The plant is an erect, herbaceous annual, varying much in the colour of its flowers, as well as in the shape of the fruit and colour of the seeds. All parts of the plant, but particularly the walls of the capsules, or seed-vessels, contain a system of laticiferous vessels, filled with a white latex. The flowers vary in colour from pure white to reddish purple. In the wild plant, they are pale lilac with a purple spot at the base of each petal. In England, mostly in Lincolnshire, a variety with pale flowers and whitish seeds is cultivated medicinally for the sake of the capsules. Belgium has usually supplied a proportion of the Poppy Heads used in this country, though those used for fomentations are mostly of home growth.
The capsules vary much in shape and size. They are usually hemispherical, but depressed at the top, where the many-rayed stigma occupies the centre; they have a swollen ring below where the capsule joins the stalk. Some varieties are ovoid, others again depressed both at summit and base. The small kidney-shaped seeds, minute and very numerous, are attached to lateral projections from the inner walls of the capsule and vary in colour from whitish to slate. The heads are of a pale glaucous green when young. As they mature and ripen they change to a yellowish brown, and are then cut from the stem if the dried poppy heads are required. Opium is extracted from the poppy heads before they have ripened, and from Poppies grown in the East, those grown in Europe yielding but little of the drug. When the petals have fallen from the flowers, incisions are made in the wall of the unripe capsules, care being taken not to penetrate to the interior. The exuded juice, partially dried, is collected by scraping - the scrapings being formed eventually into cakes, which are wrapped in poppy leaves or paper and further dried in the sun, the white milky juice darkening during the drying.
The first poppies cultivated in this country for the purpose of extracting opium were grown by Mr. John Ball, of Williton, in 1794, but the production of opium has not become a home industry, as was expected at the time. The cultivation of the Opium Poppy has also been experimentally carried out in France and Germany, but the expense of the necessary labour and land has been too great to render it profitable. The British Pharmacopoeia directs that opium, when used officially, must be obtained from Asia Minor. A certain amount is cultivated in Macedonia and exported from Salonica, and much of that cultivated in Persia is also sent to European markets. Chinese Opium is entirely consumed in the country and is not exported.
Opium Poppy Growing and Harvesting:
According to Martin Booth's 1999 book, Opium: A History (https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Opium%3A+A+History), opium production from the plant varies depending on growing conditions, taking more than 2.5 acres of poppies to produce about 20 pounds of raw opium. Afghanistan is the world capital of opium. When scratched, the pod of the plant (see photo) produces a milky latex called opium. This latex contains a variety of opioids, including codeine, morphine, thebaine, and papaverine.
These active drugs are either derived unchanged from the plant (ie, morphine, codeine, and papaverine) or are altered natural derivatives; are "semisynthetic" opioids (ie, heroin, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone); or are fully synthetic compounds (ie, methadone, meperidine, fentanyl, and diphenoxylate). All work by interacting with receptors in the central nervous system, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system. These effects are primarily a result of mu receptor agonism, but also from delta and kappa subtypes.
In overdose, these medications cause unconsciousness and respiratory arrest leading to death. Cardiac symptoms can include palpitations, shortness of breath, syncope, bradycardia, hypotension, dysrhythmias, and cardiac arrest.
There is an antidote, naloxone, that can be given for overdose. It binds to the opioid receptors, blocking their effects and reversing the central nervous system and respiratory depression. It can also precipitate opioid withdrawal, so naloxone should be administered carefully.
True or False: Eating Poppy Seed Pastries Can Lead To a Positive Drug Test for Heroin?
Drug testing is becoming more and more common in our society, and false positive results can have a devastating impact on an innocent person's career. Have you heard rumors that eating poppy seed pastries can cause positive test results for heroin? It's true! Opiates (such as heroine, morphine, and codeine) can be found in urine samples for as long as two days after eating poppy seed-containing foods, and for up to 60 hours if large quantities of the seeds are consumed. Hair analysis is a more accurate, but less commonly used method of testing for recent heroin use: in a hair analysis, a false positive test would not occur after eating poppy seed pastries.
Research Article August 2020
Opium Alkaloids in Harvested and Thermally Processed Poppy Seeds:
The opium alkaloids (morphine, codeine, thebaine, noscapine, and papaverine) have been detected on poppy seeds; they are widely used by the food industry for decoration and flavor but can introduce opium alkaloids into the food chain. Of the opium alkaloids found on poppy seeds, morphine, and codeine are the most pharmacologically active and have been detected in biological matrices collected in workplace and roadside drug testing resulting in positive opiate results. The European Food Safety Authority introduced an acute reference dose of 10 ug morphine/kg of body weight as a safe level for morphine in food products. In this work, it was found that in harvested poppy seeds, and thermally processed poppy seeds (with and without a food matrix), if used in normal levels would not exceed the recommended acute reference dose. It was also shown that the levels of all alkaloids reduce when thermally processed, in comparison with harvested, untreated seeds.
Opium Poppy History
The Origins of Opium:
The earliest reference to opium growth and use is in 3,400 B.C. when the opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia). The Sumerians referred to it as Hul Gil, the "joy plant." The Sumerians soon passed it on to the Assyrians, who in turn passed it on to the Egyptians. As people learned of the power of opium, demand for it increased. Many countries began to grow and process opium to expand its availability and to decrease its cost. Its cultivation spread along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean through Asia and finally to China where it was the catalyst for the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s.
From Seed to Sale:
Today, heroin's long journey to drug addicts begins with the planting of opium poppy seeds. Opium is grown mainly by impoverished farmers on small plots in remote regions of the world. It flourishes in dry, warm climates and the vast majority of opium poppies are grown in a narrow, 4,500-mile stretch of mountains extending across central Asia from Turkey through Pakistan and Burma. Recently, opium has been grown in Latin America, notably Colombia and Mexico. The farmer takes his crop of opium to the nearest village where he will sell it to the dealer who offers him the best price.
The Silk Road:
The Silk Road is an 18th-century term for a series of interconnected routes that ran from Europe to China. These trade routes developed between the empires of Persia and Syria on the Mediterranean coast and the Indian kingdoms of the East. By the late Middle Ages the routes extended from Italy in the West to China in the East and to Scandinavia in the North. Opium was one of the products traded along the Silk Road.
In order to fund their ever-increasing desire for Chinese produced tea, Britain, through their control of the East India Company, began smuggling Indian opium to China. This resulted in a soaring addiction rate among the Chinese and led to the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s. Subsequent Chinese immigration to work on the railroads and the gold rush brought opium smoking to America.
Opium dens were established as sites to buy and sell opium. Dens were commonly found in China, Southeast Asia, the United States, and parts of Europe. Chinese immigrants came to the United States in the Mid-1800s to work for railroads and the Gold Rush and brought the habit of opium smoking with them. Opium dens sprang up in San Francisco's Chinatown and spread eastward to New York.
Opium - An Ancient Medicine:
Opium was known to ancient Greek and Roman physicians as a powerful pain reliever. It was also used to induce sleep and to give relief to the bowels. Opium was even thought to protect the user from being poisoned. Its pleasurable effects were also noted. The trading and production of opium spread from the Mediterranean to China by the 15th century. Opium has many derivatives, including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin. Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thome.
In 1803, morphine, the principal ingredient in opium, was extracted from opium resin. Morphine is ten times more powerful than processed opium, quantity for quantity. Hailed as a miracle drug, it was widely prescribed by physicians in the mid-1800s. Morphine is one of the most effective drugs known for the relief of severe pain and remains the standard against which new pain relievers are measured.
Codeine, another component of opium, is medically prescribed for the relief of moderate pain and cough suppression. It has less pain-killing ability than morphine and is usually taken orally. As a cough suppressant, it is found in a number of liquid preparations.
First synthesized from morphine in 1874, the Bayer Company of Germany introduced heroin for medical use in 1898. Physicians remained unaware of its addiction potential for years, but by 1903, heroin abuse had risen to alarming levels in the United States. All use of heroin was made illegal by federal law in 1924.
Oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, a third component of opium. Like morphine, it is used for pain relief. Oxycodone is taken orally. When abused, the tablets are crushed and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected.
1869 article - Cultivation of Opium in the United States:
Continued attention is given to the production of this drug in the United States. Recent tests go far to show that the quality of the opium raised in several sections of the country is good. The editor of the American Journal of Pharmacy has made an assay of some laudanum made from Virginia opium, and finds that it equals in strength fair Turkey opium.
1950 Report: The Suppression of Poppy Cultivation in the United States:
The United States, however, has no present intention of entering the field of poppy cultivation. On the contrary, this field was abandoned as a matter of national policy, and commercial poppy cultivation suppressed even during the war: for it is the conviction of the narcotics authorities of the United States that only by striking at the source can the opium evil finally be overcome. It may be that in some countries the poppy can be grown for seed alone, or for seed and alkaloids, without the danger of narcotic addiction spreading among the popu lation. Certain it is, however, that, in some countries, opium is produced far in excess of legitimate needs. It is the belief of the United States that the only way to conquer the opium evil is by restricting, and, where necessary, completely abolishing, the cultivation of the opium poppy plant itself. The narcotics authorities of the United States have expressed their satisfaction that the United States can contribute, by its own sacrifice and example, to this end.
1992 Department of Justice Report:
The opium poppy has been cultivated in China and mainland Southeast Asia for more than two centuries. The mature plant produces a highly addictive latex which may be refined to produce opium for smoking, or treated with certain chemicals to produce morphine or heroin. This report focuses on the necessary steps in this process-taking a mature but raw opium poppy plant and synthesizing it's contents into finished heroin. This report gives a brief history of the opium poppy plant and analyzes the plant in botanical detail. Cultivation methods are described, to include field selection, land clearing and soil preparation. It further explains the method of extracting morphine from opium, as the operation typically occurs in clandestine jungle laboratories in Southeast Asia. Finally, the intricate procedures used by heroin chemists to convert morphine to heroin are depicted step-by-step. A glossary of terms related to opium poppy cultivation and heroin processing in Southeast Asia is included for reference.
90% of Opium comes from Afghanistan:
Afghanistan has been the world's primary source of opium for over two decades, often providing 90% or more of the global supply. The country's conditions are optimal for the cultivation of poppies: the hardy, drought-resistant plants can thrive despite Afghanistan's harsh climate. Because the country suffers from weak government and infrastructure and mired in perpetual conflict, opium can often be cultivated without legal interference. Warlords control various regions of the country, using massive proceeds from opium to purchase weapons, expand their militias and cement their grip. It is also vastly more profitable than other crops and therefore appealing to impoverished farmers.
Poppy Cultivation and Potential Opium Production in Afghanistan:
|Hectares under cultivation (thousands)
|Potential pure production (metric tons)
Pakistan: The Golden Crescent: Source of Heroin (1985 Article):
Pakistan has become a key country for the heroin trade; it is not only a producer but a conduit as well. Up until recently opium and heroin were smuggled to the West from Iran and Afghanistan, two countries where production and processing as well as transshipment took place. But since 1979 these activities have been disrupted by the revolution in Iran and the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has, to some extent, filled the gap - receiving their supplies to add to locally produced stocks. A small but increasing amount is consumed locally (authorities are concerned about a fast growing local addiction problem) but most supplies are smuggled out either directly or via India or Sri Lanka. A significant amount of heroin that reaches U.S. shores - between 40 and 60 percent, according to reliable sources - comes from the Golden Crescent, most of it from Pakistan.
Socio-political effects of U.S. fentanyl use on the opium and heroin economy in Mexico. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in two poppy-producing regions of Mexico - one in the State of Nayarit, one in the State of Guerrero - this report shows that the dramatic upswing in fentanyl use in the United States is generating a parallel and rapid collapse in the price offered for raw opium in rural Mexico. This is already having very serious social and economic effects in the country's poorest rural regions. Yet, this economic emergency - and the outstanding fact that growing drugs is no longer profitable - might open up a chance of wrestling Mexico's opium-growing regions from the control of Drug Trafficking Organizations
Despite being considered the world's third largest producer of opium and heroin, little is known about poppy cultivation in Mexico. Yet, the opioid crisis remains a huge problem across much of the U.S. and Mexico and COVID-19 appears to have made matters worse: Recent lockdowns have disrupted the flow of synthetic opioids and have ostensibly increased production of heroin in Mexico.
Poppies have been farmed in Turkey for centuries, the seeds used for both human and animal food, and the poppy resin as opium for medicinal use. As far back as the early nineteenth century, Turkish opium was being shipped to England and China. When Turkey ratified the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1967, it opted not to apply for a transitional exemption to gradually phase out opium use and production. Instead, along with India, it was given the status of a 'traditional opium producing country', granting a right to continue production for use in essential medicines, on the condition that it was managed under a state-controlled license system. Opium is often perceived as an illicit commodity, but in fact around half of global production is entirely legal, licensed for the manufacture of a range of pharmaceutical, opiate-based painkillers. This production for the legal medical market is not associated with any of the crime, violence, and insecurity linked to the parallel illicit market for non-medical use. Within the non-medical market, a relatively small population of dependent users consume a disproportionate amount of the total opium produced. In Switzerland, for example, it has been estimated that the 10% heaviest users consume about 50% of the imported heroin. Use by a proportion of this group - and the production and supply to meet it - transitioned from the illicit to the licit market through the introduction of a heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) model in 1994, something a number of other countries have also explored.
The main opium cultivating areas are divided into 12 divisions including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan while in other parts minor cultivation is also practiced. The opium poppy is distributed in the temperate and subtropical regions of the old world extending from 60degree North West Soviet Union whereas the southern limit reach almost the tropics. India is the largest opium producing and exporting country in the world. Globally the licit opium poppy cultivation is under the strict control of Central Bureau of Narcotics with its headquarter at Vienna, Austria.
The South African leg:
Opium played a fascinating role in southern African colonial politics, conﬂict and social change - from the poppy fields of Mozambique to the early days of Johannesburg city. The reach of European empires and of Indian Ocean trade networks drew southern Africa into the global politics of opium around the turn of the twentieth century. Between the late 1880s and early 1920s and there was a shift from economies of supply to regimes of control. The colonies of Mozambique and South Africa were caught up in these big changes. After 1910, quantities of opium in circulation remained relatively small. Yet, international opium conferences held in the Hague in 1912 and in 1914 identified the Union of South Africa as a critical region for controlling 'dangerous drugs'. Bordered by two oceans, with multiple ports and a growing pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, the Union was instructed to embrace the protocols being drafted. Criminalised internationally in 1925. The South African government also set about putting rigorous controls in place on the Mozambican border. The drive to control 'dangerous drugs' therefore also bolstered its capacity for territorial sovereignty.
Very Labor Intensive:
Despite a raging opioid epidemic in the country, fields of home-grown opium are rare. The sheriff in the North Carolina case said the discovery was only the second time the plant had been found growing in the United States this year, WBTV reported. There are two big reasons for this lack of agricultural entrepreneurship: effective U.S. law enforcement and the ease of importing heroin made from opium poppies grown elsewhere, said H. Douglas Wankel, a former assistant administrator and chief of operations in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Growing enough poppies to make heroin in the United States doesn't make much economic sense compared to importing the drug from more lawless regions, Wankel said. Compared to marijuana, opium poppies are more conspicuous and harder to process, and carry much harsher penalties for growing.
Mexican police confirm drug cartel video showing dead bodies shot, kicked, and burned - While drug cartels in Mexico often make videos of captured gang members to threaten rivals, footage released Tuesday showing the abuse of dead bodies is especially grisly.
Wednesday February 21, 2024 - foxnews.com
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Mexican police confirm grisly gang video showing bodies kicked, burned and shot - The two gangs have been fighting for years to control the remote mountain towns in Guerrero, where mining, logging and opium poppy production are the main industries. It is not unusual for drug ...
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Mexican police confirm drug cartel video showing dead bodies shot, kicked, and burned - The two gangs have been fighting for years to control the remote mountain towns in Guerrero, where mining, logging and opium poppy production are the main industries. It is not unusual for drug ...
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