Opium Side Effects

General information about opium

Opium is one of the world's oldest pain relievers, available since before recorded history. Early caregivers, including Hippocrates, administered opium to relieve pain, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea and more. Because of its analgesic and narcotic properties, opium use spread quickly around the globe. Alexander the Great introduced opium to Persia and India; Arab traders brought opium to China.

There are currently 4 million opium users worldwide, consuming 1.1 megaton of opium. About 80 percent of these users are in Asia, where smoking opium is a culturally acceptable, traditional practice. Opium can be a liquid, solid or powder. Opium can be smoked, injected intravenously or pressed into a pill form and swallowed.

In the United States, very little opium remains in its raw form - the majority of opium is broken down into its alkaloids, such as codeine and morphine. Opium is legal with a prescription in the United States, where doctors prescribe opium to relieve diarrhea. While heroin and prescription opioid abuse greatly outweighs opium use in the United States, opium is sometimes the target of recreational drug users and highly addictive.

Opium Side Effects Information

All drugs, including legal opium preparations and illicit opium, have the potential to cause side effects. Many people experience no, or minor, side effects while using opium. Most adverse are not serious and decrease in severity or disappear completely after you use opium for a few days. Some side effects are serious and require the attention of a doctor.

The side effects associated with opium are typical of any opioids. The most serious side effect is respiratory problems potentially leading to stopped breathing, circulation problems, severely low blood pressure and shock.

Side effects are more likely after using high doses of opium or using this drug for a long time.

Whenever you take any opioid including opium, you are at risk for the serious breathing condition, respiratory depression. During respiratory depression, your lungs do not adequately exchange oxygen, carbon dioxide and other blood gases. Symptoms of respiratory depression include slow or shallow breathing, unusual breathing patterns, gasping or wheezing, and a bluish tint around your eyes, mouth and fingertips.

Most Frequently Observed

The most frequently observed opium side effects include lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea and vomiting. People who are able to walk around are more likely to experience these side effects than is someone confined to a bed or wheelchair. If you experience any of these symptoms, lie down for a while.

Abuse, Dependence and Withdrawal

Opium is highly addictive and anyone who uses opium for a long time can become opioid-dependent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies substances according to the potential for abuse, and has classified most forms of opium as Schedule II narcotics. This means raw opium carries a relatively high potential for abuse and mental or physical dependence. The DEA classifies the paregoric formula of opium used for diarrhea as a Schedule III narcotic, which means this formula presents less of a risk for abuse than raw opium or its alkaloids.

Anyone who uses opium for a long time can become dependent upon it. An opioid-dependent person will feel withdrawal symptoms if the level of opioids suddenly drops. This drop can be caused by a missed dose, insufficient dose or because the person used a medicine that reduces opioid levels.
Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred Vision
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting

Allergic Reaction

You may suffer an allergic reaction after taking opium or any other medication. If you suffer an allergic reaction after taking opium, seek help immediately - an allergic reaction is a serious medical emergency. Bring your bottle of opium along with all your medications to help the emergency department doctor understand which medication caused the reactions.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the Mouth, Face, Lips or Tongue
  • Tightness in the Chest


Rarely, opium consumers have reported hypersensitivity to opium. Hypersensitivity may lead to shock or anaphylaxis, a severe form of an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis usually occurs within moments of exposure to opium but may happen as long as a half an hour or longer after you consume opium. Seek help immediately if you think you or someone you know is suffering anaphylaxis as the result of exposure to opium or any other drug.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, itching, flushed or pale skin. You may feel a sensation of warmth. It may also feel like your tongue is swelling up, you have a lump in your throat, or that your throat is closing. These problems can lead to wheezing and trouble breathing. You might have a weak and rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting. You may have a terrible feeling of impending doom.

Non-Serious Side Effects

The most common side effects associated with opium are not serious and go away by themselves. Do not use opium illegally, especially if it causes serious or non-serious side effects. Continue taking this medication if you are using a paregoric but contact the prescribing physician if the following side effects become intolerable or if they do not go away on their own:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred Vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headache
  • Mild Nausea
  • Mood Changes
  • Ringing in Your Ears
  • Upset Stomach
  • Vomiting