First of all, it seems like the information about opium cultivation and preparation and other chemistry came from a 1993 Department of Justice publication that was sponsored by DEA. That booklet is, I understand, out-of-print, and will not be reprinted. It is an amazing document because itessentially tells you all you really need to know about opium poppies, opium, and the basic procedures for extraction and conversion of morphine to heroin. I can also tell you that a USDA scientist named Mary Acock, was involved in the larger project that produced the book. It's my opinion that, had any of those government dudes thought about it for more than a few minutes, they never would havepublished it in the first place. It is simply too full of "dangerous" information. - Jim Hogshire
Opium is the name for the latex produced within the seed pods of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. The plant is believed to have evolved from a wild strain, Papaver setigerum, which grows in coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea. Through centuries of cultivation and breeding for opium, the speciessomniferum evolved. Today, P. somniferum is the only species of Papaver used to produce opium. Opium contains morphine, codeine, noscapine, papaverine, and thebaine. All but thebaine are used clinically as analgesics to reduce pain without a loss of consciousness. Thebaine is without analgesic effect but is of great pharmaceutical value due to its use in the production of semisynthetic opioidmorphine analogues such as oxycodone (Percodan), dihydromorphenone (Dilaudid), and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
The psychological effects of opium may have been known to the ancient Sumerians (circa 4,000 B.C.) whose symbol for poppy was hul, "joy" and gil, "plant". The plant was known in Europe at least 4,000 years ago as evidenced by fossil remains of poppy seed cake and poppy pods found in theNeolithic Swiss Lake Dwellings. Opium was probably consumed by the ancient Egyptians and was known to the Greeks as well. Our word opium is derived from the Greek. The poppy is also referred to in Homer's works the Iliad and the Odyssey (850 B.C.). Hippocrates (460-357 B.C.) prescribed drinking the juice of the white poppy mixed with the seed of nettle.
The opium poppy probably reached China about thefourth century A.D. through Arab traders who advocated its use for medicinal purposes. In Chinese literature, there are earlier references to its use. The noted Chinese surgeon Hua To of the Three Kingdoms (220-264 A.D.) used opium preparations and Cannabis indica for his patients to swallow before undergoing major surgery.
The beginning of widespread opium use in China is associated with theintroduction of tobacco smoking in pipes by Dutch from Java in the 17th century. The Chinese mixed Indian opium with the tobacco, two products that were being traded by the Dutch. This practice was adopted throughout the region and predictably resulted in increased opium smoking, both with and without tobacco.
By the late-1700s the British East India Company controlled the prime Indian poppygrowing regions and dominated the Asian opium trade. By 1800, they had a monopoly on opium; controlling supply and setting prices.
In 1805, the German pharmacist Friedrich W. Serturner isolated and described the principal alkaloid and powerful active ingredient in opium. He named it morphium after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. We know it today as morphine. This event was soon followed by thediscovery of other alkaloids of opium: codeine in 1832 and papaverine in 1848. By the 1850s these pure alkaloids, rather than the earlier crude opium preparations, were being commonly prescribed for the relief of pain, cough, and diarrhea. This period also saw the invention and introduction of the hypodermic syringe.
By the late eighteenth century opium was being heavily used in China as a...