Opium keeps cropping up in arrest reports in Fresno and throughout the Fresno County area. For many people living in this part of California, it’s their substance of choice. It’s strange how different drugs are used in different areas. In towns near the Mexican border, black tar heroin is more common. In places throughout Georgia, there is more use of the fine white powdered type of heroin. Maybe it’s hydrocodone in one locale and Oxy’s in another. There’s quite a bit of opium and heroin addiction in Fresno.
Opium, the Granddaddy of Opiates and Opioids
There are plenty of opiate and opioid medications out there. The word opiates refers to the drugs that come directly from opium, which are derived from red poppies. Opioids include all types of narcotic medications, including those derived directly from plants as well as those created synthetically in laboratories, like prescription medications. The term opioid is the one used by doctors when they want to refer to opiate medications, opiates, and opioids of all types.
The poppy plant goes through stages of growth and develops a pod. The poppy farmer cuts the pod before it matures and the pod leaks out a brownish-yellow fluid much like sap, which dries over the surface of the pod. The poppy farmer scrapes it off and sells it to the dealer that pays him to grow poppies, and this sap is rich with opioid alkaloids such as codeine, morphine, papaverine, and thebaine.
You’re probably familiar with codeine and morphine. Papaverine has some value as a drug used to calm spasms in the walls of blood vessels. It can be dangerous for the patient who goes into complete heart block. Thebaine has no medical use—it causes convulsions, much like strychnine. About 12 percent of this sap, by composition, is morphine, which is formulated and processed into heroin.
Use of opium goes all the way back to the Neolithic era some 10,000 years B.C. All through history, Sumerians, Egyptians, Romans, and other populations used it, but the Chinese used it regularly and recreationally in the 1400s. Because it was so expensive, people mixed it with tobacco in the 1600s, and opium addiction became common. Chinese laborers brought it to America, and it was smoked widely in dens throughout the frontier towns of the American Wild West, including San Francisco.
Opium is glamorized in popular culture. In movies, like Tombstone which fictionalized the events at the OK Corral, Wyatt Earp’s common law wife used laudanum, an opium derivative, for headaches. The cowboy outlaw Curly Bill Brocius who shot the sheriff of the town before the Earps took over was high from opium. Opium is depicted as “milk of the poppy” on Game of Thrones.
Opium is such a potent, sticky, tarry substance, and it is easily mixed with other drugs. Opiated hashish regained popularity during the drug-booming years of the 1960s and 1970s. Combining it with morphine and then heroin were the natural next steps. Opium and heroin addiction in Fresno is widespread today.
Risks of Opium and Heroin in Combination
People who are have an opium and heroin addiction in Fresno report the same symptoms as any opioid—morphine, OxyContin, and other common narcotics. However, with opium the user can experience wild mood swings that are not characteristic with other addicts. Opium addicts become agitated easily, and withdrawal symptoms come upon them quick and hard. They exhibit gloominess, a lack of pleasure or happiness when they are not using opium. They avoid people who don’t use drugs.
People who use both drugs with an opium and heroin addiction in Fresno experience a higher frequency of complications that land them in emergency departments. The same thing happens to people who try to cook down black tar heroin made in Mexico. Sticky opium, like sticky black tar heroin, does not dissolve as easily as white powdered heroin, and people who inject both heroin and opium are more likely to develop infections in the lining of the heart or infections including abscesses. But opium satisfies the brain’s reward center just like heroin or other opioids, and people who use simply don’t care about the dangers.
Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country on Earth. The Taliban lifted a ban on growing poppies about ten years ago, and there are probably a million Afghan farmers whose earnings may add as much as 110 million dollars to the Afghani economy. That’s some revenge on Americans like those who fall victim to opium and heroin addiction in Fresno.
Opium, which goes back in history as the first analgesic, produces morphine. Morphine yields heroin. So it’s easy to see how dangerous their combination can be. Tolerance develops very quickly. It’s a short journey from social use to opium and heroin addiction in Fresno.
It’s such a compelling addiction that treatment at a methadone or buprenorphine program offers the best chances of recovery. It’s up to you to make the decision to kick this double-dangerous addiction.