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Drug Information

Opium Facts | side effects history & prevention
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Commercial and Street Names

Big O, black stuff , block. The White House has a longer list of street terms for opium.

Description of Opium

An opioid or narcotic, made from the white liquid in the poppy plant. No current medical use. Used commercially as raw material for production of morphine and codeine. Opium appears as a fine brownish powder, black/brown block of tar-like substance, or liquid. Usually eaten or smoked.

Today, there are state, federal, and international laws governing the production and distribution of opium. Opium is broken down into alkaloid constituents, phenanthrenes and isoquinolines. The principal phenanthrenes are morphine, codeine, and thebaine, while the isoquinolines have no significant central nervous system effects and are not regulated under the CSA (*)

(*) Source: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Opium 1
Opium can be swallowed or smoked. Source: DEA

Pain Killer 2
Actual photo of droopy eyes due to opioid use.

Heroin 2
Heroin users often have “pinned” or constricted pupils that do not respond to poor lighting. Other depressants often have similar effects.

Effects of Opium

See Pain Killer Addiction section.

Source: DEA

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General Reading

Opium: The Little Book (2003) Debra and Francis Moraes

Drug Prevention and Education on Opium

Opium (Drug Education Library) (2004) James Barter.

The History of Opium

The Chinese Opium Wars (1977) Jack Beeching.

Foreign Mud: Being an Account of the Opium Imbroglio at Canton in the 1830s and the Anglo-Chinese War That Followed (2002) Maurice Collis.

In the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Morphine, Laudanum and Patent Medicines (2001) by Barbara Hodgson.

Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy: A study of the Asian opium trade 1750-1950(1999) explores in detail the growth and development of the opium trade in relation to colonial market expansion. Uses the term ‘drugs’ in its broadest sense to include tobacco, sugar, alcohol and tea as well as opium. Carl A. Trocki.

The Opium Empire: Japanese Imperialism and Drug Trafficking in Asia, 1895-1945 (1997) provides the historical context behind the International Military Tribunal for the Far East’s (IMTFE) findings that Japan deliberately promoted drug abuse as a weapon to further its imperialistic aims in Asia. Cover period from the annexation of Taiwan in 1895 to the end of World War II. John M. Jennings.

Opium: A History(1999) Martin Booth.

Opium: A Journey Through Time (2005) Colin Shearing.

Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon (2004) Barbara Hodgson.

Opium Regimes: China, Britain, and Japan, 1839-1852 (2000) integrates the pioneering research of sixteen scholars to show that the opium trade was not purely a British operation but involved Chinese merchants, Chinese state agents, and Japanese imperialists as well. Timothy Brook and Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi.

Opium War, 1840-1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the War by Which They Forced Her Gates (1998) Peter Ward Fay.

The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (2004) W. Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello.

The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes (1958) Arthur Waley.

The Opium Habit and Alcoholism:  Treatise on the Habits of Opium and Alcoholism (1881) is a historical document. Dr. Fred Heman Hubbard.

For more information on history see History in the Drug Information section.

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General Information on Opium

Opium Museum

The History of Opium

History of Opium includes reference to Turkey, China, India and Europe.

Historical Review of Opium/Heroin Production Alfred W. McCoy.

Opium and the British Indian Empire (May 2001) looks at the Royal Commission on Opium of 1895. John Richards.  

Opium through History is a table of dates from 3400 BC to present day that documents the growth of the opium trade.

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Video Resources – Movies

Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962)

Starring: Katherine Hepburn as Mary Tyrone, Ralph Richardson as James Tyrone, Jason Robards as Jamie Tyrone, Dean Stockwell as Edmund Tyrone.

Director: Sidney Lumet

Opium (1919)

Director: Robert Reinert

Video Resources – Education Videos

Distant Drummer: Flowers of Darkness (1972) is the origin and history of opium. This is an anti-drug video narrated by Paul Newman. Airlie Productions.

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Recent YouTube Videos


Kye, the kinesiologist, has been a beauty. He’s really engaged with everyone and doesn’t just set up our outings towards the people that are more athletic, he likes to mix it up like with a half hour hike where not too intense and then follow it up with a sporting activities or something. He’s been great with that.

- Kyle

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