Opium vs. Weed – What Is The Difference?

Weed and opium are not the same. They differ in many ways. Derived from the poppy plant, people have been cultivating and using opium since about 3,400 B.C. Marijuana is the buds of cannabis plants, and humankind has been growing and using it for much, much longer, at least 12,000 years. They differ in effects, therapeutic usefulness, mechanisms of action, and addiction risk:

Differences in Effects: Opium vs. Weed

Most know that opium is a powerful painkiller. It also promises feelings of euphoria and a very deep sense of physical and mental calm. However, it affects the body in other ways too. When opium attaches to mu-opioid receptors within the brainstem, they inhibit respiratory centers inside the brain, as well as immune and digestive function.

When a person consumes too much opium, it can so profoundly inhibit his or her respiratory center that breathing stops and he or she dies. In the digestive system, mu-opioid receptors also have an inhibitory effect. Using opium, both in the short- and long-term, can cause constipation. Additionally, mu-opioid receptors can suppress the immune system, which increases risk of infections significantly.

As with opium, marijuana is also a potent painkiller. Its active cannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors in the brain to alter pain perception. Weed also stimulates appetite, and like opium, it can affect the body negatively and cause constipation. However, these effects are temporary and not life threatening. Other effects of weed include short-term impairment of motor coordination, judgement, and memory.

Differences in Therapeutic Usefulness: Opium vs. Weed

It is true that some opioids, such as some prescription medications, have some clinical usefulness. For example, drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin are common opiates used to treat severe pain, such as that from cancer, surgery, or injury. When doctors and patients prescribe and use opiates responsibly, they are effective painkillers. However, the risk of addiction, overdose, and death is very high when misused.

However, illicit opioids, such as opium and heroin, have no therapeutic value whatsoever. These highly addictive drugs frequently kill people and overdoses are common. In contrast, the active cannabinoids in marijuana are very useful clinically. People use weed to stimulate appetite, particularly in those battling AIDS or cancer. This helps patients regain appetite, put some weight back on, and stop wasting away.

Emerging research shows marijuana effective for a horde of medical issues as diverse as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. It is a powerful antiepileptic, analgesic, antipsychotic, anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antidepressant, anti-everything you can possibly think up. There are no long-term, harmful side effects associated with marijuana, at least none that science has found.

Differences in Mechanism of Action: Opium vs. Weed

Drugs exert their effects on people in different ways, called the mechanism of action. Cannabis and opium have their own unique mechanisms of action. When you consume opium, it attaches to opioid receptors, of which the body contains four. The most important is the mu-opioid receptor, the one bound by most misused opioids, and they are abundant in the limbic system of the brain.

The limbic system is where you formulate your memories, respond emotionally, and find motivation. Once it binds to mu-opioid receptors, opioid influences dopamine production, emotional response, mood, and more. When you consume marijuana, however, it binds to different receptors to affect a different mechanism of action and different effects.

THC attaches to endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body. There are two, namely CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain to influence movement and cognitive function. This is the “high” associated with weed. CBD, on the other hand, interacts with CB2 receptors, mostly in the immune system, to affect physical healing.

Although opium and marijuana work very differently to achieve their effects on the body, they have similarities in their effects on the brain. Both cause intense and rapid release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for overwhelming feelings of pleasure. Every time they do this, the risk of addiction increases, which brings us the next point.

Addictiveness: Opium vs. Weed

There is no denying that opium is frighteningly addictive. Marijuana is too, but not as much or as dangerously. Expert on abusive drugs, Dr. Christian Luscher, in Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, introduces a scale of relative addiction risk. If a drug rates one on the scale, it has the lowest risk. However, drugs rated five have the highest risk of addiction.

The relative addiction risk of opium is four. Strangely, he rates cannabis with a relative addiction risk of two. Much controversy surrounds this, since near everyone in the scientific community believes weed should have a rating of one. However, despite this, it is abundantly clear that the risk of addiction is much higher for opium users than for pot smokers.

Cannabis Dispensary California

Marijuana is legal in California, both medically and recreationally. As is evidenced above, opium is not and for good reason. These are two distinct substances with very little in common. Science proves cannabis a safe and effective painkiller. If you are battling addiction to opiates in order to treat pain, then search “weed delivery online” for a much safer, just as efficient alternative.


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