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Vintage Opium or Incense?
by Rev. MeO
December 2013
Originally published in Erowid Extracts #25
Citation:   Rev. MeO. "Vintage Opium or Incense?". Erowid Extracts. December 2013;25:17. Online edition: Erowid.org/chemicals/opium/opium_article1.shtml
The slender, plastic-wrapped and candy-tied package looks like a chunk of opium, dressed up with a fading sticker: "MADE IN INDIA". The material smells lightly of incense. Each bundle weighs about 20 grams.

"This was sold under the counter as incense in the 1970s", explained the former head shop proprietor who first showed it to me. "The kids used to roll up balls of this stuff and swallow it before going to concerts."

The intent in the 1970s was either the discrete distribution of dilute opium, or misdirection (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) to suggest the substance contained opium while instead being a lettuce "opium" or other mildly soporific herbal extract.

"I have no idea", the former proprietor said when asked bluntly if the material contained opium. I asked multiple people who were familiar with the head shop scene in the 1970s and none recognized the material nor had heard of opium being sold under the counter as incense.

After almost 40 years, the wrapping is yellowed and beautifully brittle. The outer layer of the resin is dry, and when torn open the insides are gooey and sticky, just as one might expect of opium. But could it really be old, dilute opium?

One of the sources I queried commented that it looked like hashish while still in the wrapper, but recanted upon seeing how sticky it remained inside. He said hashish would unquestionably have dried out in the intervening decades.

The product had no bitter taste -- almost no taste at all. I first tried vaporizing a test dosage, but the material caught aflame and burned like incense. A dozen inhalations brought only a mild alteration. Placebo remained a candidate.

Days later, I sliced approximately four grams from the small bar and swallowed it quickly on an empty stomach. The effect bordered on placebo, with mild eye glazing and light sensitivity. I wrote it off, had several glasses of whiskey and fell asleep.

However, that night was filled with intense and vibrant dreaming characteristic of opium. But other herbal extracts, such as passionflower and skullcap, have provided me with similar experiences. The morning brought brief constipation followed by sudden diarrhea, which was suggestive of an opiate. I did feel pleasantly, though mildly, sedated for the first couple of hours after waking.

It was interesting to experience no opiate euphoria yet still have the characteristic dream activity and bowel response associated with opium. A few days later, I swallowed about eight grams of the substance while already intoxicated from two alcoholic drinks. My belches had a mild incense flavor. About three hours post ingestion, relaxed but not euphoric, I fell into a slumber.

Once again, I had a night full of vivid dreams -- more intense than the previous time. They were more realistic, with a recurring storyline to which I repeatedly returned throughout the night. The next morning, I felt a slight opiate glow, but no gastric discomfort.

There's something active in this stuff, but I don't know if it's deteriorated opium or any number of other herbal extracts.

I had the material tested by EcstasyData and the lab analysis revealed palmitic, myristic, and phenylacetic acids (all found in food supplements). There were a number of unidentified compounds but none matched any opium-derived substance (codeine, morphine, heroin, thebaine, papaverine, noscapine, or other common opioids). The mystery incense remains a mystery!

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Dec, 2013 - published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.01 - Sep 2015 - Erowid - Published on Erowid.org.