opiates. An opiate is a natural substance derived from the poppy plant. Codeine, morphine, and heroin are some examples of opiates. Opioids are both synthetic and natural narcotics. Opioids affect the opioid receptors in the brain. Examples of synthetic opioids are Vicodin and OxyContin. Just because the narcotic is natural, does not mean it is less harmful to the human body and brain. Both synthetic and natural narcotics are very harmful, learn more about the difference between opium and opiates here.

What is Opium?

Opium is a very addictive narcotic and is a dried form of the poppy seed pod with a bitter taste. It has many different alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone and fentanyl.  Opium is harvested in Afghanistan. This substance is refined into morphine and then refined more into other narcotics.

Prolonged use of morphine can be habit-forming. Life-threatening breathing problems have been associated with morphine use.

Another form of opiate is codeine. It is used as a pain reliever. It is sometimes mixed with acetaminophen. Codeine is also in cough suppressants. If individuals abuse codeine, it can become an addictive drug.

Oxycodone is an opioid narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone is not recommended for people with asthma. Abuse can lead to overdose or addiction and in some cases can cause death.

Fentanyl is a synthetic version of opioids. Fentanyl is more than 50% stronger than heroin.  Nowadays, this drug is now being imitated on the streets.

History of Opium

Opium comes from the poppy plant. These plants are noted for their beautiful flowers in their array of colors. This is the same plant that produces the poppy seeds that you get on bagels.  Poppy seeds do have a minute amount of opium content but most of the opium is taken out during processing. There are very few times when poppy seeds can result in a positive drug test. Opium has been around for several thousands of years; both the ancient Romans and the ancient Greeks used opium as pain killers. There were opium wars in the 1800s, the Chinese brought their opium when coming to work on the U.S. railroad and for the gold rush. In the late 1800s, Germany’s Bayer Pharmaceutical company was the first to make the heroin product.  This was first used to help treat tuberculous.

How People Use Opium

There are several ways to use opium and heroin. Every way it is being used is dangerous. It can be used as:

  • Nasal spray
  • Ingested
  • Snorted
  • Smoked
  • Suppositories
  • Intravenously

Most heroin users inject the drug, using needles. This raises the fear of other blood diseases transmitted by used needles.

Is Opium Dangerous – Opium Side Effects

While both opium and heroin have similar properties, they metabolize a little differently in the human body. The primary reason for this is the aforementioned potency differences. When abuse opium, they will likely encounter some of the same side effects people face when they abuse heroin.

Both drugs can produce euphoria, drowsiness, constipation, nausea, and addiction. However, heroin causes a rapid loss of motor and memory function. It also creates an addiction more rapidly and causes more significant breathing and heart rate issues. With opium, it requires a significant dose to hit overdose levels. That’s not true with heroin. Depending on body weight and frequency of abuse, much smaller doses of heroin can send the user over the top.

Other side effects of heroin can be:

  •  dry mouth
  •  itching 
  •  abdominal issues

It can also cause death by stopping respiratory action.

Opioids and Pregnancy

Opioid use during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage even if directed by a physician. Another opioid problem during pregnancy is low birth rates. The baby also may have an addiction to the opioid after being born. It is imperative that a pregnant mother to be, tell her physician if she has been taking drugs.  It is important for a pregnant woman to get off drugs with the help of a physician. This will help to protect the unborn baby.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin and Opioids

Withdrawal symptoms are a part of quitting natural and synthetic opioids. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are unique to both synthetic and natural opioids. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Shaking
  • The sweats 
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal issues

These can be so extreme it makes it very difficult to quick. Thankfully, it is not impossible. Many people get off both synthetic and natural opioids to complete sobriety.

Unfortunately, an overdose on either heroin and synthetic opioids is a reality. The occurrence of fatal overdoses has more than doubled with opioids. For many people, the first dose can result in an overdose. Naloxone is the drug prescribed to reverse the effects of an overdose of opioids.

Crest View Heroin and Opium Rehab in Asheville, NC

Along with our opium addiction treatment program, we offer a wide range of other programs for North Carolina residents. We use a wellness approach to treatment, which includes Reality-based modalities in combination with holistic treatment options. Look at our list of treatment options to better understand how we approach treatment:

  •     Big emphasis on family counseling and involvement
  •     Primary focus on intensive outpatient treatment
  •     Dual diagnosis treatment as long as addiction is the primary focus
  •     Holistic options – acupuncture, yoga, equine and recreation
  •     Trauma therapy

If you are struggling with opiate addiction, understanding the differences between opium vs. heroin is of little importance. What you need to understand is that you are at significant risk and need help. Crest View Recovery Center is offering that help. You can start the recovery process by contacting one of our representatives today.