Opium: Wikis


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Field of opium.jpg
Botanical Opium
Source plant(s) Papaver somniferum
Part(s) of plant sap
Geographic origin Indochina Region
Active ingredients Morphine, Codeine
Main producers Afghanistan (primary), Northern India, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Mexico, Colombia, Hungary
Main consumers worldwide (#1: U.S.)
Wholesale price $3,000 per kilogram
Retail price $16,000 per kilogram

Opium (poppy tears, lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids, such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine. The latex is obtained by lacerating (or "scoring") the immature seed pods (fruits); the latex leaks out and dries to a sticky brown residue. This is scraped off the fruit. Meconium historically referred to related, weaker preparations made from other parts of the poppy or different species of poppies. Modern opium production is the culmination of millennia of production, in which the morphine content of the plants, methods of extraction and processing, and methods of consumption have become increasingly potent.

Cultivation of opium poppies for food, anesthesia, and ritual purposes dates back to at least the Neolithic Age. The Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Minoan, Greek, Roman, Persian and Arab Empires each made widespread use of opium, which was the most potent form of pain relief then available, allowing ancient surgeons to perform prolonged surgical procedures. Opium is mentioned in the most important medical texts of the ancient world, including the Ebers Papyrus and the writings of Dioscorides, Galen, and Avicenna. Widespread medical use of unprocessed opium continued through the American Civil War before giving way to morphine and its successors, which could be injected at a precisely controlled dosage. American morphine is still produced primarily from poppies grown and processed in India in the traditional manner and remains the standard of pain relief for casualties of war.[citation needed]

In China recreational use of the drug began in the fifteenth century but was limited by its rarity and expense. Opium trade became more regular by the seventeenth century, when it was mixed with tobacco for smoking, and addiction was first recognized.[citation needed] Opium prohibition in China began in 1729 yet was followed by nearly two centuries of increasing opium use. China had a positive balance sheet in trading with the British, which led to a decrease of the British silver stocks. Therefore, the British tried to encourage Chinese opium use to enhance their balance, and they delivered it from Indian provinces under British control. A massive confiscation of opium by the Chinese emperor, who tried to stop the opium deliveries, led to two Opium Wars in 1839 and 1858, in which Britain suppressed China and traded opium all over the country. After 1860, opium use continued to increase with widespread domestic production in China, until more than a quarter of the male population was addicted by 1905. Recreational or addictive opium use in other nations remained rare into the late nineteenth century, recorded by an ambivalent literature that sometimes praised the drug.

Global regulation of opium began with the stigmatization of Chinese immigrants and opium dens in San Francisco, California, leading rapidly from town ordinances in the 1870s to the formation of the International Opium Commission in 1909. During this period, the portrayal of opium in literature became squalid and violent, British opium trade was largely supplanted by domestic Chinese production, purified morphine and heroin became widely available for injection, and patent medicines containing opiates reached a peak of popularity. Opium was prohibited in many countries during the early twentieth century, leading to the modern pattern of opium production as a precursor for illegal recreational drugs or tightly regulated legal prescription drugs. Illicit opium production, now dominated by Afghanistan, was decimated in 2000 when production was banned by the Taliban, but has increased steadily since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and over the course of the War in Afghanistan[1][2]. Worldwide production in 2006 was 6610 metric tonnes[3] - nearly one-fifth the level of production in 1906. Opium for illegal use is often converted into heroin, which multiplies its potency to approximately twice that of morphine, can be taken by intravenous injection, and is easier to smuggle.[citation needed]



Ancient use (4200 BCE - 800 CE)

Poppy crop from the Malwa India (probably Papaver somniferum var. album.[4])

At least seventeen finds of Papaver somniferum from Neolithic settlements have been reported throughout Switzerland, Germany, and Spain, including the placement of large numbers of poppy seed capsules at a burial site (the Cueva de los Murciélagos, or "Bat cave," in Spain), which have been carbon-14 dated to 4200 BCE[citation needed] Numerous finds of Papaver somniferum or Papaver setigerum from Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have also been reported.[5] The first known cultivation of opium poppies was in Mesopotamia, approximately 3400 BCE, by Sumerians who called the plant Hul Gil, the "joy plant."[6][7] Tablets found at Nippur, a Sumerian spiritual center south of Baghdad, described the collection of poppy juice in the morning and its use in production of opium.[4] Cultivation continued in the Middle East by the Assyrians, who also collected poppy juice in the morning after scoring the pods with an iron scoop; they called the juice aratpa-pal, possibly the root of Papaver. Opium production continued under the Babylonians and Egyptians.

Opium was used with poison hemlock to put people quickly and painlessly to death, but it was also used in medicine. The Ebers Papyrus, ca. 1500 BCE, describes a way to "stop a crying child" using grains of the poppy-plant strained to a pulp. Spongia somnifera, sponges soaked in opium, were used during surgery.[6] The Egyptians cultivated opium thebaicum in famous poppy fields around 1300 BCE. Opium was traded from Egypt by the Phoenicians and Minoans to destinations around the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Carthage, and Europe. By 1100 BCE, opium was cultivated on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where surgical-quality knives were used to score the poppy pods, and opium was cultivated, traded, and smoked.[8] Opium was also mentioned after the Persian conquest of Assyria and Babylonia in the sixth century BCE[4]

From the earliest finds, opium has appeared to have ritual significance, and anthropologists have speculated that ancient priests may have used the drug as a proof of healing power.[6] In Egypt, the use of opium was generally restricted to priests, magicians, and warriors, its invention credited to Thoth, and it was said to have been given by Isis to Ra as treatment for a headache.[4] A figure of the Minoan "goddess of the narcotics," wearing a crown of three opium poppies, ca. 1300 BCE, was recovered from the Sanctuary of Gazi, Crete, together with a simple smoking apparatus.[8][9] The Greek gods Hypnos (Sleep), Nyx (Night), and Thanatos (Death) were depicted wreathed in poppies or holding poppies. Poppies also frequently adorned statues of Apollo, Asklepios, Pluto, Demeter, Aphrodite, Kybele and Isis, symbolizing nocturnal oblivion.[4]

Islamic Societies (500-1500 CE)

As the power of the Roman Empire declined, the lands to the south, and east of the Mediterranean sea became incorporated into the Islamic Empire, which assembled the finest libraries and the most skilled physicians of the era. Many Muslims believe that the hadith of al-Bukhari prohibits every intoxicating substance as haraam, but the use of intoxicants in medicine has been widely permitted by Scholars, even though it is prohibited under Islamic Law.[10] Dioscorides' five-volume De Materia Medica, the precursor of pharmacopoeias, remained in use (with some improvements in Arabic versions[11]) from the 1st to 16th centuries and described opium, and the wide range of uses prevalent in the ancient world.[12] Somewhere between 400 and 1200 CE, Arab traders introduced opium to China.[4][7][13] The Persian physician Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi Rhazes (845-930 CE) maintained a laboratory and school in Baghdad, and was a student and critic of Galen, made use of opium in anesthesia and recommended its use for the treatment of melancholy in Fi ma-yahdara al-tabib (In the Absence of a Physician) , a home medical manual directed toward ordinary citizens for self-treatment if a doctor was not available.[14][15] The renowned ophthalmologic surgeon Abu al-Qasim Ammar (936-1013 CE) relied on opium and mandrake as surgical anaesthetics and wrote a treatise, al-Tasrif, that influenced medical thought well into the sixteenth century.[16][17] The Persian physician Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn ibn Sina (Avicenna) described opium as the most powerful of the stupefacients, by comparison with mandrake and other highly effective herbs, in The Canon of Medicine. This classic text was translated into Latin in 1175 and later into many other languages and remained authoritative into the seventeenth century.[18] Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu used opium in the fourteenth century Ottoman Empire to treat migraine headaches, sciatica, and other painful ailments.[19]

Reintroduction to Western medicine

Latin translation of Avicenna's Canon of Medicine, 1483

Opium became stigmatized in Europe during the Inquisition as a Middle Eastern influence and became a taboo subject in Europe from approximately 1300 to 1500 CE.[citation needed] Manuscripts of Pseudo-Apuleius's fifth-century work from the tenth and eleventh centuries refer to the use of wild poppy Papaver agreste or Papaver rhoeas (identified as Papaver silvaticum) instead of Papaver somniferum for inducing sleep and relieving pain.[20]

The use of Paracelsus' laudanum was introduced to Western medicine in 1527, when Philip Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, better known by the name Paracelsus, returned from his wanderings in Arabia with a famous sword, within the pommel of which he kept "Stones of Immortality" compounded from opium thebaicum, citrus juice, and "quintessence of gold."[7][21][22] The name "Paracelsus" was a pseudonym signifying him the equal or better of Aulus Cornelius Celsus, whose text, which described the use of opium or a similar preparation, had recently been translated and reintroduced to medieval Europe.[23] The Canon of Medicine, the standard medical textbook that Paracelsus burned in a public bonfire three weeks after being appointed professor at the University of Basel, also described the use of opium, though many Latin translations were of poor quality.[21] Laudanum was originally the sixteenth-century term for a medicine associated with a particular physician that was widely well-regarded, but became standardized as "tincture of opium," a solution of opium in ethyl alcohol, which Paracelsus has been credited with developing. During his lifetime, Paracelsus was viewed as an adventurer who challenged the theories and mercenary motives of contemporary medicine with dangerous chemical therapies, but his therapies marked a turning point in Western medicine. In the seventeenth century laudanum was recommended for pain, sleeplessness, and diarrhea by Thomas Sydenham,[24] the renowned "father of English medicine" or "English Hippocrates," to whom is attributed the quote, "Among the remedies which it has pleased Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and so efficacious as opium."[25] Use of opium as a cure-all was reflected in the formulation of mithridatium described in the 1728 Chambers Cyclopedia, which included true opium in the mixture. Subsequently, laudanum became the basis of many popular patent medicines of the nineteenth century.

The standard medical use of opium persisted well into the nineteenth century. U.S. president William Henry Harrison was treated with opium in 1841, and in the American Civil War, the Union Army used 2.8 million ounces of opium tincture and powder and about 500,000 opium pills.[4] During this time of popularity, users called opium "God's Own Medicine."[26]

The most important reason for the increase in opiate consumption in the United States during the 19th century was the prescribing and dispensing of legal opiates by physicians and pharmacist to women with ”female problems” (mostly to relieve painful menstruation. Between 150,000 and 200,000 opiate addicts lived in the United States in the late 19th century and between two-thirds and three-quarters of these addicts were women.[27]

Recreational use in Islamic societies

An imaginary view of an Ottoman opium seller

In Islamic societies, opium is said to have been used for recreational purposes from the 14th century onwards. Testimonies of historians, diplomats, religious scholars, intellectuals and travellers, Ottoman and European, confirm that, from the 16th to the 19th century, Anatolian opium was eaten in Constantinople as much as it was exported to Europe. From eating it, dervishes drew ecstasy, soldiers courage, dignitaries and people bliss and voluptuousness. It is not only to the pleasures of coffee and tulips that the Ottomans initiated Europe. It was also Turkey which, long before China, supplied the West with opium.[28] According to Fynes Moryson, who travelled in Turkey in 1595–7, “The Turkish Souldiers being to fight, if they can find no wine, drinke the juyce of blacke poppy, called Opium, to raise their spirits to a kind of fury, thinking themselves made more valiant thereby; For howsoever we thinke this hearbe, especially taken largely, to be dangerous for the health, yet there is not a Turke from the highest to the lowest, who doth not as it were daily use it, nothing being more frequently sowed, nothing more plentifully growing, especially in Natolia, nothing more easily finding a buyer; yea, if their Cammels and Dromidaries faile by the way, or upon necessity must goe further than they use to journey, as sometimes it fals out in Armies and other Journeys, then they give them this hearbe, by which they report their spirits so to be stirred up, as they will goe till they fall downe dead.”[29] In his “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater” (1821, p. 188), it is still about Ottoman, not Chinese, addicts that Thomas de Quincey writes: “I question whether any Turk, of all that ever entered the paradise of opium-eaters, can have had half the pleasure I had". Extensive textual and pictural sources also show that poppy cultivation and opium consumption were widespread in Safavid Iran [30] and Moghol India.[31] Modern day Iran has the highest amount of opium smokers in the world.[32]

Recreational use in China

An opium den in 18th-century China through the eyes of a Western artist.

The earliest clear description of the use of opium as a recreational drug in China came from Xu Boling, who wrote in 1483 that opium was "mainly used to aid masculinity, strengthen sperm and regain vigor," and that it "enhances the art of alchemists, sex and court ladies." He described an expedition sent by the Chenghua Emperor in 1483 to procure opium for a price "equal to that of gold" in Hainan, Fujian, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Shaanxi where it is close to Xiyu. A century later, Li Shizhen listed standard medical uses of opium in his renowned Compendium of Materia Medica (1578), but also wrote that "lay people use it for the art of sex," in particular the ability to "arrest seminal emission." This association of opium with sex continued in China until the twentieth century. Opium smoking began as a privilege of the elite and remained a great luxury into the early nineteenth century, but by 1861, Wang Tao wrote that opium was used even by rich peasants, and even a small village without a rice store would have a shop where opium was sold.[33]

Smoking of opium came on the heels of tobacco smoking and may have been encouraged by a brief ban on the smoking of tobacco by the Ming emperor, ending in 1644 with the Qing dynasty, which had encouraged smokers to mix in increasing amounts of opium.[4] In 1705, Wang Shizhen wrote that "nowadays, from nobility and gentlemen down to slaves and women, all are addicted to tobacco." Tobacco in that time was frequently mixed with other herbs (this continues with clove cigarettes to the modern day), and opium was one component in the mixture. Tobacco mixed with opium was called madak (or madat) and became popular throughout China and its seafaring trade partners (such as Taiwan, Java and the Philippines) in the seventeenth century.[33] In 1712, Engelbert Kaempfer described addiction to madak: "No commodity throughout the Indies is retailed with greater profit by the Batavians than opium, which [its] users cannot do without, nor can they come by it except it be brought by the ships of the Batavians from Bengal and Coromandel."[13]

Fueled in part by the 1729 ban on madak, which at first effectively exempted pure opium as a potentially medicinal product, the smoking of pure opium became more popular in the eighteenth century. In 1736, the smoking of pure opium was described by Huang Shujing, involving a pipe made from bamboo rimmed with silver, stuffed with palm slices and hair, fed by a clay bowl in which a globule of molten opium was held over the flame of an oil lamp. This elaborate procedure, requiring the maintenance of pots of opium at just the right temperature for a globule to be scooped up with a needle-like skewer for smoking, formed the basis of a craft of "paste-scooping" by which servant girls could become prostitutes as the opportunity arose.[33]

Beginning in 19th-century China, famine and political upheaval, as well as rumors of wealth to be had in nearby Southeast Asia, led to the Chinese Diaspora. Chinese emigrants to cities such as San Francisco, London, and New York brought with them the Chinese manner of opium smoking and the social traditions of the opium den.[34][35] The Indian Diaspora distributed opium-eaters in the same way, and both social groups survived as "lascars" (seamen) and "coolies" (manual laborers). French sailors provided another major group of opium smokers, having contracted the habit in French Indochina, where the drug was promoted by the colonial government as a monopoly and source of revenue.[36][37] Among white Europeans, opium was more frequently consumed as laudanum or in patent medicines. Britain's All-India Opium Act of 1878 formalized social distinctions, limiting recreational opium sales to registered Indian opium-eaters and Chinese opium-smokers and prohibiting its sale to workers from Burma.[38] Likewise, American law sought to contain addiction to immigrants by prohibiting Chinese from smoking opium in the presence of a white man.[34]

A typical depiction of an opium smoking scene in London's Limehouse district based on fictional accounts of the day.

Because of the low social status of immigrant workers, contemporary writers and media had little trouble portraying opium dens as seats of vice, white slavery, gambling, knife and revolver fights, a source for drugs causing deadly overdoses, with the potential to addict and corrupt the white population. By 1919, anti-Chinese riots attacked Limehouse, the Chinatown of London. Chinese men were deported for playing puck-apu, a popular gambling game, and sentenced to hard labor for opium possession. Both the immigrant population and the social use of opium fell into decline.[39][40] Yet despite lurid literary accounts to the contrary, nineteenth-century London was not a hotbed of opium smoking. The total lack of photographic evidence of opium smoking in Britain, as opposed to the relative abundance of historical photos depicting opium smoking in North America and France, indicates that the infamous Limehouse opium smoking scene was little more than fantasy on the part of British writers of the day who were intent on scandalizing their readers while drumming up the threat of the "yellow peril."[41][42]

Prohibition and conflict in China

Destruction of opium in China

Opium prohibition began in 1729, when Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty, disturbed by madak smoking at court and carrying out the government's role of upholding Confucian virtue, officially prohibited the sale of opium, except for a small amount for medicinal purposes. The ban punished sellers and opium den keepers, but not users of the drug.[13] Opium was banned completely in 1799 and this prohibition continued until 1860.[43]

English opium ships

Under the Qing Dynasty, China opened itself to foreign trade under the Canton System through the port of Guangzhou (Canton), and traders from the British East India Company began visiting the port by the 1690s. Due to the growing British demand for Indian tea and the Chinese lack of interest in British commodities other than silver, the British became interested in opium as a high-value commodity for which China was not self-sufficient. The British traders had been purchasing small amounts of opium from India for trade since Ralph Fitch first visited in the mid-sixteenth century.[13] Trade in opium was standardized, with production of balls of raw opium, 1.1 to 1.6 kilograms, 30% water content, wrapped in poppy leaves and petals, and shipped in chests of 60-65 kilograms (one picul).[13] Chests of opium were sold in auctions in Calcutta with the understanding that the independent purchasers would then smuggle it into China (see Opium Wars).

After the 1757 Battle of Plassey and 1764 Battle of Buxar, the British East India Company gained the power to act as diwan of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa (See company rule in India). This allowed the company to pursue a monopoly on opium production and export in India, to encourage ryots to cultivate the cash crops of indigo and opium with cash advances, and to prohibit the "hoarding" of rice. This strategy led to the increase of the land tax to 50% of the value of crops, the starvation of ten million people in the Bengal famine of 1770, and the doubling of East India Company profits by 1777. Beginning in 1773, the British government began enacting oversight of the company's operations, culminating in the establishment of British India in response to the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Bengal opium was highly prized, commanding twice the price of the domestic Chinese product, which was regarded as inferior in quality.[44] The Sassoon family was heavily involved in the opium trade in both China and India.

India is also an opium producing nation. In India, Nimach, Mandsour (Madhya Pradesh), and Chittorgarh (Rajasthan) are major centers for opium production because these areas are suitable for the opium crop i.e. climate, soil. It is the major crop of this region. Nimach has a opium & alkaloid factory which is the organisation of Govt. of India producing alkaloids from opium for pharmaceutical medicine.

Some competition came from the newly independent United States, which began to compete in Guangzhou (Canton) selling Turkish opium in the 1820s. Portuguese traders also brought opium from the independent Malwa states of western India, although by 1820, the British were able to restrict this trade by charging "pass duty" on the opium when it was forced to pass through Bombay to reach an entrepot.[13] Despite drastic penalties and continued prohibition of opium until 1860, opium importation rose steadily from 200 chests per year under Yongzheng to 1,000 under Qianlong, 4,000 under Jiaqing, and 30,000 under Daoguang.[45] The illegal sale of opium became one of the world's most valuable single commodity trades and has been called "the most long continued and systematic international crime of modern times."[46]

In response to the ever-growing number of Chinese people becoming addicted to opium, Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty took strong action to halt the import of opium, including the seizure of cargo. In 1838, the Chinese Commissioner Lin Zexu destroyed 20,000 chests of opium in Guangzhou (Canton).[13] Given that a chest of opium was worth nearly $1,000 in 1800, this was a substantial economic loss. The British, not willing to replace the cheap opium with costly silver, began the First Opium War in 1840, winning Hong Kong and trade concessions in the first of a series of Unequal Treaties.

Map showing the amount of Opium produced in China in 1908

Following China's defeat in the Second Opium War in 1858, China was forced to legalize opium and began massive domestic production. Importation of opium peaked in 1879 at 6,700 tons, and by 1906, China was producing 85% of the world's opium, some 35,000 tons, and 27% of its adult male population was addicted—13.5 million addicts consuming 39,000 tons of opium yearly.[47] From 1880 to the beginning of the Communist era, the British attempted to discourage the use of opium in China, but this effectively promoted the use of morphine, heroin, and cocaine, further exacerbating the problem of addiction.[48]

Scientific evidence of the pernicious nature of opium use was largely undocumented in the 1890s when Protestant missionaries in China decided to strengthen their opposition to the trade by compiling data which would demonstrate the harm the drug did. Faced with the problem that many Chinese associated Christianity with opium, partly due to the arrival of early Protestant missionaries on opium clippers, at the 1890 Shanghai Missionary Conference, they agreed to establish the Permanent Committee for the Promotion of Anti-Opium Societies in an attempt to overcome this problem and to arouse public opinion against the opium trade. The members of the committee were John Glasgow Kerr, MD, American Presbyterian Mission in Canton; B.C. Atterbury, MD, American Presbyterian Mission in Peking; Archdeacon Arthur E. Moule, Church Missionary Society in Shanghai; Henry Whitney, MD, American Board of Commissioners for foreign Missions in Foochow; the Rev. Samuel Clarke, China Inland Mission in Kweiyang; the Rev. Arthur Gostick Shorrock, English Baptist Mission in Taiyuan; and the Rev. Griffith John, London Mission Society in Hankow.[49] These missionaries were generally outraged over the British government's Royal Commission on Opium visiting India but not China. Accordingly, the missionaries first organized the Anti-Opium League in China among their colleagues in every mission station in China. American missionary Hampden Coit DuBose acted as first president. This organization, which had elected national officers and held an annual national meeting, was instrumental in gathering data from every Western-trained medical doctor in China, which was then published as William Hector Park compiled Opinions of Over 100 Physicians on the Use of Opium in China (Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1899). The vast majority of these medical doctors were missionaries; the survey also included doctors who were in private practices, particularly in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as Chinese who had been trained in medical schools in Western countries. In England, the home director of the China Inland Mission, Benjamin Broomhall, was an active opponent of the Opium trade, writing two books to promote the banning of opium smoking: The Truth about Opium Smoking and The Chinese Opium Smoker. In 1888, Broomhall formed and became secretary of the Christian Union for the Severance of the British Empire with the Opium Traffic and editor of its periodical, National Righteousness. He lobbied the British Parliament to stop the opium trade. He and James Laidlaw Maxwell appealed to the London Missionary Conference of 1888 and the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 to condemn the continuation of the trade. When Broomhall was dying, his son Marshall read to him from The Times the welcome news that an agreement had been signed ensuring the end of the opium trade within two years.

Official Chinese resistance to opium was renewed on September 20, 1906, with an anti-opium initiative intended to eliminate the drug problem within ten years. The program relied on the turning of public sentiment against opium, with mass meetings at which opium paraphernalia was publicly burned, as well as coercive legal action and the granting of police powers to organizations such as the Fujian Anti-Opium Society. Smokers were required to register for licenses for gradually reducing rations of the drug. Addicts sometimes turned to missionaries for treatment for their addiction, though many associated these foreigners with the drug trade. The program was counted as a substantial success, with a cessation of direct British opium exports to China (but not Hong Kong[50]) and most provinces declared free of opium production. Nonetheless, the success of the program was only temporary, with opium use rapidly increasing during the disorder following the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916.[51]

Beginning in 1915, Chinese nationalist groups came to describe the period of military losses and Unequal Treaties as the "Century of National Humiliation," later defined to end with the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[52] The Mao Zedong government is generally credited with eradicating both consumption and production of opium during the 1950s using unrestrained repression and social reform. Ten million addicts were forced into compulsory treatment, dealers were executed, and opium-producing regions were planted with new crops. Remaining opium production shifted south of the Chinese border into the Golden Triangle region, at times with the involvement of Western intelligence agencies.[44] The remnant opium trade primarily served Southeast Asia, but spread to American soldiers during the Vietnam War, with 20% of soldiers regarding themselves as addicted during the peak of the epidemic in 1971. In 2003, China was estimated to have four million regular drug users and one million registered drug addicts.[53]

Prohibition outside China

There were no legal restrictions on the importation or use of opium in the United States until the San Francisco, California, Opium Den Ordinance, which banned dens for public smoking of opium in 1875, a measure fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment and the perception that whites were starting to frequent the dens. This was followed by an 1891 California law requiring that narcotics carry warning labels and that their sales be recorded in a registry, amendments to the California Pharmacy and Poison Act in 1907 making it a crime to sell opiates without a prescription, and bans on possession of opium or opium pipes in 1909.[54]

At the US federal level, the legal actions taken reflected constitutional restrictions under the Enumerated powers doctrine prior to reinterpretation of the Commerce clause, which did not allow the federal government to enact arbitrary prohibitions but did permit arbitrary taxation.[55] Beginning in 1883, opium importation was taxed at $6 to $300 per pound, until the Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 prohibited the importation of opium altogether. In a similar manner the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, passed in fulfillment of the International Opium Convention of 1912, nominally placed a tax on the distribution of opiates, but served as a de facto prohibition of the drugs. Today, opium is regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration under the Controlled Substances Act.

Following passage of a regional law in 1895, Australia's Aboriginal Protection and restriction of the sale of opium act 1897 addressed opium addiction among Aborigines, though it soon became a general vehicle for depriving them of basic rights by administrative regulation. Opium sale was prohibited to the general population in 1905, and smoking and possession was prohibited in 1908.[56]

Hardening of Canadian attitudes toward Chinese opium users and fear of a spread of the drug into the white population led to the effective criminalization of opium for non-medical use in Canada between 1908 and the mid-1920s.[57]

In 1909, the International Opium Commission was founded, and by 1914, thirty-four nations had agreed that the production and importation of opium should be diminished. In 1924, sixty-two nations participated in a meeting of the Commission. Subsequently, this role passed to the League of Nations, and all signatory nations agreed to prohibit the import, sale, distribution, export, and use of all narcotic drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes. This role was later taken up by the International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations under Article 23 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and subsequently under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Opium-producing nations are required to designate a government agency to take physical possession of licit opium crops as soon as possible after harvest and conduct all wholesaling and exporting through that agency.[4]


Bayer heroin bottle

Opium use still continues in various countries throughout southeast Asia, such as Laos, Burma and Cambodia. Modern day Iran has the highest amount of opium smokers in the world.[32] Globally, however, opium has gradually been superseded by a variety of purified, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opioids with progressively stronger effects, and by other general anesthetics. This process began in 1804, when Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner first isolated morphine from the opium poppy.[58][59] The process continued until 1817, when Sertürner published the isolation of pure morphine from opium after at least thirteen years of research and a nearly disastrous trial on himself and three boys.[60] The great advantage of purified morphine was that a patient could be treated with a known dose—whereas with raw plant material, as Gabriel Fallopius once lamented, "if soporifics are weak they do not help; if they are strong they are exceedingly dangerous." Morphine was the first pharmaceutical isolated from a natural product, and this success encouraged the isolation of other alkaloids: by 1820, isolations of narcotine, strychnine, veratrine, colchicine, caffeine, and quinine were reported. Morphine sales began in 1827, by Heinrich Emanuel Merck of Darmstadt, and helped him expand his family pharmacy into the Merck KGaA pharmaceutical company.

Codeine was isolated in 1832 by Robiquet.

The use of diethyl ether and chloroform for general anesthesia began in 1846-1847, and rapidly displaced the use of opiates and tropane alkaloids from Solanaceae due to their relative safety.[61]

Heroin, the first semi-synthetic opiate, was first synthesized in 1874, but was not pursued until its rediscovery in 1897 by Felix Hoffmann at the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany. From 1898 to 1910 heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children. By 1902, sales made up 5% of the company's profits, and "heroinism" had attracted media attention.[62] Oxycodone, a thebaine derivative similar to codeine, was introduced by Bayer in 1916 and promoted as a less-addictive analgesic. Preparations of the drug such as Percocet and OxyContin remain popular to this day.

A range of synthetic opioids such as methadone (1937), pethidine (1939), fentanyl (late 1950s), and derivatives thereof have been introduced, and each is preferred for certain specialized applications. Nonetheless, morphine remains the drug of choice for American combat medics, who carry packs of syrettes containing 16 milligrams each for use on severely wounded soldiers.[63] No drug has yet been found that can match the painkilling effect of opioids without also duplicating much of its addictive potential.

Modern production and usage

Papaver somniferum

Opium poppy fruit exuding latex from a cut
Raw opium

In South American countries, opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) are technically illegal, but nonetheless appear in some nurseries as ornamentals. They are popular and attractive garden plants, whose flowers vary greatly in color, size and form. A modest amount of domestic cultivation in private gardens is not usually subject to legal controls. In part, this tolerance reflects variation in addictive potency: a cultivar for opium production, Papaver somniferum L. elite, contains 92% morphine, codeine, and thebaine in its latex alkaloids, whereas the condiment cultivar "Marianne" has only one-fifth this total, with the remaining alkaloids made up mostly of narcotoline and noscapine.[64]

Seed capsules can be dried and used for decorations, but they also contain morphine, codeine, and other alkaloids. These pods can be boiled in water to produce a bitter tea that induces a long-lasting intoxication (See Poppy tea). If allowed to mature, poppy pods (poppy straw) can be crushed and used to produce lower quantities of morphinans. In poppies subjected to mutagenesis and selection on a mass scale, researchers have been able to use poppy straw to obtain large quantities of oripavine, a precursor to opioids and antagonists such as naltrexone.[65]

Poppy seeds are a common and flavorsome topping for breads and cakes. One gram of poppy seeds contains up to 33 micrograms of morphine and 14 micrograms of codeine, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration formerly mandated that all drug screening laboratories use a standard cutoff of 300 nanograms per milliliter in urine samples. A single poppy seed roll (0.76 grams of seeds) usually did not produce a positive drug test, but a positive result was observed from eating two rolls. A slice of poppy seed cake containing nearly five grams of seeds per slice produced positive results for 24 hours. Such results are viewed as false positive indications of drug abuse and were the basis of a legal defense.[66][67] On November 30, 1998, the standard cutoff was increased to 2000 nanograms (two micrograms) per milliliter.[68] During the Communist era in Eastern Europe, poppy stalks sold in bundles by farmers were processed by users with household chemicals to make kompot ("Polish heroin"), and poppy seeds were used to produce koknar, an opiate.[69]

Harvesting and processing

When grown for opium production, the skin of the ripening pods of these poppies is scored by a sharp blade at a time carefully chosen so that neither rain, wind, nor dew can spoil the exudation of white, milky latex, usually in the afternoon. Incisions are made while the pods are still raw, with no more than a slight yellow tint, and must be shallow to avoid penetrating hollow inner chambers or loculi while cutting into the lactiferous vessels. In Indian Subcontinent, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran, the special tool used to make the incisions is called a nushtar or "nishtar" (from Persian, meaning a lancet) and carries three or four blades three millimeters apart, which are scored upward along the pod. Incisions are made three or four times at intervals of two to three days, and each time the "poppy tears," which dry to a sticky brown resin, are collected the following morning. One acre harvested in this way can produce three to five kilograms of raw opium.[70] In the Soviet Union, pods were typically scored horizontally, and opium was collected three times, or else one or two collections were followed by isolation of opiates from the ripe capsules. Oil poppies, an alternative strain of P. somniferum, were also used for production of opiates from their capsules and stems.[71]

Black tar opium seized in Afghanistan, spring 2005

Raw opium may be sold to a merchant or broker on the black market, but it usually does not travel far from the field before it is refined into morphine base, because pungent, jelly-like raw opium is bulkier and harder to smuggle. Crude laboratories in the field are capable of refining opium into morphine base by a simple acid-base extraction. A sticky, brown paste, morphine base is pressed into bricks and sun-dried, and can either be smoked, prepared into other forms or processed into heroin.[7]

The production of wheat that is being produced in Deh Dehi has decreased dramatically since farmers had invested into the opium trade. Over some years, the opium trade has become the key economic activities in the village. A farmer reported that he can earn between 1000-2000 lakhs annual profit from poppy cultivation instead of the 20 he would make cultivating wheat. Now, all the irrigated land is given over to the poppy cultivation, and most of the men and women who worked in the livestock trade are either involved in the opium trade or worker overseas.[72]

Other methods of preparation (besides smoking), include processing into regular opium tincture (tinctura opii), laudanum, paregoric (tinctura opii camphorata), herbal wine (e.g. vinum opii), opium powder (pulvis opii), opium sirup (sirupus opii) and opium extract (extractum opii)[73]. Vinum opii is made by combining sugar, white wine, cinnamon, and cloves. Opium syrup is made by combining 997.5 part sugar syrup with 2.5 parts opium extract. Opium extract (extractum opii) finally can be made by macerating raw opium with water. To make opium extract, 20 parts water are combined with 1 part raw opium which has been boiled for 5 minutes (the latter to ease mixing).[73]

Heroin is widely preferred because of increased potency. One study in postaddicts found heroin to be approximately 2.2 times more potent than morphine by weight with a similar duration; at these relative quantities, they could distinguish the drugs subjectively but had no preference.[74] Heroin was also found to be twice as potent as morphine in surgical anesthesia.[75] Morphine is converted into heroin by a simple chemical reaction with acetic anhydride, followed by a varying degree of purification.[76][77] Especially in Mexican production, opium may be converted directly to "black tar heroin" in a simplified procedure. This form predominates in the U.S. west of the Mississippi. Relative to other preparations of heroin, it has been associated with a dramatically decreased rate of HIV transmission among intravenous drug users (4% in Los Angeles vs. 40% in New York) due to technical requirements of injection, although it is also associated with greater risk of venous sclerosis and necrotizing fasciitis.[78]

Illegal production

International drug routes

Opium production has fallen greatly since 1906, when 41,000 tons were produced, but because 39,000 tons of that year's opium were consumed in China, overall usage in the rest of the world was much lower.[79] In 1980, 2,000 tons of opium supplied all legal and illegal uses.[13] Recently, opium production has increased considerably, surpassing 5,000 tons in 2002. In 2002, the price for one kilogram of opium was $300 for the farmer, $800 for purchasers in Afghanistan, and $16,000 on the streets of Europe before conversion into heroin.[80]

Following documented trends of increasing availability mirroring increased American military and geo-political regional involvement, Afghanistan is currently the primary producer of the drug. After regularly producing 70% of the world's opium, Afghanistan decreased production to 74 tons per year under a ban by the Taliban in 2000, a move which cut production by 94 per cent. A year later, after American and British troops invaded Afghanistan, removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, the land under cultivation leapt back to 285 square miles, with Afghanistan supplanting Burma to become the world's largest opium producer once more. Opium production in that country has increased rapidly since, reaching an all-time high in 2006. According to DEA statistics, Afghanistan's production of oven-dried opium increased to 1,278 tons in 2002, more than doubled by 2003, and nearly doubled again during 2004. In late 2004, the U.S. government estimated that 206,000 hectares were under poppy cultivation, 4.5% of the country's total cropland, and produced 4,200 metric tons of opium, 76% of the world's supply, yielding 60% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.[81] In 2006, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated production to have risen 59% to 407,000 acres (1,650 km2) in cultivation, yielding 6,100 tons of opium, 82% of the world's supply.[82] The value of the resulting heroin was estimated at $3.5 billion, of which Afghan farmers were estimated to have received $700 million in revenue (of which the Taliban have been estimated to have collected anywhere from tens of millions to $140 million in taxes).[83] For farmers, the crop can be up to ten times more profitable than wheat. The price of opium is around $138 per kilo. However, opium production has led to rising tensions in Afghan villages. Though direct conflict has yet to occur, the opinions of the new class of young, rich men involved in the opium trade are at odds with those of the traditional village leaders.[84]

An increasingly large fraction of opium is processed into morphine base and heroin in drug labs in Afghanistan. Despite an international set of chemical controls designed to restrict availability of acetic anhydride, it enters the country, perhaps through its Central Asian neighbors which do not participate. A counternarcotics law passed in December 2005 requires Afghanistan to develop registries or regulations for tracking, storing, and owning acetic anhydride.[85]

Besides Afghanistan, smaller quantities of opium are produced in Pakistan, the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia (particularly Myanmar), Colombia and Mexico.

200 g Spanish opium ball

Chinese production mainly trades and profits off of North America. In 2002, they were seeking to expand through eastern United States. Due to post 9/11 era, trading between borders became difficult and because new international laws were set into place, opium trade became more diffused. Power shifted from remote to high-end smugglers and opuim traders. Outsourcing became a huge factor for survival for many smugglers and opium farmers.[86]

Legal production

Legal opium production is allowed under the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and other international drug treaties, subject to strict supervision by the law enforcement agencies of individual countries. The leading legal production method is the Gregory process, whereby the entire poppy, excluding roots and leaves, is mashed and stewed in dilute acid solutions. The alkaloids are then recovered via acid-base extraction and purified. This process was developed in the UK during World War II, when wartime shortages of many essential drugs encouraged innovation in pharmaceutical processing.

Legal opium production in India is much more traditional. As of 2008, opium was collected by farmers who were licensed to grow 0.1 hectare of opium poppies (0.24 acre), who to maintain their licenses needed to sell 56 kilograms of unadulterated raw opium paste. The price of opium paste is fixed by the government according to the quality and quantity tendered. The average is around 1500 rupees ($29 US) per kilogram.[87] Some additional money is made by drying the poppy heads and collecting poppy seeds, and a small fraction of opium beyond the quota may be consumed locally or diverted to the black market. The opium paste is dried and processed in two government opium and alkaloid factories before it is packed into cases of 60 kilograms for export. Purification of chemical constituents is done in India for domestic production, but typically done abroad by foreign importers.[88]

Legal opium importation from India and Turkey is conducted by Mallinckrodt, Noramco, Abbott Laboratories, and Purdue Pharma in the United States, and legal opium production is conducted by GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Johnson Matthey, and Mayne in Tasmania, Australia; Sanofi Aventis in France; Shionogi Pharmaceutical in Japan; and MacFarlan Smith in the United Kingdom.[89] The UN treaty requires that every country submit annual reports to the International Narcotics Control Board, stating that year's actual consumption of many classes of controlled drugs as well as opioids and projecting required quantities for the next year. This is to allow trends in consumption to be monitored and production quotas allotted.

A recent proposal from the European Senlis Council hopes to solve the problems caused by the massive quantity of opium produced illegally in Afghanistan, most of which is converted to heroin and smuggled for sale in Europe and the USA. This proposal is to license Afghan farmers to produce opium for the world pharmaceutical market, and thereby solve another problem, that of chronic underuse of potent analgesics where required within developing nations. Part of the proposal is to overcome the "80-20 rule" that requires the U.S. to purchase 80% of its legal opium from India and Turkey to include Afghanistan, by establishing a second-tier system of supply control that complements the current INCB regulated supply and demand system by providing poppy-based medicines to countries who cannot meet their demand under the current regulations. Senlis arranged a conference in Kabul that brought drug policy experts from around the world to meet with Afghan government officials to discuss internal security, corruption issues, and legal issues within Afghanistan.[90] In June 2007, the Council launched a "Poppy for Medicines" project that provides a technical blueprint for the implementation of an integrated control system within Afghan village-based poppy for medicine projects: the idea promotes the economic diversification by redirecting proceeds from the legal cultivation of poppy and production of poppy-based medicines (See Senlis Council).[91] However, there has been criticism of the Senlis report findings by Macfarlan Smith, who argue that though they produce morphine in Europe, they were never asked to contribute to the report.[92]

Cultivation in the UK

In late 2006, the British government permitted the pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith (a Johnson Matthey company) to cultivate opium poppies in England for medicinal reasons, after Macfarlan Smith's primary source, India, decided to increase the price of export opium latex. This move is well received by British farmers, with a major opium poppy field based in Didcot, England. The British government has contradicted the Home Office's suggestion that opium cultivation can be legalized in Afghanistan for exports to the United Kingdom, helping lower poverty and internal fighting whilst helping NHS to meet the high demand for morphine and heroin. Opium poppy cultivation in the United Kingdom does not need a licence; however, a licence is required for those wishing to extract opium for medicinal products.[93]


An Akha man smokes a pipe containing opium mixed with tobacco.

In the industrialized world, the USA is the world's biggest consumer of prescription opioids, with Italy one of the lowest because of tighter regulations on prescribing narcotics for pain relief.[94] Most opium imported into the United States is broken down into its alkaloid constituents, and whether legal or illegal, most current drug use occurs with processed derivatives such as heroin rather than with pure and untouched opium.

Intravenous injection of opiates is most used: by comparison with injection, "dragon chasing" (heating of heroin with barbital on a piece of foil), and madak and "ack ack" (smoking of cigarettes containing tobacco mixed with heroin powder) are only 40% and 20% efficient, respectively.[95] One study of British heroin addicts found a 12-fold excess mortality ratio (1.8% of the group dying per year).[96] Most heroin deaths result not from overdose per se, but combination with other depressant drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.[97]

The smoking of opium does not involve the pyrolysis of the material as might be imagined. Rather, the prepared opium is indirectly heated to temperatures at which the active alkaloids, chiefly morphine, are vaporized. In the past, smokers would utilize a specially designed opium pipe which had a removable knob-like pipe-bowl of fired earthenware attached by a metal fitting to a long, cylindrical stem.[98] A small "pill" of opium about the size of a pea would be placed on the pipe-bowl, which was then heated by holding it over an opium lamp, a special oil lamp with a distinct funnel-like chimney to channel heat into a small area. The smoker would lie on his or her side in order to guide the pipe-bowl and the tiny pill of opium over the stream of heat rising from the chimney of the oil lamp and inhale the vaporized opium fumes as needed. Several pills of opium were smoked at a single session depending on the smoker's tolerance to the drug. The effects could last up to twelve hours. Opium in its rawest form contains half the potency of synthetically compared drugs; such as oxycodone, morphine patches or trentanol.[citation needed]

In Eastern culture, opium is more commonly used in the form of paregoric to treat diarrhea. This is a weaker solution than laudanum, an alcoholic tincture which was prevalently used as a pain medication and sleeping aid. Tincture of opium has been prescribed for, among other things, severe diarrhea.[99] Taken thirty minutes prior to meals, it significantly slows intestinal motility, giving the intestines greater time to absorb fluid in the stool.

Chemical and physiological properties

Morphine is the primary biologically active chemical constituent of opium.
Codeine is another biologically active chemical constituent of opium.

Opium contains two main groups of alkaloids. Phenanthrenes include morphine, codeine, and thebaine are the main narcotic constituents. Isoquinolines such as papaverine have no significant central nervous system effects and are not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. Morphine is by far the most prevalent and important alkaloid in opium, consisting of 10%-16% of the total, and is responsible for most of its harmful effects such as lung edema, respiratory difficulties, coma, or cardiac or respiratory collapse, with a normal lethal dose of 120 to 250 milligrams[100]—the amount found in approximately two grams of opium.[70] Morphine binds to and activates μ-opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, stomach and intestine. Regular use leads to physical tolerance and dependence. Chronic opium addicts in 1906 China[79] or modern-day Iran[101] consume an average of eight grams daily.

Both analgesia and drug addiction are functions of the mu opioid receptor, the class of opioid receptor first identified as responsive to morphine. Tolerance is associated with the superactivation of the receptor, which may be affected by the degree of endocytosis caused by the opioid administered, and leads to a superactivation of cyclic AMP signalling.[102] Long-term use of morphine in palliative care and management of chronic pain cannot be managed without the development of drug tolerance or physical dependence. However, it is important to note that "physical dependence" is the expected clinical outcome of using opioids in pain management; it should not be confused with addiction or other forms of "dependence" that are associated with the disease of addiction. Just as a diabetic is physically dependent on insulin to treat the disease of diabetes, so a chronic pain patient will become physically dependent on opioids such as morphine to treat the disease of chronic pain or to palliate end-of-life pain. With respect to drug tolerance, the distinction between chronic pain patients and drug abusers is that the former will ultimately find that at an appropriate dose of medication, tolerance develops to the euphoric and other side-effects of opioid use while pain is successfully controlled for years at the same dose. A drug abuser or addict posing as a pain patient will quickly develop tolerance to the euphoric side-effects of the opioids he is prescribed for pain. As a result, such patients will demand an increase in their dose at every opportunity (because as explained previously, tolerance to euphoria develops much more quickly than tolerance to analgesia).

Many techniques of drug treatment exist, including pharmacologically based treatments with naltrexone, methadone, or ibogaine[103]. However, it should be emphasized that these treatments are for those suffering from true opioid addiction, and not from physical dependence resulting from the appropriate use of opioids for chronic pain. In the event that a patient with chronic pain no longer suffers from the same degree of pain, it is not difficult for the patient and treating physician to gradually taper down the prescribed opioids until the patient has entirely discontinued opioids use. Of course this is only possible if the patient's underlying pain has been mitigated, successfully treated, or otherwise been resolved.

Slang terms (drug-related)

There are a number of slang terms used for opium as a drug, often by peddlers and users in doing business. Several are especially prevalent:

  • Dope (this term is also used to refer to heroin)
  • Big O
  • Tar (this term, also, is commonly used to refer to heroin as well as opium)

Cultural references

There is a longstanding literary history by and about opium users. Thomas de Quincey's 1822 Confessions of an English Opium-Eater is one of the first and most famous literary accounts of opium addiction written from the point of view of an addict and details both the pleasures and the dangers of the drug. De Quincey writes about the great English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), whose poem "Kubla Khan" is also widely considered to be a poem of the opium experience. Coleridge began using opium in 1791 after developing jaundice and rheumatic fever and became a full addict after a severe attack of the disease in 1801, requiring 80-100 drops of laudanum daily.[104] George Crabbe is another early writer who wrote about opium. "The Lotos-Eaters," an 1832 poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, reflects the generally favorable British attitude toward the drug. In The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) by Alexandre Dumas, père, the Count is assuaged by an edible form of opium, and his experience with it is depicted vividly.

Edgar Allan Poe presents opium in a more disturbing context in his 1838 short story "Ligeia," in which the narrator, deeply distraught for the loss of his beloved, takes solace in opium until he "had become a bounden slave in the trammels of opium," unable to distinguish fantasy from reality after taking immoderate doses of opium. In music, Hector Berlioz' 1830 Symphony Fantastique tells the tale of an artist who has poisoned himself with opium while in the depths of despair for a hopeless love. Each of the symphony's five movements takes place at a different setting and with increasingly audible effects from the drug. For example, in the fourth movement, "Marche au Supplice," the artist dreams that he is walking to his own execution. In the fifth movement, "Songe d’une Nuit du Sabbat," he dreams that he is at a witch's orgy, where he witnesses his beloved dancing wildly along to the demented Dies Irae.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, references to opium and opium addiction in the context of crime and the foreign underclass abound within English literature, such as in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868), where it is used to attempt to uncover the jewel thief. Opium features in the opening paragraphs of Charles Dickens's 1870 serial The Mystery of Edwin Drood and in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1891 Sherlock Holmes short story "The Man with the Twisted Lip." In Oscar Wilde's 1890 The Picture of Dorian Gray, the protagonist visits an opium den "for forgetfulness," unable to bear the guilt and shame of committing murder. Opium likewise underwent a transformation in Chinese literature, becoming associated with indolence and vice by the early twentieth century.[51] Perhaps the best-known literary reference to opium is Karl Marx's metaphor in his "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right'," where he refers to religion as "the opium of the people." (This phrase is more commonly quoted as "the opiate of the masses.")

In the twentieth century, as the use of opium was eclipsed by morphine and heroin, its role in literature became more limited, and often focused on issues related to its prohibition. In The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Wang Lung, the protagonist, gets his troublesome uncle and aunt addicted to opium in order to keep them out of his hair. William S. Burroughs autobiographically describes the use of opium beside that of its derivatives. His associate Jack Black's memoir You Can't Win chronicles one man's experience both as an onlooker in the opium dens of San Francisco, and later as a "hop fiend" himself. The book and subsequent movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz may allude to opium at one point in the story, when Dorothy and her friends are drawn into a field of poppies, in which they fall asleep.

See also


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Further reading

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

OPIUM (Gr. ii rcov, dim. from 6 r63, juice), a narcotic drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, a plant probably indigenous in the south of Europe and western Asia, but now so widely cultivated that its original habitat is uncertain. The medicinal properties of the juice have been recognized from a very early period. It was known to Theophrastus by the name of µnrceovcov, and appears in his time to have consisted of an extract of the whole plant, since Dioscorides, about A.D. 77, draws a distinction between pn?aiwEcov, which he describes as an extract of the entire herb, and the more active Inros, derived from the capsules alone. From the 1st to the 12th century the opium of Asia Minor appears to have been the only kind known in commerce. In the 13th century opium thebaicum is mentioned by Simon Januensis, physician to Pope Nicholas IV., while meconium was still in use. In the 16th century opium is mentioned by Pyres (1516) as a production of the kingdom of Cous (Kuch Behar, south-west of Bhutan) in Bengal, and of Malwa. 1 Its introduction into India appears to have been connected with the spread of Islam. The opium monopoly was the property of the Great Mogul and was regularly sold. In the 17th century Kaempfer describes the various kinds of opium prepared in Persia, and states that the best sorts were flavoured with spices and called " theriaka." These preparations were held in great estimation during the middle ages, and probably supplied to a large extent the place of the pure drug. Opium is said to have been introduced into China by the Arabs probably in the 13th century, and it was originally used there as a medicine, the introduction of opium-smoking FIG. 1. - Opium Poppy (Papaver being assigned to the somniferum). 1 7th century. In a Chinese Herbal compiled before 1700 both the plant and its inspissated juice are described, together with the mode of collecting it, and in the General History of the Southern Provinces of Yunnan, revised and republished in 1736, opium is noticed as a common product. The first edict prohibiting opium-smoking was issued by the emperor Yung Cheng in 1729. Up to that date the amount imported did not exceed 200 chests, and was usually brought from India by junks as a return cargo. In the year 1757 the monopoly of opium cultivation in India passed into the hands of the East India Company through the victory of Clive at Plassey. Up to 1773 the trade with China had been in the hands of the Portuguese, but in that year the East India Company took the trade under their own charge, and in 1776 the annual export reached 1000 chests, and 5054 chests in 1790. Although the importation was forbidden by the Chinese imperial authorities in 1796, and opium-smoking punished with severe penalties (ultimately increased to transportation and death), the trade continued and had increased during1820-1830to 16,877 chests per annum. The trade was contraband, and the opium was bought by the Chinese from depot ships at the ports. Up to 1839 no effort was made to stop the trade, but in that year the emperor Tao-Kwang sent a commissioner, Lin Tsze-sii, to Canton to put down the traffic. Lin issued a proclamation threatening hostile measures if the British opium ships serving as depots were not sent away. The demand for removal not being complied with, 20,291 chests of opium (of 1493 lb each), valued at £2,000,000, were destroyed by the Chinese commissioner Lin; but still the British sought to 1 Aromatum Historia (ed. Clusius, Ant., 1574).

smuggle cargoes on shore, and some outrages committed on both sides led to an open war, which was ended by the treaty of Nanking in 1842. The importation of opium continued and was legalized in 1858. From that time, in spite of the remonstrances of the Chinese government, the exportation of opium from India to China continued, increasing from 52,925 piculs (of 1333 lb) in 1850 to 96,839 piculs in 1880. While, however, the court of Peking was honestly endeavouring to suppress the foreign trade in opium from 1839 to 1858 several of the provincial viceroys encouraged the trade, nor could the central government put a stop to the home cultivation of the drug. The cultivation increased so rapidly that at the beginning of the 10th century opium was produced in every province of China. The western provinces of Sze-ch`uen, Yun-nan and Kwei-chow yielded respectively 200,000, 30,000 and 15,000 piculs (of 1 333 Ib); Manchuria 15,000; Shen-si, Chih-li and Shan-tung io,000 each; and the other provinces from 5000 to 500 piculs each, the whole amount produced in China in 1906 being estimated at 330,000 piculs, of which the province of Sze-ch`uen produced nearly twothirds. Of this amount China required for home consumption 325,270 piculs, the remainder being chiefly exported to IndoChina, whilst 54,225 piculs of foreign opium were imported into China. Of the whole amount of opium used in China, equal to 22,588 tons, only about one-seventh came from India.

The Chinese government regarding the use of opium as one of the most acute moral and economic questions which.as a nation they have to face, representing an annual loss to the country of 856,250,000 taels, decided in 1906 to put an end to the use of the drug within ten years, and issued an edict on the 10th of September 1906, forbidding the consumption of opium and the cultivation of the poppy. As an indication of their earnestness of purpose the government allowed officials a period of six months in which to break off the use of opium, under heavy penalties if they failed to do so. In October of the same year the American government in the Philippines, having to deal with the opium trade, raised the question of the taking of joint measures for its suppression by the powers interested, and as a result a conference met at Shanghai on the 1st of February 1909 to which China, the United States of America, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal and Russia sent delegates. At this meeting it was resolved that it was the duty of the respective governments to prevent the export of opium to any countries prohibiting its importation; that drastic measures should be taken against the use of morphine; that anti-opium remedies should be investigated; and that all countries having concessions in China should close the opium divans in their possessions. The British government made an offer in 1907 to reduce the export of Indian opium to countries beyond the seas by 5100 chests, i.e. -, th of the amount annually taken by China, each year until the year 1910, and that if during these three years the Chinese government had carried out its arrangements for proportionally diminishing the production and consumption of opium in China, the British government were prepared to continue the same rate of reduction, so that the export of Indian opium to China would cease in ten years; the restrictions of the imports of Turkish, Persian and other opiums being separately arranged for by the Chinese government, and carried out simultaneously. The above proposal was gratefully received by the Chinese government. A non-official report by Mr E. S. Little, after travelling through western China, which appeared in the newspapers in May 1910, stated that all over the province of Sze-ch`uen opium had almost ceased to be produced, except only in a few remote districts on the frontier (see further China: § History). The average annual import of Persian and Turkish opium into China is estimated at 1125 piculs, and if this quantity were to be reduced every year by one-ninth, beginning in 1909, in nine years the import into China would entirely cease, and the Indian, Persian and Turkish opiums no longer be articles of commerce in that country. One result of these regulations was that the price of foreign opium in China rose, a circumstance which was calculated to reduce the loss to the Indian revenue.

Thus in 1909-1910, with only 350,000 acres under cultivation and 40,000 chests of opium in stock, the revenue was 4,420,600 as against 3,572,944 in1905-1906with 613,996 acres under cultivation and a stock of 76,063 chests. No opium dens have been allowed since 1907 in their possessions or leased territories in China by Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia or Japan.

The difficulties of the task undertaken by the Chinese government to eradicate a national and popular vice, in a country whose population is generally estimated at 400,000,000, are increased by the fact that the opium habit has been indulged in by all classes of society, that opium has been practically the principal if not the only national stimulant; that it must involve a considerable loss of revenue, which will have to be made up by other taxes, and by the fact that its cultivation is more profitable than that of cereals, for an English acre will on the average produce raw dry opium of the value of5, 16s. 8d. while it will yield grain valued only at 4, 5s. 6d.

Various remedies for the opium habit have been experimented with in China, but with doubtful success. Under the name of anti-opium cure various remedies containing morphine in the form of powder, or of little pills, have been introduced, as well as the subcutaneous injection of the alkaloid, so that the use of morphine is increasing in China to an alarming extent, and considerable difficulty is experienced in controlling the illicit traffic in it, especially that sent through the post. Its comparative cheapness, one dollar's worth being equal to three dollars' worth of opium in the effect produced, its portability and the facilities offered in obtaining it, are all in its favour. A good deal of morphine is exported to Japan from Europe, and generally passes into China by way of Manchuria, where Japanese products have a virtual monopoly. The effects of morphine are much more deleterious than those of opiumsmoking. The smoke of opium, as shown by H. Moissan, contains only a trifling amount of morphia, and the effect produced by it is apparently due, not to that alkaloid, but to such decomposition products as pyrrol, acetone and pyridine and hydropyridine bases. F. Browne finds that after smoking " chandoo," containing 8.98% of morphine, 7.63% was left in the dross, so that only 1.35% of morphia was carried over in the smoke or decomposed by the heat.

For many years two Scotch firms, Messrs J. D. Macfarlan and T. and H. Smith of Edinburgh, and T. Whiffen of London manufactured practically the world's supply of this alkaloid, but it is now made in the United States and Germany, although the largest amount is still probably made in Great Britain. A small amount of morphine and codeine is also manufactured in India for medicinal use. The prohibition of the general importation of morphia into China except on certain conditions was agreed to by the British government in Act XI. of the Mackay treaty, but only came into force on the 1st of January 1909. Unless the indirect importation of morphine into China from Europe and the United States is stopped, a worse habit and more difficult to cure than any other (except perhaps that. of cocaine) may replace that of opium-smoking in China. It is worse even than opium-eating, in proportion as morphine is more active than opium. The sale and use of morphine in India and Burma is now restricted. The quantity of morphine that any one may legally possess, and then only for medicinal purposes, is in India 10 grams, and in Burma five. The possession of morphine by medical practitioners is also safeguarded by well-defined limitations.

Production and Commerce. - Although the collection of opium is possible in all places where there is not an excessive rainfall and the climate is temperate or subtropical, the yield is smaller in temperate than in tropical regions and the industry can only be profitably carried on where labour and land are sufficiently cheap and abundant; hence production on a large scale is limited to comparatively few countries. The varieties of poppy grown, the mode of cultivation adopted and the character of the opium produced differ so greatly that it will be convenient to consider the opiums of each country separately.

Table of contents


The poppy cultivated in Asia Minor is the variety glabrum, distinguished by the sub-globular shape of the capsule and by the stigmata or rays at the top of the fruit being ten or twelve in number. The flowers are usually of a purplish colour, but are sometimes white, and the seeds, like the petals, vary in tint from dark violet to white. The cultivation is carried on, both on the more elevated and lower lands, chiefly by peasant proprietors. A naturally light and rich soil, further improved by manure, is necessary, and moisture is indispensable, although injurious in excess, so that after a wet winter the best crops are obtained on hilly ground, and in a dry season on the plains. The land is ploughed twice, the second time crosswise, so that it may be thoroughly pulverized; and the seed, mixed with four times its quantity of sand, to prevent its being sown too thickly, is scattered broadcast, about 4 to 1 lb being used for every toloom (1600 sq. yds.). The crop is very uncertain owing to droughts; spring frosts and locusts, and, ' in order to avoid a total failure and to allow time for collecting the produce, there are three sowings at intervals from October to March - the crops thus coming to perfection in succession. But notwithstanding these precautions quantities of the drug are wasted when the crop is a full one, owing to the difficulty of gathering the whole in the short time during which collection is possible. The first sowing produces the hardiest plants, the yield of the other two depending. almost entirely on favourable weather. In localities where there is hoar frost in autumn and spring the seed is sown in September or at latest in the beginning of October, and the yield of opium and seed is then greater than if sown later. After sowing, the land is harrowed, and the young plants are hoed and weeded, chiefly by women and children, from early spring until the time of flowering. In the plains the flowers expand at the end of May, on the uplands in July. At this period gentle showers are of great value, as they cause an increase in the subsequent yield of opium. The petals fall in a few hours, and the capsules grow so rapidly that in a short time - generally from nine to fifteen days - the opium is fit for collection. This period is known by the capsules yielding to pressure with the fingers, assuming a lighter green tint and exhibiting a kind of bloom called " cougak," easily rubbed off with the fingers; they are then about 12 in. in diameter. The incisions are made by holding the capsule in the left hand and drawing a knife two-thirds round it, or spirally beyond the starting-point (see fig. 2, a), great care being taken not to let the incisions penetrate to the interior lest the juice should flow inside and be lost. (In this case also it is said that the seeds will not ripen, and that no oil can be obtained from them.) The operation is usually performed after the heat of the day, commencing early in the afternoon and continuing to nightfall, and the exuded juice is collected the next morning. This is done by scraping the capsule with a knife and transferring the concreted juice to a poppy-leaf held in the left hand, the edges of the leaf being turned in to avoid spilling the juice, and the knife-blade moistened with saliva by drawing it through the mouth after every alternate scraping to prevent the juice from adhering to it. When as much. opium has been collected as the size of the leaf will allow, another leaf is wrapped over the top of the lump, which is then placed in the shade to dry for several days. The pieces vary in size from about 2 oz. to over 2 lb, being made larger in some districts than in others. The capsules are generally incised only once, but the fields are visited a second or third time to collect the opium from the poppy-heads subsequently developed by the branching of the stem. The yield of opium varies, even on the same piece of land, from a to 72 chequis (of 1.62 lb) per toloom (1600 sq. yds.), the average being 1z chequis of opium and 4 bushels q (of 50 lb) of seed. The seed, which yields 35 to 42% of oil, is worth about two-thirds of the value of the opium. The whole of the operation must, of course, be completed in the few days - five to ten - during which the capsules are capable of yielding the drug: A cold wind or a chilly atmosphere at the time of collection lessens the yield, and rain washes the opium off the capsules. Before the crop is all gathered in a meeting of buyers and sellers takes place in each district, at which the price to be asked is discussed and settled, and the opium handed to the buyers, who in many instances have advanced money on the standing crop. When sufficiently solid the pieces of opium are packed in cotton bags, a quantity of the fruits of a species of Rumex being thrown in to prevent the cakes from adhering together. The bags are then sealed up, packed in oblong or circular baskets and sent to Smyrna or other ports on mules. On the arrival of the opium at its destination, in the end of July or beginning of August, it is placed in cool warehouses to avoid loss of weight until sold. The opium is then of a mixed character and is known as talequale. When transferred to the buyer's warehouses the bags are opened and each piece is examined by a public inspector in the presence of both buyer and seller, the quality of the opium being judged by appearance, odour, colour and weight. It is then sorted into three qualities: (1) finest quality; (2) current or second; (3) chicanti or rejected pieces. A fourth sort consists of the very bad or wholly factitious pieces. The substances used to adulterate opium are grape-juice thickened with flour, fig-paste, liquorice, half-dried apricots, inferior gum tragacanth and sometimes clay or pieces of lead or other metals. The chicanti is returned to the seller, who disposes of it at 20 to 30% discount to French and German merchants. After inspection the opium is hermetically sealed in tin-lined boxes containing about 150 lb. Turkey opium is principally used in medicine on account of its purity and the large percentage of morphia that it contains, a comparatively small quantity being exported for smoking purposes.

About three-quarters of the opium prepared in Turkey is produced in Anatolia, and is exported by way of Smyrna, and the remainder is produced in the hilly districts of the provinces near the southern coast of the Black Sea, and finds its way into Constantinople, the commercial varieties bearing the name of the district where they are produced. The Smyrna varieties include the produce of Afium Karahissar, Uschak, Akhissar, Taoushanli, Isbarta, Konia, Bulvadan, Hamid, Magnesia and Yerli, the last name being applied to opium collected in the immediate neighbour " hood of Sm y rna. The opium exported by way of Constantinople includes that of Hadjikeuy and Malatia; the Tokat kind, of good quality, including that produced in Yosgad, Sile and Niksar, and the current or second quality derived from Amasia and Oerek; the Karahissar kind including the produce of Mykalitch, Carabazar, Sivrahissar, Eskichehir. and Nachlihan; the Balukesri sort, including that of Balukhissar and Bogaditch; also the produce of Beybazar and Angora. The average amount of Turkish opium exported is 7000 chests, but in rare seasons amounts to 12,000 chests, but the yield depends upon fine weather in harvest time, heavy rains washing the opium off the capsules, and lessening the yield to a considerable extent.

These commercial varieties differ in appearance and quality, and are roughly classified as Soft or Shipping opium, Druggists' and Manufacturers' opium. Shipping opium is distinguished by its soft character and clean paste, containing very little debris, or chaff, as it is technically called. The Hadjikeuy variety is at present the best in the market. The Malatia, including that of Kharput, second, and the Sile, third in quality. The chief markets for the soft or shipping varieties of opium are, China, Korea, the West Indian Islands, Cuba, British Guiana, Japan and Java; the United States also purchase for re-exportation as well as for home consumption. Druggists' opium includes the kinds purchased for use in medicine, which for Great Britain should, when dried and powdered, contain 92-101% of morphine. That generally sold in this country for the purpose includes the Karahissar and Adet, Balukhissar, Amasia and Akhissar kinds, and for making the tincture and extract, that of Tokat. But the produce of Gheve, Biledjik, Mondourlan, Konia, Tauschanli, Kutahlia and Karaman is often mixed with the kinds first mentioned. The softer varieties of opium are preferred in the American market, as being richer in morphine. In all Turkey opium the pieces vary much in size. On the continent of Europe, especially in Belgium, Germany and Italy, where pieces of small size are preferred, the Gheve,' and the Yoghourma, i.e. opium remade into cakes, at the port of shipment, to contain 7, 8, 9, or 10% of morphine, are chiefly sold. Manufacturers' opium includes any grade yielding not less than 102% of morphine, but the Yoghourma or " pudding " opium, on account of its paste being more difficult to work, is not used for the extraction of the active principles. For the extraction of codeine, the Persian opium is preferred when Turkey opium is dear, as it contains on the average 22% of that alkaloid, whilst Turkey opium yields only 2-4%. But codeine can also be made from morphine.

The ordinary varieties of Turkish opium are recognized in commerce by the following characteristics: Hadjikeuy opium occurs in pieces of about 2 1b-12 lb; it has an unusually pale-coloured paste of soft consistence, and is very rich in morphia. Malatia opium is in pieces of irregular size usually of a broadly conical shape, weighing from 1-2 lb. It has a soft paste with irregular layers of light and dark colour and is covered with unusually green poppy leaves. Tokat opium resembles that of Malatia, but the cakes are flatter, and the paste is similar in character, though the leaves covering it are of a yellower tint of green. Bogaditz opium occurs in smaller pieces, about 3 or 4 oz. in weight, but sometimes larger pieces of I-I a lb in weight are met with, approaching more nearly to the Kurgagatsch and Balukissar varieties. The surface is covered with a yellowish green leaf and many Rumex fruits. Karahissar opium, which usually includes the produce of Adet, Akhissar and Amasia, occurs in rather large shortly conical or more or less irregular lumps. Angora opium is met with in small smooth pieces, has generally a pale paste and is rich in morphia. Yerli opium is of good quality, variable in size and shape; the surface is usually rough with Rumex capsules. Gheve opium formerly came over as a distinct kind, but is now mixed with other varieties; the pieces form small rounded cakes, smooth and shining like those of Angora, about 3-6 oz. in weight, with the midrib of the leaf they are wrapped in forming a median line on the surface. The interior often shows layers of light and dark colour.

In Macedonia opium culture was begun in 1865 at Istip with seed obtained from Karahissar in Asia Minor, and extended subsequently to the adjacent districts of Kotchava, Stroumnitza, Tikvish and Kinprulu-veles, most of the produce being exported under the name of Salonica opium. Macedonian opium, especially that 1 Gheve is the commercial name for opium from Geiveh on the river Sakaria, running into the Black Sea. It appears to find its way to Constantinople via the port of Ismid, and hence is known also by the latter name.

produced at Istip, is very pure, and is considered equal to the Malatia opium, containing about II % of morphine. The pieces vary from 4 lb to 1 z lb in weight. For some years past, however, it .has been occasionally mixed with pieces of inferior opium, like that of Yoghourma, recognizable on cutting by their solidity and heavy character. The Turkish government encourage the development of the industry by remitting the tithes on opium and poppy-seed for one year on lands sown for the first time, and by distributing printed instructions for cultivating the poppy and preparing the opium. In these directions it is pointed out that the opium crop is ten times as profitable as that of wheat. Four varieties of poppy are distinguished - two with white flowers, large oval capsules without holes under their " combs " (stigmas) and bearing respectively yellow and white seed, and the other two having red or purple flowers and seeds of the same colour, one bearing small capsules, perforated at the top, and the other larger oval capsules not perforated. The white varieties are recommended as yielding a. more abundant opium of superior quality. The yellow seed is said to yield the best oil; that obtained by hot pressure is used for lamps and for paint, and the cold-pressed oil for culinary purposes.

Opium is also grown in Bulgaria, but almost entirely for home consumption; any surplus produce is, however, bought by Jews, and Turks at low prices and sent to Constantinople, where it is sold as Turkish opium. It is produced in the districts of Kustendil,, Lowtscha and Halitz, and is made into lumps weighing about 4 oz., of a light-brown colour internally and containing a few seeds; it is covered with leaves which have not been identified. Samples have yielded from 7 to 19% of morphia, and only 2 to 3% of ash, and are therefore of excellent quality.


The poppy grown in India is usually the white-flowered variety, but in the Himalayas a red-flowered poppy with dark seeds is cultivated. The opium industry in Bengal is a government monopoly, under the control of officials residing respectively at Patna and Ghazipore. Any one may undertake the industry,, but cultivators are obliged to sell the opium exclusively to the government agent at a price fixed beforehand by the latter, which,. although small, is said to fully remunerate the grower. It is considered that with greater freedom the cultivator would produce too great a quantity, and loss to the government would soon result. Advances of money are often made by the government to enable the ryots to grow the poppy. The chief centres of production are Bihar in Bengal, and the district of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh lying along the Gangetic valley, and north of it, of which the produce is known as Bengal opium. The opium manufactured at Patna is of two classes, viz. Provision opium manufactured for' export, and Excise or Akbari opium intended for local consumption in India. These differ in consistence: Excise opium is prepared to contain 90% of non-volatile solid matter and made up into cubes. weighing one seer or 22 & 1b, and wrapped in oiled paper, whilst Provision opium is made up into balls, protected by a leafy covering, made of poppy petals, opium and " pussewah," or liquid drainings of the crude opium; that of Patna is made to contain 75% of solid matter, and that of Ghazipore, which is known as Benares opium,. 71% only. Each ball consists of a little over 31 lb of fine opium, in addition to other poppy products. The Benares ball opium has. about II oz. less of the external covering than the Patna sort. Forty of these balls are packed in each chest. The Excise opium not having a covering of poppy petals lacks the aroma of Provision opium. Malwa opium is produced in a large number of states in the Central India and Rajputana Agencies, chiefly Gwalior, Indore and Bhopal, in the former, and Mewar in the latter. It is also produced in the native state of Baroda, and in the small British territory of Ajmer Merwara. The cultivation of Malwa opium is free and extremely profitable, the crop realizing usually from three to. seven times the value of wheat or other cereals, and in exceptionally advantageous situations, from twelve to twenty times as much. On its entering British territory a heavy duty is imposed on Malwa opium, so as to raise its price to an equality with the government article. It is shipped from Bombay to northern China, where nearly the whole of the exported Malwa opium is consumed. The poppy is grown for opium in the Punjab to a limited extent, but it has been decided to entirely abolish the cultivation there within a short time. In Nepal, Bashahr and Rampur, and at Doda Kashtwar in the Jammu territory, opium is produced and exported to Yarkand, Khotan and Aksu. The cultivation of the poppy is also carried on in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Nepal and the Shan states of Burma, but the areas and production are not known.

A small amount of opium alkaloids only is manufactured in India. The surplus above that issued to government medical institutions in India is sold in London. The amount manufactured in 1906-1907 was 346 lb of morphine hydrochlorate, 12 lb of the acetate and 61 lb of codeia.

The land intended for poppy culture is usually selected near villages, in order that it may be more easily manured and irrigated. On a rich soil a crop of maize or vegetables is grown during the rainy season, and after its removal in September the ground is prepared for the poppy-culture. Under less favourable circumstances the land is prepared from July till October by ploughing, weeding and manuring. The seed is sown between the 1st and 15th of November, acid germinates in ten or fifteen days. The fields are divided for purposes of irrigation into beds about 10 ft. square, which usually are irrigated twice between November and February, but if the season be cold, with hardly any rain, the operation is repeated five or six times. When the seedlings are 2 or 3 in. high they are thinned out and weeded. The plants during growth are liable to injury by severe frost, excessive rain, insects, fungi and the growth of a root-parasite (Orobanche indica). The poppy blossoms about the middle of February, and the petals when about to fall are collected for the purpose of making " leaves " for the spherical coverings of the balls of opium. These are made by heating a circular-ridged earthen plate over a slow fire, and spreading the petals, a few at a time, over its surface. As the juice exudes, more petals are pressed on to them with a cloth until a layer of sufficient thickness is obtained. The leaves are forwarded to the opium-factories, where they are sorted into three classes, according to size and colour, the smaller and dark-coloured being reserved for the inside of the shells of the opium-balls, and the larger and least coloured for the outside. These are valued respectively at 10 to 7 and 5 rupees per maund of 82, 2 7 lb. The collection of opium commences in Behar about 25th February, and continues to about 25th March, but in Malwa is performed in March and April. The capsules are scarified vertically (fig. 2, b) in most districts (although in some the incisions are made horizontally, as in Asia Minor), the " nushtur " or cutting instrument being drawn twice upwards for each incision, and repeated two to six times at intervals of two or three days. The nushtur (fig. 2, c) consists of three to five flattened b FIG. 2. - Opium Poppy Capsules, &c., a natural size. a, capsule showing mode of incision practised in Turkey; b, capsule as incised in India; c, nushtur, or instrument used in India for making the incisions. Drawn from specimens in the Museum of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

blades forked at the larger end, and separated about one-sixteenth of an inch from each other by winding cotton thread between them, the whole being also bound together by thread, and the protrusion of the points being restricted to one-twelfth of an inch, by which the depth of the incision is limited. The operation is usually performed about three or four o'clock in the afternoon, and the opium collected the next morning. In Bengal a small sheet-iron scoop or " seetoah" is used for scraping off the dried juice, and, as it becomes filled, the opium is emptied into an earthen pot carried for the purpose. In Malwa a flat scraper is employed, a small piece of cotton soaked in linseed oil being attached to the upper part of the blade, and used for smearing the thumb and edge of the scraper to prevent adhesion of the juice; sometimes water is used instead of oil, but both practices injure the quality of the product. Sometimes the opium is in a fluid state by reason of dew, and in some places it is rendered still more so by the practice adopted by collectors of washing their scrapers, and adding the washings to the morning's collection. The juice, when brought home, is consequently a wet granular mass of pinkish colour, from which a dark fluid drains to the bottom of the vessel. In order to get rid of this fluid, called " pasewa " or " pussewah," the opium is placed in a shallow earthen vessel tilted on one side, and the pussewah drained off. The residual mass is then exposed to the air in the shade, and regularly turned over every few days, until it has reached the proper consistence, which takes place in about three or four weeks. The drug is then taken to the government factory to be sold. It is turned out of the pots into wide tin vessels or " tagars," in which it is weighed in quantities not exceeding 21 lb. It is then examined by a native expert (purkhea) as to impurities, colour, fracture, aroma and consistence. To determine the amount of moisture, which should not exceed 30%, a weighed sample is evaporated and dried in a plate on a metallic surface heated by steam. Adulterations such as mud, sand, powdered charcoal, soot, cow-dung, powdered poppy petals and powdered seeds of various kinds are easily detected by breaking up the drug in cold water. Flour, potato-flour, ghee and ghoor (crude datesugar) are revealed by their odour and the consistence they impart.

Various other adulterants are sometimes used, such as the inspissated juice of the prickly pear, extracts from tobacco, stramonium and hemp, pulp of the tamarind and bael fruit, mahwah flowers and gums of different kinds. The price paid to the cultivator is regulated chiefly by the amount of water contained in the drug. When received into the government stores the opium is kept in large wooden boxes holding about 50 maunds and occasionally stirred up, if only a little below the standard. If containing much water it is placed in shallow wooden drawers and constantly turned over. During the process it deepens in colour. From the store about 250 inaunds are taken daily to be manufactured into cakes.

Various portions, each weighing 10 seers (of 23 5 lb), are selected by test assay so as to ensure the mass being of standard consistence (70% of the pure dry drug and 30% of water), and are thrown into shallow drawers and kneaded together. The mass is then packed into boxes all of one size, and a specimen of each again assayed, the mean of the whole being taken as the average. Before evening these boxes are emptied into wooden vats 20 ft. long, 32 ft. wide and 14 ft. deep, and the opium further kneaded and mixed by men wading through it from end to end until it appears to be of a uniform consistence. Next morning the manufacture of the opium into balls commences. The workman sits on a wooden stand, with a brass cup before him, which he lines with the leaves of poppy petals before-mentioned until the thickness of half an inch is reached, a few being allowed to hang over the cup; the leaves are agglutinated by means of " lewa," a pasty fluid which consists of a mixture of inferior opium, 8% of " pussewah " and the " dhoe " or washings of the vessels that have contained opium, and the whole is made of such consistence that 100 grains evaporated to dryness over a water-bath leave 53 grains of solid residue. All the ingredients for the opium-ball are furnished to the workmen by measure. When the inside of the brass cup is ready a ball of opium previously weighed is placed on the leafy case in it, and the upper half of it covered with leaves in the same way that the casing for the lower half was made, the overhanging leaves of the lower half being pressed upwards and the sphere completed by one large leaf which is placed over the upper half. The ball, which resembles a Dutch cheese in size and shape, is now rolled in " poppy trash " made from the coarselypowdered leaves, capsules and stalks of the poppy plant, and is placed in an earthen cup of the same size as the brass one; the cups are then placed in dishes and the opium exposed to the sun to dry for three days, being constantly turned and examined. If it becomes distended the ball is pierced to liberate the gas and again lightly closed. On the third evening the cups are placed in open frames which allow free circulation of the air. This operation is usually completed by the end of July. The balls thus made consist on the average of: Standard opium. .. .. I seer 7.50 chittacks.

Lewa. .. .

.. o


Leaves (poppy petals)

. o


Poppy trash. .

.. o


2 seers 1.18 chittacks.

The average number of cakes that can be made daily by one man is about 70, although 90 to 100 are sometimes turned out by clever workmen. The cakes are liable to become mildewed, and require constant turning and occasional rubbing in dry " poppy trash " to remove the mildew, and strengthening in weak places with fresh poppy leaves. By October the cakes are dry and fairly solid, and are then packed in chests, which are divided into two tiers of twenty square compartments for the reception of as many cakes, which are steadied by a packing of loose poppy trash.' Each case contains about 120 catties (about 160 lb). The chests need to be kept in a dry warehouse for a length of time, but ultimately the opium ceases to lose moisture to the shell, and the latter becomes extremely solid.

The care bestowed on the selection and preparation of the drug in the Bengal opium-factories is such that the merchants who purchase it rarely require to examine it, although permission is given to open at each sale any number of chests or cakes that they may desire.

In Malwa the opium is manufactured by private enterprise, the government levying an export duty of 600 rupees (60) per chest. It is not made into balls but into rectangular or rounded masses, and is not cased in poppy petals. It contains as much as 95% of dry opium, but is of much less uniform quality than the Bengal drug, and, having no guarantee as to purity, is not considered so valuable. The cultivation in Malwa does not differ in any important particular from that in Bengal. The opium is collected in March and April, and the crude drug or " chick " is thrown into an earthen vessel and covered with linseed oil to prevent evaporation. In this state it is sold to itinerant dealers. It is afterwards tied up in quantities of 25 lb and 50 lb in double bags of sheeting, which are suspended to a ceiling out of the light and draught to allow the excess of oil to drain off. This takes place in seven to ten days, but the bags are left for four to six weeks until the oil remaining on the opium has become oxidized and hardened. In June and July, when the rains begin, the bags are taken down and emptied 1 This is purchased from the ryots at 12 annas per maund.

into shallow vats to to 15 ft. across, and 6 to 8 in. deep, in which the opium is kneaded until uniform in colour and consistence and tough enough to be formed into cakes of 8 or 10 oz. in weight. These are thrown into a basket containing chaff made from the capsules. They are then rolled in broken leaves and stalks of the poppy and left, with occasional turning, for a week or so, when they become hard enough to bear packing. In October and November they are weighed and sent to market, packed in chests containing as nearly as possible i picul = 133 31b, the petals and leaves of the poppy being used as packing materials. The production is said to amount to about 20,000 chests annually.

The amount of opium revenue collected in India was £10,480,051 in 1881, but in1907-1908was only £5,244,986. It is a remarkable fact that the only Indian opium ever seen in England is an occasional sample of the Malwa sort, whilst the government monopoly opium is quite unknown; indeed, the whole of the opium used in medicine in Europe and the United States is obtained from Turkey. This is in some measure due to the fact that Indian opium contains less morphia. It has recently been shown, however, that opium grown in the hilly districts of the Himalayas yields 50% more morphia than that of the plains, and that the deficiency of morphia in the Indian drug is due, in some measure, to the long exposure to the air in a semi-liquid state which it undergoes. In view, therefore, of the probable decline in the Chinese demand, the cultivation of the drug for the European market in the hilly districts of India, and its preparation after the mode adopted in Turkey, viz., by drying the concrete juice as quickly as possible, might be worthy of the consideration of the British government.


The variety of poppy grown in Persia appears to be P. somniferum, var. album, having roundish ovate capsules. It is most largely produced in the districts of Ispahan, Shiraz, Yezd and Khonsar, and to a less extent in those of Khorasan, Kermanshah and Fars. The Yezd opium is considered better than that of Ispahan, but the strongest or Theriak-e-Arabistani is produced in the neighbourhood of Dizful and Shuster, east of the river Tigris. Good opium is also produced about Sari and Balfarush in the province of Mazanderan. The capsules are incised vertically, or in some districts vertical cuts with diagonal branches are made. The crop is collected in May and June and reaches the ports for exportation between August and January. Although the cultivation of opium in Persia was probably carried on at an earlier date than in India, Persian opium was almost unknown in England until about the year 1870, except in the form of the inferior quality known as " Trebizond," which usually contains only 0.2 to 3% of morphia. This opium is in the form of cylindrical sticks about 6 in. long and half an inch in diameter, wrapped in white waxed or red paper. Since 1870 Persian opium has been largely exported from Bushire and Bandar-Abbas in the Persian Gulf to London, the Straits Settlements and China. At that date the annual yield is said not to have exceeded 2600 cases; but, the profits on opium having about that time attracted attention, all available ground was utilized for this to the exclusion of cereals, cotton and other produce. The result was a severe famine in 1871-1872, which was further aggravated by drought and other circumstances. Notwithstanding the lesson thus taught, the cultivation is being extended every year, especially in Ispahan, which abounds in streams and rivers, an advantage in which Yezd is deficient. About Shiraz, Behbehan and Kermanshah it now occupies much of the land, and has consequently affected the price and growth of cereals. The trade - only 300 chests in 1859 - gradually increased until 1877, when the Persian opium was much adulterated with glucose. The heavy losses on this inferior opium and the higher prices obtained for the genuine article led to a great improvement in its preparation, and in 1907 the production had increased to 10,000 piculs. About half of the total produce finds its way to the Chinese market, chiefly by sea to Hongkong and the Federated Malay States, although some is carried overland through Bokhara, Khokand and Kashgar; a small quantity is exported by way of Trebizond and Samsun to Constantinople, and about 2000 piculs to Great Britain. The produce of Ispahan and Fars is carried for exportation to Bushire, and that of Khorasan and Kirman and Yezd partly to Bushire and partly to Bandar-Abbas. The Shuster opium is sent partly via Bushire to Muscat for transhipment to Zanzibar, and part is believed to be smuggled into India by way of Baluchistan and Mekran. Smaller quantities grown in Teheran, Tabriz and Kermanshah find their way to Smyrna, where it is said to be mixed with the local drug for the European market, the same practice being carried on at Constantinople with the Persian opium that arrives there from Samsun and Trebizond. For the Chinese market the opium is usually packed in chests containing 102 shahmans (of 131 Ib), so that on arrival it may weigh 1 Chinese picul (=1331 lb), 5 to io% being allowed for loss by drying. At Ispahan, Shiraz and Yezd the drug, after being dried in the sun, is mixed with oil in the proportion of 6 or 7 Ib to 141 lb of opium, with the object, it is said, of suiting the taste of the Chinese - that intended for the London market being now always free from oil.

Persian opium, as met with in the London market, occurs in several forms, the most common being that of brick-shaped pieces. These occur wrapped separately in paper, and weighing 1 lb each; of these 140-160 are packed in a case. Ispahan opium also occurs in the form of parallelopipeds weighing about 16-20 oz.; sometimes flat circular pieces weighing about 20 oz. are met with. The opium is usually of much firmer and smoother consistence than that of Turkey, of a chocolate-brown colour and cheesy appearance, the pieces bearing evidence of having been beaten into a uniform mass previously to being made into lumps, probably with the addition of Sarcocoll, as it is always harder when dry than Turkey opium. The odour differs but slightly, except in oily specimens, from that of Turkey opium. Great care is now taken to prevent adulteration, and consequently Persian opium can be obtained nearly as rich in morphia as the Turkish drug - on the average from 9-12%. The greater proportion of the Persian opium imported into London is again exported, a comparatively small quantity being used, chiefly for the manufacture of codeine when Turkey opium is dear, and a little in veterinary practice. According to Dr Reveil, Persian opium usually contains 75 to 84% of matter soluble in water, and some samples contain from 13 to 30% of glucose, probably due to an extract or syrup of raisins added to the paste in the pots in which it is collected, and to which the shining fracture of hard Persian opium is attributed.


Experiments made in England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, Germany, and even in Sweden, prove that opium as rich in morphia as that of Eastern countries can be produced in Europe. In 1830 Young, a surgeon at Edinburgh, succeeded in obtaining 56 lb of opium from an acre of poppies, and sold it at 36s. per lb. In France the cultivation has been carried on since 1844 at Clermont-Ferrand by Aubergier. The juice, of which a workman is able to collect about 9.64 troy oz. in a day, is evaporated by artificial heat immediately after collection. The juice yields about one-fourth of its weight of opium, and the percentage of morphia varies according to the variety of poppy used, the purple one giving the best results. By mixing assayed samples he is able to produce an opium containing uniformly 10% of morphia. It is made up in cakes of 50 grammes, but is not produced in sufficient quantity to become an article of wholesale commerce. Some specimens of French opium have been found by Guibourt to yield 22.8% of morphia, being the highest percentage observed as' yet in any opium. Experiments made in Germany by Karsten, Jobst and Vulpius have shown that it is possible to obtain in that country opium of excellent quality, containing from 8 to 13% of morphia. It was found that the method yielding the best results was to make incisions in the poppy-heads soon after sunrise, to collect the juice with the finger immediately after incision and evaporate it as speedily as possible, the colour of the opium being lighter and the percentage of morphia greater than when the juice was allowed to dry on the plant. Cutting through the poppy-head caused the shrivelling up of the young fruit, but the heads which had been carefully incised yielded more seed than those which had not been cut at all. Newly-manured soil was found to act prejudicially on the poppy. The giant variety of poppy yielded most morphia.

The difficulty of obtaining the requisite amount of cheap labour at the exact time it is needed and the uncertainty of the weather render the cultivation of opium too much a matter of speculation for it ever to become a regular crop in most European countries.

North America

In 1865 the cultivation of opium was attempted in Virginia by A. Robertson, and a product was obtained which yielded 4% of morphia. In 1867 H. Black grew opium in Tennessee which contained to % of morphia. Opium produced in California by H. Flint in 1873 yielded 74% of morphia, equal to to % in perfectly-dried opium. The expense of cultivation exceeded the returns obtained by its sale. As in Europe, therefore, the high price of labour militates against its production on a large scale.








5. o

Lanthopine ..





o 8

Protopine. .











Iritopine. .







Cryptopine. .



Meconine. .






(E. M. H.) Chemistry of the Opium Alkaloids. - The chemical investigation of opium dates from 1803 when C. Derosne isolated a crystalline compound which he named " opium salt." In 1805 F. W. Sertiirner, a German apothecary, independently obtained this same substance, naming it " morphium," and recognized its basic nature; he also isolated an acid, meconic acid. A second paper, published in 1817, was followed in the same year by the identification of a new base, narcotine, by P. J. Robiquet. Thebaine, another alkaloid, was discovered by Thiboumery in 1835; whilst, in 1848, Merck isolated papaverine from commercial narcotine. Subsequent investigations have revealed some twenty or more alkaloids, the more important of which are given in the following table (from A. Pictet, Vegetable Opium also contains a gum, pectin, a wax, sugar and similar substances, in addition to meconic and lactic acids.

The alkaloids fall into two chemical groups: (i) derivatives of isoquinoline, including papaverine, narcotine, gnoscopine (racemic narcotine), narceine, laudanosine, laudanine, cotarnine, hydrocotarnine (the last two do not occur in opium), and (2) derivatives of phenanthrene, including morphine, codeine, thebaine. The constitutions of the first series have been determined; of the second they are still uncertain.

Papaverine, C20H21N04, was investigated by G. Goldschmiedt (Monats., 1883-1889), who determined its constitution (formula I., below) by a study of its oxidation products, showing that papaveraldine, which it gives with potassium permanganate, is a tetramethoxybenzoylisoquinoline. Its synthesis, and also that of laudanosine, C21H27N04, which is N-methyltetrahydropapaverine, was effected in 1909 by F. L. Pyman (Jour. Chem. Soc., 95, p. 1610) and by A. Pictet and Mlle M. Finkelstein (Comet. rend., 1909, 148, P. 925). Laudanine, C20H25N04, is very similar to laudanosine, differing in having three methoxy groups and one hydroxy instead of four methoxy.

Narcotine, C22H23N07, has been principally investigated by A. Matthiessen and G. C. Foster, and by W. Roser (Ann., 1888, 249, p. 156; 1889, 2 54, p. 334.) By hydrolysis it yields opianic acid, C10H1005, and hydrocotarnine, C 12 1-1 15 NO 3; reduction gives meconine, C10H1004, and hydrocotarnine; whilst oxidation gives opianic acid and cotarnine, C12H15N04. Narcotine was shown to be methoxyhydrastine (II.) (hydrastine, the alkaloid of Golden seal, Hydrastis canadensis, was solved by E. Schmidt, M. Freund, and P. Fritsch) and cotarnine to be III.; the latter has been synthesized by A. H. Salway (Jour. Chem. Soc., 1910, 97, p. 1208). Narceine, C23H27N08, obtained by the action of potash on the methyl iodide of narcotine, is probably IV. (see Pyman, loc. cit. pp. 1266, 1738; M. Freund and P. Oppenheim, Ber., 1909, 42, p. 1084).

The proprietary drug " stypticin " is cotarnine hydrochloride, and " styptol " cotarnine phthalate; " antispasmin " is a sodium narceine combined with sodium salicylate, and " narcyl " narceine ethyl hydrochloride.

OMe CH2 OMe MeO" OMe CH ?o^,/ ,CH 2 MeO McO I ^ VN/ H2 NMe 02 CN/ MeO CH - CH - ' I.Papaverine II.Narcotine CH 2 CH2 OMe CH? O^ / 1 CH2 CH 0?/ICH2 MeO 2 0 / NHMe 0 / NMe 2 H02C MeO CHO MeO 2 III. Cotarnine IV.Narceine The chemistry of morphine, codeine and thebaine is exceedingly complicated, and the literature enormous. That these alkaloids are closely related may be suspected from their empirical formulae, viz.morphine = C17H19N03, codeine = C18H21N03, thebaine = C19H21N03. As a matter of fact, Grimaux, in 1881, showed codeine to be a methylmorphine, and in 1903 Ach and L. Knorr (Ber., 36, p. 3067) obtained identical substances, viz. thebenine and morphothebaine, from both codeine and thebaine, thereby establishing their connexion. Our knowledge of the constitution of these alkaloids largely depends on the researches of M. Freund, E. Vongerichten, L. Knorr and R. Pschorr. The presence of the phenanthrene nucleus and the chain system CH 3 N C C follows from the fact that these alkaloids, by appropriate treatment, yield a substituted phenanthrene and also dimethylaminoethanol (CH3)2N CH2 CH20H. Formulae have been proposed by Pschorr and Knorr explaining this and other decompositions (in Pschorr's formula the morphine ring system is a fusion of a phenanthrene and pyridine nucleus); another formula, containing a fusion of a phenanthrene with a pyrrol ring, was proposed by Bucherer in'1907. The problem is discussed by Pschorr and Einbeck (Ber., 1907, 40, p. 1980), and by Knorr and Horlein (ibid. p. 2042); see also Ann. Reps. Chem. Soc. Morphine, or morphia, crystallizes in prisms with one molecule of water; it is soluble in woo parts of cold water and in 160 of boiling water, and may be crystallized from alcohol; it is almost insoluble in ether and chloroform. It has an alkaline reaction and behaves as a tertiary, monacid base; its salts are soluble in water and alcohol. The official hydrochloride, C17H19N03 HC1+3H20, forms delicate needles. Distilled with zinc dust morphine yields phenanthrene, pyridine and quinoline; dehydration gives, under certain conditions, apomorphine, C17H17N02, a white amorphous substance, readily soluble in alcohol, either and chloroform. The drug " heroin " is a diacetylmorphine hydrochloride. Codeine, or codeia, crystallizes in orthorhombic prisms with one molecule of water: it is readily soluble in alcohol, ether and chloroform. Thebaine forms silvery plates, melting at 193°. (C. E.*) Medicine. - Of the opium alkaloids only morphine and codeine are used to any extent in medicine. Thebaine is not so used, but is an important and sometimes very dangerous constituent of the various opium preparations, which are still largely employed, despite the complexity and inconstant composition of the drug. Of the other alkaloids narceine is hypnotic, like morphine and codeine, whilst thebaine, papaverine and narcotine have an action which resembles that of strychnine, and is, generally speaking, undesirable or dangerous if at all well marked. A drug of so complex a composition as opium is necessarily incompatible with a large number of substances. Tannic acid, for instance, precipitates codeine as a tannate, salts of many of the heavy metals form precipitates of meconates and sulphates, whilst the various alkalis, alkaline carbonates and ammonia precipitate the important alkaloids.

The pharmacology of opium differs from that of morphine (q.v.) in a few particulars. The chief difference between the action of opium and morphine is due to the presence in the former of thebaine, which readily affects the more irritable spinal cord of very young children. In infants especially opium acts markedly upon the spinal cord, and, just as strychnine is dangerous when given to young children, so opium, because of the strychnine-like alkaloid it contains, should never be administered, under any circumstances or in any dose, to children under one year of age.

When given by the mouth, opium has a somewhat different action from that of morphine. It often relieves hunger, by arresting the secretion of gastric j uice and the movements of the stomach and bowel,'* and it frequently upsets digestion from the same cause. Often it relieves vomiting, though in a few persons it may cause vomiting, but in far less degree than apomorphine, which is a powerful emetic. Opium has a more marked diaphoretic action than morphine, and is much less certain as a hypnotic and analgesic. There are a few therapeutic indications for the use of opium rather than morphine, but they are far less important than those which make the opposite demand. In some abdominal conditions, for instance, opium is still preferred by the majority of practitioners, though certainly not in gastric cases, where morphine gives the relief for which opium often increases the need, owing to the irritant action of some of its constituents. Opium is often preferred to morphine in cases of diabetes, where prolonged administration is required. In such cases the soporific action is not that which is sought, and so opium is preferable. A Dover's powder, also, is hardly to be surpassed in the early stages of a bad cold in the head or bronchitis. Ten grains taken at bedtime will often give sleep, cause free diaphoresis and quieten the entire nervous system in such cases. The tincture often known as " paregoric " is also largely used in bronchial conditions, and morphine shows no sign of displacing it in favour. Opium rather than morphine is also usually employed to relieve the pain of haemorrhoids or fissure of the rectum. This practice is, however, obsolescent.

The alkaloid thebaine may here be referred to, as it is not used separately in medicine. Crum Brown and Fraser of Edinburgh showed that, whilst thebaine acts like strychnine, methyl and ethyl thebaine act like curara, paralysing the terminals of motor nerves. At present we say of such a substance as thebaine, " it acts on the anterior cornua of grey matter in the spinal cord," but why on them and not elsewhere we do not know.


Under this heading must be considered acute poisoning by opium, and the chronic poisoning seen in those who eat or smoke the drug. Chronic opium poisoning by the taking of laudanum - as in the familiar case of De Quincey - need not be considered here, as the hypodermic injection of morphine has almost entirely supplanted it.

The acute poisoning presents a series of symptoms which are only with difficulty to be distinguished from those produced by alcohol, by cerebral haemorrhage and by several other morbid conditions. The differential diagnosis is of the highest importance, but very frequently time alone will furnish a sufficient criterion. The patient who has swallowed a toxic or lethal dose of laudanum, for instance, usually passes at once into the narcotic state, without any prior excitement. Intense drowsiness yields to sleep and coma which ends in death from failure of the respiration. This last is the cardinal fact in determining treatment. The comatose patient has a cold and clammy skin, livid lips and ear-tips - a grave sign - and " pin-point pupils." The heart's action is feeble, the pulse being small, irregular and often abnormally slow. The action on the circulation is largely secondary, however, to the all-important action of opium on the respiratory centre in the medulla oblongata. The centre is directly poisoned by the circulation through it of opium-containing blood, and the patient's breathing becomes progressively slower, shallower and more irregular until finally it ceases altogether.

In treating acute opium poisoning the first proceeding is to empty the stomach. For this purpose the best emetic is apomorphine, which may be injected subcutaneously in a dose of about one-tenth of a grain. But apomorphine is not always to be obtained, and even if it be administered it may fail, since the gastric wall is often paralysed in opium poisoning, so that no emetic can act. It is therefore better to wash out the stomach, and this should be done, if possible, with a solution containing about ten grains of salt to each ounce of water. This must be repeated at intervals of about half an hour, since some of the opium is excreted into the stomach after its absorption into the blood. If apomorphine is obtainable, both of these measures may be employed. Potassium permanganate decomposes morphine by oxidation, the action being facilitated by the addition of a small quantity of mineral acid to the solution. The physiological as well as the chemical antidotes must be employed. The chief of these are coffee or caffeine and atropine. A pint of hot strong coffee may be introduced into the rectum, and caffeine in large doses - ten or twenty grains of the carbonate - may be given by the mouth. A twentieth, even a tenth of a grain of atropine sulphate should be injected subcutaneously, the drug being a direct stimulant of the respiratory centre. Every means must be taken to keep the patient awake. He must be walked about, have smelling salts constantly applied to the nose, or be stimulated by the faradic battery. But the final resort in cases of opium poisoning is artificial respiration, which should be persevered with as long as the heart continues to beat. It has, indeed, been asserted that, if relays of trained assistants are at hand, no one need die of opium poisoning, even if artificial respiration has to be continued for hours or days. (X.) Opium-eating. - Opium, like many other poisons, produces after a time a less effect if frequently administered as a medicine, so that the dose has to be constantly increased to produce the same result on those who take it habitually. When it is used to relieve pain or diarrhoea, if the dose be not taken at the usual time the symptoms of the disease recur with such violence that the remedy is speedily resorted to as the only means of relief, and thus the habit is exceedingly difficult to break off. Opiumeating is chiefly practised in Asia Minor, Persia and India. Opinions differ widely as to the injurious effect of the habit; the weight of evidence appears, however, to indicate that it is much more deleterious than opium-smoking.

The following statistics collected by Vincent Richards regarding Balasor in Orissa throw some light on the influence of this practice on the health. He estimates that i in every 12 or 14 of the population uses the drug, and that the habit is increasing. Of the 613 opium-eaters examined by him he found that the average age at which the habit was commenced was 20 to 26 years for men and 24 to 30 years for women. Of this number 143 had taken the drug for from 10 to 20 years, 62 for from 20 to 30 years and 38 for more than 30 years. The ma ority took their opium twice daily, morning and evening, the quantity taken varying from 2 to 46 grains daily, large doses being the exception, and the average 5 to 7 grains daily. The dose, when large, had been increased from the beginning; when small, there had usually been no increase at all. The causes which first led to the increase of the drug were disease, example and a belief in its aphrodisiac powers. The diseases for which it was chiefly taken were malarial fever, dysentery, diarrhoea, spitting of blood, rheumatism and elephantiasis. A number began to take it in the famine year, 1866, as it enabled them to exist on less food and mitigated their sufferings; others used it to enable them to undergo fatigue and to make long journeys. Richards concludes that the excessive use of opium by the agricultural classes, who are the chief consumers in Orissa, is very rare indeed. Its moderate use may be and is indulged in for years without producing any decided or appreciable ill effect except weakening the reproductive powers, the average number of the children of opium-eaters being 1.11 after II years of married life. It compares favourably as regards crime and insanity with intoxicating drinks, the inhabitants of Balasor being a particularly law-abiding race, and the insane forming only 0.0069% of the population. Dr W. Dymock of Bombay, speaking of western India, concurs in Richards's opinion regarding the moderate use of the drug. He believes that excessive indulgence in it is confined to a comparatively small number of the wealthier classes of the community. Dr Moore's experience of Rajputana strongly supports the same views. It seems probable that violent physical exercise may counteract in great measure the deleterious effect of opium and prevent it from retarding the respiration, and that in such cases the beneficial effects are obtained without the noxious results which would accrue from its use to those engaged in sedentary pursuits. There is no doubt that the spread of the practice is connected with the ban imposed in Mohammedan countries on the use of alcoholic beverages, and to some extent with the long religious fasts of the Buddhists, Hindus and Moslems, in which opium is used to allay hunger.

To break off the habit of opium-eating is exceedingly difficult, and can be effected only by actual external restraint, or the strongest effort of a powerful will, especially if the dose has been gradually increased.


This is chiefly practised by the inhabitants of China and the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and in countries where Chinese are largely employed. Opium-smoking began in China in the 17th century. Foreign opium was first imported by the Portuguese (early 18th century). In 1906 it was estimated of Chinese smoked opium, or 27% of adult males; but during1908-1910the consumption of opium is believed to have diminished by about one-third.

For smoking the Chinese use an extract of opium known as prepared opium or chandoo, and a cheaper preparation is made from 60% used opium known as " opium dross " and 40% native opium. This latter is chiefly used by the poorer classes.

The process of preparation is thus described by Hugh M'Callum, government analyst at Hong-Kong: " The opium is removed from its covering of leaves, &c., moistened with a little water, and allowed to stand for about fourteen hours; it is then divided into pans, 22 balls of opium and about to pints of water going to each pan; it is now boiled and stirred occasionally until a uniform mixture having the consistence of a thin paste is obtained. This operation takes from five to six hours. The paste is at once transferred to a larger pan and cold water added to about 3 gallons, covered and allowed to stand for from fourteen to fifteen hours. A bunch of ' tang sani ' (lamp-wick, the pith of Eriocaulon or Scirpus) is then inserted well into the mass, and the pan slightly canted, when a rich, clear, brown fluid is thus drawn off, and filtered through ' chi mui ' (paper made from bamboo fibre). The residue is removed to a calico filter and thoroughly washed with boiling water, the wash water being reboiled and used time after time. The last washing is done with pure water; these washings are used in the next day's boiling.

" The residues on the calico filters are transferred to a large one of the same material and well pressed. This insoluble residue, called ` nai chai ' (opium dirt), is the perquisite of the head boiling coolie, who finds a ready market for it in Canton, where it is used for adulterating, or rather in manufacturing, the moist inferior kinds of prepared opium. The filtrate or opium solution is concentrated by evaporation at the boiling point, with occasional stirring until of a proper consistence, the time required being from three to four hours; it is then removed from the fire and stirred with great vigour till cold, the cooling being accelerated by coolies with large fans. When quite cold it is taken to the hong and kept there for some months before it is considered in prime condition for smoking. As thus prepared it has the consistence of a thin treacly extract, and is called boiled or prepared opium. In this state it is largely exported from China to America, Australia, &c., being carefully sealed up in small pots having the name of the maker (i.e. hong) on each.

" The Chinese recognize the following grades of opium: (I) ' raw opium,' as imported from India; (2) ' prepared opium,' opium made as above; (3) ' opium dross,' the scrapings from the opium pipe; this is reboiled and manufactured as a second-class prepared opium; a Chinese doctor stated lately at a coroner's inquest on a case of poisoning that it was more poisonous than the ordinary prepared opium; (4) ' nai chai ' (opium dirt), the insoluble residue left on exhausting the raw opium thoroughly with water. The opium is sent every day from the hong (i.e. shop or firm) to the boiling-house, the previous day's boiling being then returned to the hong. The average quantity boiled each day is from six to eight chests of Patna opium, this being the only kind used." By this process of preparation a considerable portion of the narcotine, caoutchouc, resin, oil or fatty and insoluble matters are removed, and the prolonged boiling, evaporating and baking over a naked fire tend to lessen the amount of alkaloids present in the extract. The only alkaloids likely to remain in the prepared opium, and capable of producing well-marked physiological results, are morphine, codeine and narceine. Morphine, in the pure state, can be sublimed, but codeine and narceine are said not to give a sublimate. Even if sublimed in smoking opium, morphine would, in M'Callum's opinion, probably be deposited in the pipe before it reached the mouth of the smoker. The bitter taste of morphine is not noticeable when smoking opium, and it is therefore possible that the pleasure derived from smoking the drug is due to some product formed during combustion. This supposition is rendered probable by the fact that the opiums most prized by smokers are not those containing most morphine, and that the quality is judged by the amount of soluble matter in the opium, by its tenacity or " touch," and by peculiarities of aroma - the Indian opium, especially the Patna kind, bearing much the same relation to the Chinese and Persian drug that champagne does to y in ordinaire. Opiumsmoking is thus described by Theo. Sampson of Canton: " The smoker, lying on his side, with his face towards the tray and his head resting on a high hard pillow (sometimes made of earthenware, but more frequently of bamboo covered with leather), takes the pipe in his hand; with the other hand he takes a dipper and puts the sharp end of it into the opium, which is of a treacly consistency. Twisting it round and round he gets a large drop of the fluid to adhere to the dipper; still twisting it round to prevent it falling he brings the drop over the flame of the lamp, and twirling it round and round he roasts it; all this is done with acquired dexterity. The opium must not be burnt or made too dry, but roasted gently till it looks like burnt worsted; every now and then he takes it away from the flame and rolls it (still on the end of the dipper) on the flat surface of the bowl. When it is roasted and rolled to his satisfaction he gently heats the centre of the bowl, where there is a small orifice; then he quickly thrusts the end of the dipper into the orifice, twirls it round smartly and withdraws it; if this is properly done, the opium (now about the size of a grain of hemp-seed or a little larger) is left adhering to the bowl immediately over the orifice. It is now ready for smoking.

" The smoker assumes a comfortable attitude (lying down of course) at a proper distance from the lamp. He now puts the stem to his lips, and holds the bowl over the lamp. The heat causes the opium to frizzle, and the smoker takes three or four long inhalations, all the time using the dipper to bring every particle of the opium to the orifice as it burns away, but not taking his lips from the end of the stem, or the opium pellet from the lamp till all is finished. Then he uses the flattened end of the dipper to scrape away any little residue there may be left around the orifice, and proceeds to prepare another pipe. The preparations occupy from five to ten minutes, and the actual smoking about thirty seconds. The smoke is swallowed, and is exhaled through both the mouth and the nose." u f 4 FIG. 3. - Opium-smoking Apparatus. a, pipe; b, dipper; c, lamp.

So far as can be gathered from the conflicting statements published on the subject, opium-smoking may be regarded much in the same light as the use of alcoholic stimulants. To the great majority of smokers who use it moderately it appears to act as a stimulant, and to enable them to undergo great fatigue and to go for a considerable time with little or no food. According to the reports on the subject, when the smoker has plenty of active work it appears to be no more injurious than smoking tobacco. When carried to excess it becomes an inveterate habit; but this happens chiefly in individuals of weak will-power, who would just as easily become the victims of intoxicating drinks, and who are practically moral imbeciles, often addicted also to other forms of depravity. The effect in bad cases is to cause loss of appetite, a leaden pallor of the skin, and a degree of leanness so excessive as to make its victims appear like living skeletons. All inclination for exertion becomes gradually lost, business is neglected, and certain ruin to the smoker follows. There can be no doubt that the use of the drug is opposed by all thinking Chinese who are not pecuniarily interested in the opium trade or cultivation, for several reasons, among which may be mentioned the drain of bullion from the country, the decrease of population, the liability to famine through the cultivation of opium where cereals should be grown, and the corruption of state officials.

See Pharmaceutical Journ. [1] xi. p. 269, xiv. p. 395; [ 2 ] x. p. 434; Impey, Report on Malwa Opium (Bombay, 1848); Report on Trade of Hankow (1869); New Remedies (1876), p. 229; Pharmacographia (1879), p. 42; Journal of the Society of Arts (1882); The Friend of China (1883), &c. Report of the Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States Opium Commission (1908), App. xxiii. and xxiv.; Allen, Commercial Organic Analysis, vol. iii. pt. iv. p. 355; Frank Browne, Report on Opium (Hong-Kong, 1908); G. Watt, Dictionary of the Economic Products of India (1892); H. Moissan, Comptes rendus, of the 5th of December 1892, iv. p. 33; Lalande, Archives de medicine navale, t. 1. (1890); International Opium Commission (1909), vol. ii. " Report of the Delegations "; Squire, Companion to the British Pharmacopeia (1908) (18th edition). (E. M. H.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also opium



Opium n. (genitive Opiums, plural Opiate)

  1. opium
    • Karl Marx, "Zur Kritik der Hegel'schen Rechts-Philosophie," in "Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher," February, 1844
      Die Religion ist der Seufzer der bedrängten Kreatur, das Gemüth einer herzlosen Welt, wie sie der Geist geistloser Zustände ist. Sie ist das Opium des Volks."

Simple English

File:Field of
A field of opium poppies in Burma

Opium is a narcotic resin produced from opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). It contains up to 16% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the black market. The resin also has non-narcotic alkaloids in it. Some of these are papaverine and noscapine. Opium is also known as afeem, and was called "God's Own Medicine" during its time of greatest popularity.[1] It can be yellow or dark brown, and has a bitter taste.[2]

Opium has been used and produced for thousands of years. During this time, the source plant has been changed and adapted. The methods of processing the plant, and extracting substance and consuming it also have. The medicinal use of poppies for pain relief dates back to ancient times, but widespread use in patent medicines or as a recreational drug has occurred only in the last few centuries. Drug prohibition laws in most countries have been introduced only during the last century. Today the opium crop is worth in excess of $400 million legally and $7 billion illegally, after processing. Opium has caused many wars in China, such as the Opium Wars, because of heavy addiction to the drug. People who become addicted to opium become dull, lazy, and even sleepy.

Afghanistan, Opium and the Taliban

U.N. drug control officers said the Taliban religious militia has nearly wiped out opium production in Afghanistan -- once the world's largest producer -- since banning poppy cultivation last summer.


  1. Donna Young, April 15, 2006, AJHP News
  2. "opium — FactMonster.com". factmonster.com. http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0836733.html. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 

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