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Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline

Freephone: 0808 808 2234
Or text DAN to: 81066


O, big O, black, tar.

What does Opium look like?

Opium is derived from the opium poppy plant (papaver somniferum). It is obtained from the plant by scoring the seed pods to release a milky sap. This is then dried and refined in to opium Base which is a black, sticky Paste containing Morphine and Codeine.

Opium is a black tar

Scientific Names


Generic Name


Effects Of Opium

Desired Effects:

Initial stimulation, enhanced imagination, euphoria, relaxation, decreased anxiety, sleep.


Nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, decreased heart-rate, shallow breathing.





Dependence, lack of physical care, constipation.

Reducing Harm

Please view our Reducing Harm page for more information.

How does Opium work?

Central nervous system Depressant, Analgesic.

Legal status of Opium

Class A under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

How Is Opium Taken?

Usually smoked in a Pipe, with nothing added, but like Heroin it can be heated on Tinfoil and the fumes inhaled - so-called chasing the dragon. It can also be eaten or brewed into a tea and Drunk.


Opium Pipe, Tinfoil, matches or lighter.

Medical uses of Opium

Occasionally used as an Analgesic but very rare nowadays.

Where does it come from?

The earliest record of opium was 6,000 years ago. It is derived from the poppy, papaver somniferum, which grows in many parts of the world (including Britain). The main centres of illicit production include the border regions of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - known as the 'Golden Crescent' - around the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos - known as the 'Golden Triangle' and parts of the Indian sub-continent. Codeine, Morphine and Heroin are refined from raw opium. Opium is rarely seen in Britain nowadays.

Helping services

There are a handful of older opium dependent drug users being seen by drug dependency clinics. 'Street agenciesí or projects, sometimes called community drug services or community drug teams, offer a range of services including information and advice, counselling, detoxification and prescribing for opiate users, needle exchanges and sometimes support groups and other services such as acupuncture. Some may have extended opening hours and may be open at weekends. GPs and hospitals can make referrals to specialist drug services like Drug Dependency Units (DDUs). These are usually located in or adjacent to a hospital and specialise in helping problem drug users, especially people who are dependent on drugs like heroin. They provide counselling, detoxification, substitute prescribing and other treatments. Residential services offer treatment programmes for heavily dependent drug users who are trying to give up. Residents must usually be drug free on admission which means they usually have to undergo detoxification before entry. Programmes usually last 3-6 months, but some 12 steps programmes last longer. The types of programmes vary. Self help groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) co-ordinate local support groups for problem drug users around the country. Families Anonymous run similar groups for the families of drug users.

Parents & other relatives

Drug agencies also provide lots of advice and support to parents of people using these drugs. Many street agencies can provide relative support groups or counselling for family members, partners etc.

You can view a list of National Drug Agencies.

If you would like to talk about Opium problems then please call the DAN 24/7 Helpline on:

0808 808 2234
Last updated: 31 December 2012