In Amsterdam's famous coffeeshops besides the usual fresh marijuana, a variety of hashishes are also sold over the counter. There are many different types of hash from various parts of the world. One type in particular, the legendary black hashish, has a rather dubious reputation. The reason is that the hash is often adulterated or contaminated with non-cannabis products. One of these adulterants, opium, sometimes gets mixed in to soften it up and improve the quality.
Black opiated hashish is sometimes sold in Amsterdam under various names including any kind of "cream", "indian", "manali", "trans-himalayan", "nepalese", etc. Since the Afghan war, it seems Amsterdam is awash in hashish with much higher opium content (than usual), and most coffeeshops seem to have no qualms passing this same heavily adulterated hashish as just about whatever black hash you might choose.
The switcheroo on types of hash and grass is an old trick among coffeeshops, since they can never be sure what it is they're selling anyway, much less be certain of what adulterants it might contain. So when they tell you it's manali cream or afghani or whatever, it's probably just whatever they got in that day. More reputable coffeeshops will try to verify the source and keep the names straight, but I doubt if most really pay that much attention. Today it seems, profit is all that matters to many a greedy coffeeshop owner.
You should realize that opium has often been added to hashish from certain regions in Afghanistan and other regions in South Asia. So it's nothing new. Other adulterants also find their way into lower quality hashish. In fact most of the black hash I've tried over the past few years tasted so bad, thanks to adulterants or contaminants, that I gave up smoking it competely in favor of the much purer Moroccan hashish or the local Nederhash/bubble/isolater (all of which I recommend to anyone who likes hashish).
Unless you WANT to smoke opium, I highly suggest you avoid the black hashes. Why? Because unlike hashish it's addictive! Oh you can smoke a couple of bowls, one time, and not feel like you want more. But if you were to smoke it several days straight, and in good quantity, you will learn fast what REAL addiction is like. It won't be terrible to get off, but you won't enjoy it. It's not like heroin withdrawal, but it has many of the same symptoms but to a lesser degree.
In fact in one coffeeshop the dealer actually told me, "You'll crash after smoking that." I knew right then it was heavily opiated. Because no pure cannabis product will make you "crash".
So be suspicious of ANY black hash that is overly soft and pliable. If it smokes smooth, even a big toke, it probably means there's more opium than hashish in it. Opium isn't harsh like hashish, and usually once lit will stay lighted or even hold a flame (some good hashish does this too). But since you're likely to be smoking a blend it's more difficult to be sure.
With hashish you can usually smoke a fair amount at which point you hit a plateau and smoking more won't get you more stoned, at least you won't feel more stoned. With opium, the MORE you smoke, the HIGHER you get. You don't hit a plateau. Of course you can only smoke so much before you just pass into a dream state, and slow down. The high itself is qualitatively different, but difficult to discern since you're also high on whatever hashish they felt like adding.
With opium you crash. Opium doesn't keep you high as long as hashish does. That's why opium addicts keep smoking all day, and why junkies need several fixes everyday. Good hashish will keep you high and let you down gently. With opium if you stop smoking after a long stretch, you'll go through withdrawals and they won't be pleasant. Depression, body aches, bad disposition are just some of the more noticeable symptoms. Another sure sign you have opium in your system is a lot of itching and scratching. Junkies do this all the time.
I believe that the usual opium content of those types of hash long associated with opium adulteration was always a much smaller percentage than we're now seeing in the coffeeshops. I'd say some of the hash now being sold is as much as 50% or more opium. BTW, opium IS illegal in Holland, and the coffeeshops are forbidden to sell it. But as it is purchased as "hashish" through the Dutch "backdoor" system, (which is NOT regulated), nobody seems to care. This is a major drawback, and a potential health danger being ignored by the Dutch coffeeshops and the police.
The tourists are not as much at risk as are the Dutch themselves since the tourists won't be here long enough to develop a heavy addiction. However the Dutch seem to prefer these black hashes to roll with tobacco in their joints. I strongly feel that someone, either the coffeeshops, the police or the government or one of the drug testing agencies should be testing samples to determine how much opium is in them and then decide whether it's enough of a problem to pose a health risk. If so, it might be up to the coffeeshops themselves to start refusing to buy this heavily adulterated hash, as they are also at risk of being accused of selling opium, and losing their licenses.
Hashish and Opium are two completely different things (esp. legally), and people should know what they are purchasing. I hope this is just a temporary situation and once opium becomes less abundant, hashish won't be so heavy with it.
The Dutch probably won't like what I've just written, or won't care, but it needed to be said. I don't want this scene to be spoiled by some greedy drug cartels in South Asia.
Word has it you can now buy straight opium on the streets. However we advise against purchasing ANYTHING from street dealers in Amsterdam because you're more likely to get ripped off than anything else.