Smoking Opium – What are the short and long-term effects?

Last Updated: June 3, 2020

As a very fast method of taking a drug, smoking causes opium to hit the brain quickly. In general terms, opium is a sedative and an analgesic, or a pain reliever.
It slows down the parts of the brain that control automatic body functions such as breathing, digestion, allergic reaction, and feeling pain. Overall, there is a danger of overdose with first use. As a person’s breathing can slow too much, or even stop.
The liquid of the opium plant seed pod becomes a gummy substance when refined. As such,
to smoke opium, the raw material or a dried powder version of it is heated, and the released vapor is inhaled. Smoked opium travels quickly from the lungs to the brain.

10 Short-Term Effects of Smoking Opium

In the beginning, users feel euphoria or a high feeling of pleasure. Particularly, as the brain floods with opium, body functions slow down. A person feels drowsy and like they are a dream state.
Other short-term effects include:

  • Breathing slows down
  • Body temperature changes
  • Pupils become pinpoints
  • Pain goes away
  • Slow movements
  • Falling asleep or “nodding off.”
  • No longer worry or feel anxiety
  • Mental fog
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation

10 Long-Term Effects of Smoking Opium

The body quickly develops a tolerance to opium, needing more of the drug to achieve the first pleasurable state. The quest for pleasure and glee becomes a compulsion to get more opium. As a result, drug seeking behavior increases often leading a person to neglect other aspects of their health. Also, when taking more, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur as soon as a dose wears off. Avoidance of feeling sick creates more of a need for the drug.
smoking opium
Other long-term effects include:

  • Increased toxins in the lungs due to smoking and contaminants in the opium or smoking tools.
  • Chronic slowing of breathing can cause problems related to low blood oxygen.
  • The weakening of the immune system causes users to get sick more often.
  • Chronic skin flushing and itching because opium triggers the body to release histamines which cause allergic reactions.
  • Sexual impotence.
  • Rebound effect of increased anxiety
  • Rebound effect of increased pain
  • Mental fog stays around even when not using the drug
  • Increased anger, irritability when withdrawal starts
  • Risk of switching to stronger opiate drugs

As a sedative and pain reliever, opium causes body systems to slow down. Therefore, a person experiences a drowsy, dreamlike state with a decrease in feeling pain and anxiety. Risks include breathing slowing to a stop. Long term effects include health problems and increased drug seeking behavior due to tolerance and the need to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Page Sources

  1. Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S., & Wilson, W. (2003). Buzzed: The straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York

Published on: May 3rd, 2017

Updated on: June 3rd, 2020

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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