Peaky Blinders: Does opium cause people to have hallucinations?

Peaky Blinders has never shied away from dealing with the impacts of the PTSD on its main character Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy). This season fans have been watching Tommy self-medicating with doses of opium, which has led him to having some unexpected side effects. So can opium really cause people to have hallucinations?

Does opium cause people to have hallucinations?

With season four ending on Tommy’s breakdown as he struggled to deal with this PTSD from being a tunneller in the war, mental health and explorations of were a major theme heading into this series of the show.

Tommy has been self-medicating to deal with this back since season one when he would smoke an opium pipe to try and help him sleep without flashbacks.

Now in season five, fans have been watching him drink a small dose of opium at intervals to carry on with business as usual.

But, this has resulted in Tommy having hallucinations of seeing his dead wife Grace Shelby (Annabelle Wallis) who was killed back in season three.

In the first instance of this, she says to him: “What am I a genie? You summon me up with your little bottle of dope.”

To which Tommy replies: “I take it for the pain, to keep warm.”

Tommy’s sister Ada Shelby (Sophie Rundle) even remarks that the opium causes visions and he should stay off it.

The storyline has left viewers wondering whether opium can cause hallucinations of this scale.

According to The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) museum in Washington D.C., using opiates can have an effect on how the brain functions.

They can lead to symptoms including drowsiness, memory loss and hallucinations.

While opium is rarely taken in straight forms as it was in the 1920s, drugs that contain it have also reported similar side effects.

According to the charity Mind, opium-related painkillers like Buprenorphine can also cause hallucinations and other symptoms of psychosis.

Research in the Anesthesia & Analgesia journal in 2016 also reported that while Opioid-induced hallucination is an uncommon side effect, it has been recognised as significant.

This can appear for some patients when they are prescribed opioids in cancer treatment and end-of-life care.

Therefore it seems that Tommy’s side effects of experiencing visions of his dead wife are very real indeed.

Notably, another side effect of the opium is paranoia according to the DEA Museum, especially when it is in heroin form.

Viewers will know that Tommy is also becoming increasing paranoid this season about a ‘black cat’ among his inner circle working to betray him.

The series looks set to continue to explore this impact on Tommy and his brothers throughout of season five.

Speaking about this side of Tommy, Cillian Murphy spoke to the BBC about the character.

He said: “The men that came back from that conflict were just devastated and so there was this huge societal change where all these men had witnessed war on a scale that we’d never imagined.

“And of course back then they were just spat back into society with no help.

“For Tommy I think what it did was he lost all faith, religion was just a joke, authority was a joke, the establishment was a joke.”

Peaky Blinders season five continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.

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