Opioids and brown sugar

Not so sweet: Brown Sugar

Opiate or opioid comes from the word opium, the juice of the opium poppy, biological name of which is Papaver somniferum. This plant grows extensively in some Asian countries. Cross border drug trafficking is very high in opioid compounds. In its pure from it is white and crystalline like sugar, however, on contamination with additives, it becomes brown and is colloquially known as ‘brown sugar’.


Morphine is the alkaloid from the poppy plant. Heroin, codeine and hydromorphone are all morphine derivatives. Synthetic compounds like dextropropoxyphene, pentazocine, and meperidine, all which are opium derivatives, are widely prescribed and used for their medicinal properties. Medical use although warranted in some conditions, is itself dangerous, because use transforms to overuse, misuse and a stepping-stone to addiction and dependence in vulnerable individuals. Those that stick to medicinal use carry low risk of dependence. People with innate pessimism, lack of drive, depression and thrill seeking personalities have a higher chance of opioid addiction and dependence.

How the culprit acts

Opioids express their neurological impact through their action on specific receptors in the brain. Innate opioids like endorphins and enkephalins present within the body are mediators of the body’s natural pain relief; and also contribute to general wellness. They accomplish this by raising dopamine in the reward center of the brain. Consuming the drug arouses a sense of reward. When people do yoga and meditation, they enhance endorphin production, which gives them a sense of calm and vitality too. Thus an external source of this wellness enhancer seems like a good option to many.

Methods of consumption

Opioids can be taken orally, inhaled through the nose (chasing), injected into the
 skin (popping) or directly into the vein (mainlining). Intravenous injection gives the 
quickest high (rush). It instills a feeling of warmth, heaviness in the hands and legs, decreased 
movement, diminished attention span, and sleepiness. Physical effects like constipation, blood pressure changes, slowed breathing; and drying of body secretions occur too (dry eyes, dry mouth, dry nose). An overdose may lead to coma, respiratory distress and hypothermia (lowered body temperature), bradycardia (lowered heart rate) and hypotension (low blood pressure).

MINDFRAMES: Reframing reward

A single use of opium alters the reward center such that within 6 – 8 hours, the craving becomes unbearable. Muscle cramps, diarrhea, yawning, fever, running nose, tearfulness, and gooseflesh motivate the addict to pursue consumption. There have been case reports of suicide owing to inability to bear withdrawal, as well as homicide in a pursuit to acquire the drug from dealers in the absence of finances to procure it. Withdrawal symptoms can last for months together (protracted withdrawal). It is important to educate dependent individuals about the ill effects of drug use, risk of HIV transmission through unsafe injection practices, and instill the need to enroll on a structured de-addiction therapy and rehabilitation program along with medication and counseling to attain and maintain drug free living. Substance dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with drugs. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is drug ‘chasing’?
In many developing countries, there is significant contamination of the original heroin compound (that’s what makes the white heroine brown thus brown sugar). When the individual wants to smoke brown sugar, it is heated on a steel spoon or aluminum foil over a flame. As the opioid starts vaporizing, the pure fumes need to be inhaled. The addict must dodge around and try to ‘chase’ and inhale these drug fumes. Hence the method become well known as ‘chasing.’


Frequently Asked Questions

What is cold turkey?
Cold turkey is a term used by addicts to describe the withdrawal from brown sugar. Whenever a brown sugar addict suddenly stops consumption, there are symptoms like cramps, intense stomach ache, diarrhea, yawning, running nose, tearfulness, and gooseflesh. Due to the gooseflesh that simulates the skin of turkeys, the condition of opioid withdrawal became well known in the addict community as ‘cold turkey’.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the physical dangers of brown sugar?
While several opioids are used as medicines in decongestants, cough syrups, and in anti spasmodic pain killers, overdose results in effects like constipation, dry mouth, low blood pressure, low temperature, slowing of breathing, and at times cardiac and respiratory arrest. Opioid compounds are hence classified as scheduled drugs.