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Opiumnarcotic drug that is obtained from the unripe seedpods of the opium poppy Papaver somniferuma plant of the family Papaveraceae. See poppy. The slit seedpods exude a milky latex that coagulates and changes colour, turning into a gumlike brown mass upon exposure to air. This raw opium may be ground into a powder, sold as lumps, cakes, or bricks, or Opium poppy powder further to obtain derivatives such as morphinecodeineand heroin. Opium and the drugs obtained from it are called opiates. The pharmacologically active principles of opium reside in its alkaloidsthe most important of which, morphineconstitutes about 10 percent by weight of raw opium.
Other active alkaloids such as papaverine and codeine are present in smaller proportions. Opium alkaloids are of two types, depending on chemical structure and action. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine, which represent one type, act upon the central nervous system and are analgesicnarcotic, and potentially addicting compounds.
Papaverine, noscapine formerly called narcotineand most of the other opium alkaloids act only to relax involuntary smooth muscles. Opiates e. Their principal action is to relieve or suppress pain. The drugs also alleviate anxiety ; induce relaxation, drowsiness, and sedation; and may impart a state of euphoria or other enhanced mood. Opiates also have important physiological effects: they slow respiration and heartbeat, suppress the cough reflex, and relax the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.
Opiates are addictive drugs; they produce a physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms that can only be assuaged by continued use of the drug. With chronic use, the body develops a tolerance to opiates, so that progressively larger doses Opium poppy powder needed to achieve the same effect.
The higher opiates—heroin and morphine—are more addictive than opium or codeine. Opiates are classified as narcotics because they relieve pain, induce stupor and sleepand produce addiction. The habitual use of opium produces physical and mental deterioration and shortens life. An acute overdose of opium causes respiratory depression which can be fatal. Opium was for many centuries the principal painkiller known to medicine and was used in various forms and under various names. Laudanumfor example, was an alcoholic tincture dilute solution of opium that was used in European medical practice as an analgesic and sedative.
Physicians relied on paregoric, a camphorated solution of opium, to treat diarrhea by relaxing the gastrointestinal tract. The narcotic effects of opium are mainly attributable to morphine, which was first isolated about In it was discovered that treating morphine with acetic anhydride yields heroinwhich is four to eight times as potent as morphine in both its pain-killing properties and its addictive potential.
The other alkaloids naturally present in opium Opium poppy powder much weaker; codeine, for example, is only Opium poppy powder as potent as morphine and is used mainly for cough relief. Since the late s, various synthetic drugs have been developed that possess the analgesic properties of morphine and heroin. These drugs, which include meperidine Demerolmethadonelevorphonal, and many others, are known as synthetic opioids.
They have largely replaced morphine and heroin in the treatment of severe pain. Opiates achieve their effect on the brain because their structure closely resembles that of certain molecules called endorphinswhich are naturally produced in the body. Endorphins suppress pain and enhance mood by occupying certain receptor sites on specific Opium poppy powder nerve cells that are involved in the transmission of nervous impulses.
Opiate alkaloids are able to occupy the same receptor sites, thereby mimicking the effects of endorphins in suppressing the transmission of pain impulses within the nervous system. The opium poppy was native to what is now Turkey.
Ancient Assyrian herb lists and medical texts refer to both the opium poppy plant and opium, and in the 1st century ce the Greek physician Dioscorides described opium in his treatise De materia medicawhich was the leading Western text on pharmacology for centuries.
The growth of poppies for their opium content spread slowly eastward from Mesopotamia and Greece. Apparently, opium was unknown in either India or China in ancient times, and knowledge of the opium poppy first Opium poppy powder China about the 7th century.
At first, opium was taken in the form of pills or was added to beverages. The oral intake of raw opium as a medicine does not appear to have produced widespread addictions in ancient Asian societies. Opium smoking began only after the early Europeans in North America discovered the Indian practice of smoking tobacco in pipes.
Some smokers began to mix opium Opium poppy powder tobacco in their pipes, and smoking gradually became the preferred method of taking opium. Opium smoking was introduced into China from Java in the 17th century and spread rapidly.
The Chinese authorities reacted by prohibiting the sale of opium, but these edicts were largely ignored. During the 18th century European traders found in China an expanding and profitable market for the drug, and the opium trade enabled them to acquire Opium poppy powder goods such as silk and tea without having to spend precious gold and silver. As a result of their defeat in the Opium Warsthe Chinese were compelled to legalize the importation of opium in Opium addiction remained a problem in Chinese society until the Communists came to power in and eradicated the practice.
In the West, opium came into wide use as a painkiller in the 18th century, and opium, laudanum, and paregoric were active ingredients in many patent medicines. These drugs were freely available without legal or medical restrictions, and the many cases of addiction they caused did not arouse undue social concern. Morphine was first isolated from opium aboutand the hypodermic syringe was invented at mid-century. Their use in combination on hundreds of thousands of sick or wounded American soldiers in the Civil War produced unprecedented s of addicts.
Heroin, which was Opium poppy powder synthesized inproved even more addictive than morphine, and by the early decades of the 20th century the legal use of opiates of any kind had been curtailed. The traffic in such drugs then went underground, leading to a vast illicit trade in heroin. Although opium trade routes extending from the southeastern and southwestern regions of Asia closed temporarily during World War IIcultivation of the plant continued and even prospered in areas of China.
In Burma Myanmarlocated along the southwestern border of China, gained independence and soon after emerged as a major producer of the drug, paralleling the suppression of opium cultivation in China. Smoking of opium declined in the 20th century, partly because it had been supplanted by more-potent derivatives and partly because of determined efforts in China and other developing countries to eradicate it.
In the late s, drug-control programs headed by the United Nations and by individual governments contributed to a reduction in opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle. However, the region subsequently became a major producer of other illicit substances, including methamphetamines.
Also in the late s, opium poppy cultivation increased in Afghanistanand that country became a leading producer of heroin.
As cultivation of the plant continued to soar there in the early s, drug trade in the region became associated with terrorism and lawlessness. Near the end of the decade, however, increased law enforcement efforts and the outbreak of a poppy fungal disease caused poppy cultivation and opium production in Afghanistan to drop ificantly.
The declines were seen as an opportunity to persuade local farmers to cultivate legal crops. Because of Internet pharmacies that sold the drug Opium poppy powder, however, global opium trafficking remained high. The legitimate use of certain opiate alkaloids in medicine has compounded issues surrounding the cultivation of opium poppies. Today P. However, und cultivation of opium plants remains a serious legal offense in many countries, including the United Statessince the substance is the starting product for heroin, which has millions of addicts worldwide.
Introduction Opium alkaloids Physiological actions of opiates History of opium. Additional Info. Print print Print. Table Of Contents. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources Opium poppy powder you have any questions. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires. External Websites. Alcohol and Drug Foundation - Opium Drugs.
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Full Article. on This Topic. The opiates are unrivalled in their ability to relieve pain. Opium is the dried milky exudate obtained from the unripe Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Opium is the dried milky exudate obtained from the unripe seed pods of Opium poppy powder opium poppy plant Papaver somniferumwhich grows naturally throughout most of Turkey. Of the 20…. Poppyany of several flowering plants of the poppy family Papaveraceaeespecially species of the genus Papaver. Most poppies are found in the Northern Hemisphere, and several species of poppies are cultivated as garden ornamentals.
The opium question, the direct cause of the first Sino-British clash in the 19th century, began in the late 18th century as the British attempted to counterbalance Opium poppy powder unfavourable China trade with traffic in Indian opium. After monopolizing the opium trade inthe East India…. History at your fingertips. up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox!
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The Cultivation of the Opium Poppy in India