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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.
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. 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. Worldwide production in 2006 was 6610 metric tons - 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.
Ancient use (4200 BCE - 800 CE)
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 Numerous finds of Papaver somniferum or Papaver setigerum from Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have also been reported. The first known cultivation of opium poppies was in Mesopotamia, approximately 3400 BCE, by Sumerians who called the plant Hul Gil, the "joy plant." 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. 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. 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. Opium was also mentioned after the Persian conquest of Assyria and Babylonia in the sixth century BCE
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Dioscorides' five-volume De Materia Medica, the precursor of pharmacopoeias, remained in use (with some improvements in Arabic versions) from the 1st to 16th centuries and described opium, and the wide range of uses prevalent in the ancient world. Somewhere between 400 and 1200 CE, Arab traders introduced opium to China. 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. 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. The Persian physician Ab? ‘Al? 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. ?erafeddin Sabuncuo?lu used opium in the fourteenth century Ottoman Empire to treat migraine headaches, sciatica, and other painful ailments.
Reintroduction to Western medicine
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. 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.
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." 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. 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. 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, 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." 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. During this time of popularity, users called opium "God's Own Medicine."
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.
Modern production and usage
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.
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.
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. On November 30, 1998, the standard cutoff was increased to 2000 nanograms (two micrograms) per milliliter. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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). 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).
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. Heroin was also found to be twice as potent as morphine in surgical anesthesia.
Morphine is converted into heroin by a simple chemical reaction with acetic anhydride, followed by a varying degree of purification. 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.
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. 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. One study of British heroin addicts found a 12-fold excess mortality ratio (1.8% of the group dying per year). Most heroin deaths result not from overdose per se, but combination with other depressant drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.
The smoking of opium does not involve the burning 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. 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.
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. Taken thirty minutes prior to meals, it significantly slows intestinal motility, giving the intestines greater time to absorb fluid in the stool.
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