[top]Introduction to Opium
The Opium Poppy
; also known as the Breadseed Poppy
) is arguably the most infamous flower in the history of mankind. Used medically and recreationally since as early as 4200 B.C., Somniferum
has been the cause and subject of wars, subjugation, and economic tribulations and prosperities. Used medicinally, it provides the most effective treatments for pain known.
Opium (lachryma papaveris
, or "poppy
tears" from the Latin) is the dried latex
obtained from the opium poppy, and includes codeine, morphine, and non-narcotic alkaloids, such as thebaine, papervine, and noscapine.
There are several different ways opium can be consumed. The most traditional and safest way is smoking opium, because the intensity of the effects can be carefully controlled. The user should choose this method when he has a new batch of opium.
[top]Ways of Administration
One of the most common methods of opium use involves making tea infused with its alkaloids. Ingesting opium in this manner is particularly dangerous because the composition of the alkaloids can vary widely from batch to batch. There are several documented cases of death from overdose in opium tea drinkers. Accordingly, it is important to sip the tea slowly, rather than drink it quickly. The user should consume a small amount of the tea and then wait at least half and hour to gauge its potency before consuming the rest of it. Even then, there is some risk of overdose, as the full effect of the tea may not be felt for two hours. The tea is extremely bitter due to the alkaloids, but there are methods of improving the taste. It is impossible to judge the potency of the tea based on appearance alone. When making the tea from poppy straw, the user must take care not to allow the temperature to exceed 70 degrees Celsius (although some sources indicate 80 degrees), as the heat will begin to degrade the morphine. This is also the reason that opium must be vaporized instead of "smoked." <[disproved by experimentation and chemical research; consider omission]
Many people make the mistake of underestimating the addictive potential of opium tea. Daily use can trigger dependence within a short amount of time, and withdrawal
symptoms are often reported to be worse than those associated with synthetic opioids due to the fact that the full spectrum of alkaloids is present in opium tea. Even when used once in every three days, the user may become dependent; thus, it is recommended that the user limit his or her consumption of opium tea to once per week at the most.
The typical dose for oral use of opium latex is between 1/3 and 1/2 of a gram, although an opiate-naïve user may wish to start with a lower dose. A dose exceeding two grams may be fatal if taken orally.
'Smoking' opium is the safest method of ingestion. Opium is not really smoked, but vaporized like base cocaine
. There are several ways of smoking. One can use a typical hash
pipe for the process described below.
The procedure is as follows:
- Lay the opium on the pipe screen in some ashes.
- Put the pipe at your mouth and heat up the opium with a flame, but don't let the flame touch the opium!
- Slowly inhale the smoke if it starts to bubble. Refined opium will melt away without leaving much residue. Raw opium will leave a hard residue. The smoke is rather sweet.
- Wait some time to evaluate the strength of the opium.
- Repeat the process at will.
The dosage of opium is the size of a match head (0.1 grams). This is the safest way of using, because one has relative control over the dosage and intensity of effects. As with any drug
, it is possible to overdose on opium.
Another method of "smoking" opium, which was once very common in certain parts of Asia, involves a specific type of opium known as chandu
. Although the practice of the traditional Chinese opium ritual eventually spread to the US and some European countries, most notably France, most Westerners are unfamiliar with chandu
is opium which has been refined to a consistency suitable for vaporization in traditional Chinese pipes. There are several consistencies, ranging from liquid to solid. In addition, different varieties of chandu
are distinguished by their morphine content.
Enjoying opium in this manner requires a specialized set of paraphernalia, often termed a "layout." At its most basic, the layout consists of a pipe (with bowl), lamp, needles, and a tray. Besides these items, the opium smoker may use a variety of devices for cleaning the pipe and bowls. A small box for collecting the "dross," or morphine-laden residue, is also useful, as are special scissors for trimming the wick of the lamp. When using liquid chandu
, the smoker must also possess a small wok which can be placed on top of the lamp. The traditional opium pipe is often made of bamboo, which is preferred by many smokers due to its ability to absorb opium residue over time; this phenomenon is known as "seasoning." However, other materials are sometimes used, such as ivory or wood, as their porous nature also allows for proper seasoning. About two-thirds of the way down the length of the pipe rests the saddle, which is generally made of metal. The bowl, which is essential to the function of the pipe, is placed on top of the saddle with a small piece of cloth used to create an air-tight seal between the saddle and the bowl. Although they are commonly referred to as "spirit lamps," lamps made for the purpose of smoking opium burn oil, not alcohol
, and many different types of oil may be used for this purpose.
In order to "smoke," or rather vaporize, the chandu
properly, the smoker must follow a specific procedure. If the smoker is using liquid chandu
, he or she must first place it in a small wok on top of the lit lamp. Once the chandu
is reduced to a treacle, the smoker must spin it with the tips of the needles over the lamp and then roll it against the surface of the bowl while holding the bowl over the lamp. After the chandu
has been rolled into a conical "pill," the smoker must plunge it into the small hole in the center of the bowl. Once the pipe has been thus prepared, the smoker must continue to hold the bowl of the pipe over the lamp while he or she sucks on the mouthpiece of the pipe and inhales the vaporized chandu
. During this stage of the ritual, the smoker must listen for the characteristic bubbling noise of the pill being vaporized.
Due to the design of the pipe, most of the morphine in the opium is deposited in the saddle and the bowl of the pipe, which results in a much less stupefying effect than that experienced when ingesting opium via other methods. The smoker who enjoys a morphine kick may add dross to his or her chandu
during the process of "chefing" it. Because dross is essentially morphine, those who enjoy opium in this manner run a higher risk of physical addiction
than those who enjoy "virgin" chandu
. It is more difficult to overdose on opium used in this manner as opposed to oral methods due to the more rapid onset of effects.
[top]Effects of Opium
all produce similar effects. At low doses they make highly effective painkillers, and at medium to high doses produce euphoria
, nausea, sleepiness, “a warm fuzzy” feeling and a sense of peace. They are extremely addictive both mentally and physically and withdrawals from the drugs
can be quite intense with effects including but not limited to suicidal thoughts, cold sweats, uncontrollable diarrhea, immobility, sleeplessness, abnormal body temperature and heartbeat and severe depression. Once addicted, these substances are extremely hard to get away from and are capable of ruining ones live completely. The severity of all addictions depend a lot upon the vulnerability of the user towards addiction in general. But none the less this class of substances are extremely dangerous in this regard and should be treated with the utmost respect.
[top]Combinations with Opium
[top]Different Uses for Opium
The above methods are the only safe uses of opium. One cannot inject opium because of the impurities. It is also not recommended to take opium rectally. Because it contains plant material, it could cause a mold or something similar. Insufflation
of opium is not possible. It will clog up the nose without being much absorbed.
If one wishes one of these practices, knowledge of chemistry and further refinement of the product is necessary.
Opium also isn't a topological analgesic, so it won't work when applied to the skin.
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[top]Pharmacology of Opium
[top]The dangers of Opium
1. Respiratory Depression
The first and foremost danger of opium use is CNS (central nervous system) depression. Symptoms of CNS depression include breathing problems, heart failure, stroke, and even death. Use of other CNS depressants
along with opium dramatically increases the likelihood of experiencing CNS depression. CNS depressants which are often combined with opium include alcohol, benzodiazapines, barbiturates (although most of these have been banned), and other types of "downers
." When abused, even a single large dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death. All opioids (both illicit and licit) have the potential to cause breathing to slow dangerously (and even stop) when taken in high doses.
When someone uses opium for an extended period of time, increasingly large doses of the drug will be needed in order to achieve the same effect. This is called tolerance, and it often leads to abuse.
The respiratory depression that is sometimes caused by large doses of opium can lead to hypoxia, a condition in which a decreased amount of oxygen is able to reach the brain. Hypoxia can have short and long term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage. Researchers are currently studying the long-term effects of opioids on the brain to see if hypoxia in opioid
abusers can lead to brain damage and other irreversible issues.
When a person experiences withdrawal symptoms upon stopping opium use, he/she is considered dependent. Dependence can be treated with medically-assisted detox. Dependence often leads to abuse.
5. Pain Sensitivity
Long-term use of opium may actually make pain worse. This is called opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Over time, opioids may make the body more sensitive to pain, especially in the absence of the drug but sometimes even when the drug is present in the system.
When a person compulsively seeks out and uses the drug over and over even though he/she knows it is damaging his/her health and life, he/she is said to be addicted. Addiction frequently occurs as a consequnce of opium use. Addiction is related to, though not not identical to, dependence. It is possible to be addicted to opium without being physically dependent on it, although this is unlikely. Opium addicts often need to attend treatment in order to recover, and addiction can lead to many problems in a person’s life including financial, personal, family, professional, and legal issues.
Withdrawal is an inevitable consequence of dependence/addiction. When a person becomes dependent on opium and suddenly stops taking them, he/she will experience withdrawal symptoms. While opium withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be extremely uncomfortable and painful, often leading to relapse.
In many cases, long-term opium abuse can lead to depression or exacerbate pre-existing depression in the individual. A person will often become apathetic toward the other aspects of his/her life following prolonged opium use. During opium withdrawal, depression can be severe and can lead to relapse.
A person should never drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of opium. Opium users may also be in danger if they are not somewhere they know well or with people whom they can trust.
14. Gastrointestinal Problems
Constipation and nausea are two of the most common side effects
of opium use and abuse. Gastrointestinal problems can form as a result, often if the individual has been taking the drug for a prolonged amount of time. Opium-induced constipation can often be very painful.
15. Pregnancy Problems
Babies who are born to women who have been using or abusing opium during pregnancy can experience neonatal abstinence syndrome which is similar to adult opium withdrawal, only more dangerous. It is characterized by excessive crying, seizures, poor feeding leading to slow weight gain, sleep problems, sweating, and vomiting. Babies with this syndrome need extra care.
The primary danger inherent in opium use is addiction. Within a short time, daily use of opium can lead to physical as well as psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, bone and muscle pain, fever, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Morphine, only one of dozens of alkaloids found in opium, is highly addictive in itself. When combined with other alkaloids such as codeine, thebaine, and papaverine, the potent cocktail of active ingredients in opium can produce withdrawal symptoms known as PAWS which have been known to last as long as six months to a year.
Because of its role as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, opium can impair sexual response and its effects can be especially problematic for male users. Constipation is another well known consequence of opium use. When combined with other depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, opium use can lead to respiratory depression (RD) and death. Due to the synergistic depressant effects of alcohol and certain alkaloids, drinking laudanum (tincture of opium in alcohol) is a very dangerous method of ingestion and is not recommended.
It must be noted, though, that the effects of “smoking” opium via the traditional Chinese method are somewhat different than those of other methods of ingestion due to the design of the pipe, which concentrates morphine in the form of dross which is deposited in the bowl and saddle of the pipe. Because most of the morphine is removed from the opium, it has been known to have a much less stupefying effect when consumed in this manner. However, the ritual of consuming opium in this manner can be very psychologically addictive in itself, as was noted by Emily Hahn in The Big Smoke.
In his 2012 memoir, Opium Fiend, Steven Martin chronicles his attempt to relinquish his thirty-pipe a day habit:
“What had woken me up were...gut-wrenching pains that...propelled me toward the bathroom. Depth bombs of shit began exploding out of me. Then all hell broke loose. My arms and legs felt as though they were being pulled from their sockets. My guts bloated inside me, forcing up vomit followed by gobs of greenish bile. Even my testicles ached with nauseating pain.”
In addition to the physical symptoms of prolonged opium use, users have also been known .to experience psychological distress. Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an Opium Eater), who consumed opium in the form of laudanum (a tincture of opium in alcohol), describes the terrifying dreams which eventually plagued him:
“I seemed every night descend, not metaphorically, but literally to descend, into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I could ever ascend.”
For many, if not most, people, the potential for addiction to opium far outweighs the potential creative and aesthetic benefits of its use. It is very dangerous to use opium in response to emotional pain, as using it for this purpose virtually guarantees addiction. Before deciding to use opium in any form, the individual must carefully assess his/her motivations for using the drug and his/her own potential for addiction. Those who have a history of addictive behavior are strongly advised not to use opium. Opium must be approached cautiously and respectfully, or not at all. As Jean Cocteau, a well-known opium smoker, noted, opium is a “decision to be taken.”
[top]Large Variation in Opiod Content - Overdose Risk
Even if you manage to avert the risks of addiction, and then it's only a matter of time, you still run the risk of overdose-- even if you have prior experience with poppies. The alkaloid
content: judged by the amounts of morphine, codeine, thebaine, and papaverine, can vary by extremely large amounts from plant to plant, pod to pod, and seed to seed. This means that if you normally consume 5g of plant material, and you get a batch that's 3x stronger than you are used to, you will actually be consuming an equivalent amount of opiates to 15g of plant material. Clearly this can be vary dangerous. Different batches can easily
have a 3x-6x variance OR MORE, a few week batches followed by a strong batch can spell disaster. For this reason, it is very important to know the strength of your tea.
The only way to effectively curb this problem is lab testing every time, but the cost of this service is exorbitant, and the time take to do it make it unfeasible. Instead, a safer (but not totally safe) way to dose poppy tea is to make a batch like you normally would. Instead of drinking the tea all at once, drink about 1/3 and wait 35 - 60 minutes so you get a good feeling of where the effects are. If you notice the tea is unusually bitter or strong, then drink less. Your taste and smell will be your only indicators of how powerful the tea, and this is only for experienced users. This is especially important if you are dosing yourself and no-one else is around to make sure you keep breathing. Accustomize yourself with the aroma and flavor of these alkaloids, and you will lower your risk level accordingly. New users and less experienced users should always use the safer course.
N.S. family warns of poppy seed tea dangers
Posted: Jun 4, 2012 1:23 PM ET
Last Updated: Jun 4, 2012 7:34 PM ET
A Nova Scotia family says they want to warn others about the dangers of poppy seed tea after their son died of a morphine overdose.
Cole Marchand, died on May 19 after drinking the tea, which contains different opiates in various concentrations.
"I'm pretty positive that this was the only time that he used this," his father, Darrell Marchand, told CBC News on Monday.
Marchand said his son battled depression and had used drugs in the past.
In May, the 19-year-old ordered a poppy seed pod from China.
People can grind the seed from the pod and turn it into tea.
"The poppy seed tea, once mixed, it basically is morphine," said Marchand.
"The problem is that every pod is different, and the potency is different, you never know where that limit is. If you take too much, then your respiratory system starts to break down, until you eventually go into a coma and you stop breathing."
Marchand believes his son first drank the tea on May 16.
"On Wednesday, he started complaining about an upset stomach and diarrhea, so I went to the drugstore and got him some medication to try to take that away. On Thursday, same thing."
On May 19, his father discovered Cole's body in his bedroom.
"The only thing that helps me is that I know my son didn't suffer."
The provincial medical examiner later ruled Cole Marchand had died of a morphine overdose.
Family warning others
Cole's mother, Tania Marchand, said they hope other families can learn from their tragedy.
"The internet – so dangerous, so dangerous. Kids can find anything that they want," she said. "He was compassionate and kind, and just a really nice kid. He had depression. So I want people to know to take it seriously. Do whatever you can for your kids."
The poppy seed pod purchased by Cole Marchand. Submitted by Carissa Marchand
Cole's sister, Carissa, said she knew her brother had ordered the poppy seed pod online. He sent her a photo of the pod, and she said she had no idea what it was.
"He was texting me a couple days before he died, saying 'Don't worry about me, it's all natural, it's not dangerous,'" she said.
"He was working out, and he was acting happy, so he definitely didn't mean to do something like this."
Carissa Marchand said she wants other teens to know what they read online isn't necessarily true. She said her brother researched the drug thoroughly before drinking it.
"I'm just kind of confused about what websites he was looking at, and where he was getting the idea that it wasn't addictive and it wasn't dangerous."
Darrell Marchand said he's haunted by his son's death, but is speaking out for a reason.
"If we can just help one other family from going through this pain, then his death will not be senseless," he said.
Illegal poppy crops are in quick expansion due to the increasing afghan crops which have diminished in 2001. In 2007, the estimated surfaces dedicated to poppy cultivation were estimated as 236 000 ha (193 000 in Afghanistan, 28 000 in Myanmar). Mexican and Colombian production of opium tend to decline in recent years (at the date of 2009).
In 2007, illicit production of opium in the world was estimated as 8900 tons, 92 % comming from Afghan poppies (with a yield up to 42.5 kg/ha) and 5 % from Myanmar.
In 2006, worldwide opium seizures were 384 tons (mostly in Iran), morphine seizures were 46 tons and heroin
seizures were 58 tons. 
Papaver Somniferum is a flowering annual, which means it grows and dies each year and must be replanted the following year. Poppies are relatively easy to grow and can grow in a variety of climates. They prefer soil that facilitates drainage so that the roots do not get too moist and produce rot or mold.
Poppy seeds require exposure to cool or cold temperatures before they will reliably sprout. As long as the winter temperatures in your area do not fall below 0ºF (-18ºC), you may plant the seeds in autumn, before the first frost. In colder climates or if convenient, plant the poppy seeds in spring, as soon as the ground thaws. Either way, your flowers will bloom in mid summer. To sow the seeds, simply sprinkle them on the surface of the plot where you wish them to grow. Water them in, and wait a couple days to a couple weeks to see sprouts.
Once the seeds sprout, you may want to thin them out so that each plant has around 8-10 inches of space surrounding it. Remember to weed
, Poppies do like companionship but not competition!
Do not use mulch as this can facilitate molding, and remember that they prefer lots of sunlight. Generally, poppies grow best when they receive at least six hours of sunlight a day. However, if you live in a hot climate, select a spot where the poppies will be protected during the intense heat of the afternoon. Also, Poppies do not like to be transplanted, so plant them where they will be grown. If growing in pots, be sure they are large enough to support the plant throughout its entire life cycle.
Water as necessary. Poppy plants may rot and die in soaked soils, so only water when the soil feels dry to a finger's depth. Typically, you only need to water the plants once every several days. Increase the amount of water per watering session in hot weather or if the poppies turn brown. Avoid watering plants during the early afternoon, especially in sunny weather. The heated water can burn the leaves, and it may evaporate before it can be absorbed.
Poppies will begin to bloom 10 to 12 weeks from the time you plant them. Their pedals will drop after about 48 to 72 hours. At the center of the flower is the seed pod, which will continue to grow for about two weeks following the pedals dropping. During this period, it's very important not to water them unless absolutely necessary. Once pods turn a bluish tint with a white film-like layer, they are ready for harvest.
Poppy seeds are usually sowed at the end of autumn in septentrional regions (like in India). Flowering occurs in april-may. Poppy capsules (between 6 and 8 per plant) form in may-june. A change in coloration, from bluish green to yellow) occurs as they maturate. The latex is collected at this moment. Capsules are carefully incised: the incision must not be too deep, otherwise the latex may flow inside the capsule. Capsules may be incised repeatedly. The white latex coagulates and becomes brown. The brown latex is scraped the day after the incision, and dried outdoors. After days of drying, residual humidity is around 10%. The product is wrought as 5 kg loafs.
The milky fluid that seeps from cuts in the unripe poppy seed pod has, since ancient times, been scraped off and air-dried to produce what is known as opium. The seedpod is first incised with a multi-bladed tool. This lets the opium “gum” ooze out. The semi-dried "gum" is harvested with a curved blade and then dried in the sun or under a fan. Tools used for this purpose are a razor blade, or a knife, or often in countries where opium poppy is traditionally grown, a tool made especially with multiple blades made to cut a millimeter or two into the flesh of the poppy. This is done when the pods begin to mature, about two weeks after the flower petals have fallen from the pods and they begin to grow and double, even triple in size or more. The green starts to change to a bluish tint and that is when pods are ready to be incised (or cut, or lanced). Morphine production is at it's highest early in maturation, while codeine is more prevalent the later into maturation the pod gets.
There are a large variety of alkaloids within the poppy sap (i.e. opium). These are why the poppy has remained such an important force in the development of human culture, medicine and civilization. The alkaloids are divided into two chemical classes; isoquinolines and phenanthrenes.
Isoquinolines don’t have any significant effect on the CNS and therefore are considered useless, so governments tend to leave them as unregulated compounds.
Phenanthrenes are considered the magic within the poppy. The most common (both in percentage weight and in extraction for use) phenanthrenes are Morphine
, and thebaine
. Conversely just about every government heavily regulates these alkaloids.
Many people, when seeing that morphine and codeine are both natural opiates
within opium, tend to underestimate the vastly important role that thebaine plays in semi-synthetic opioid production.
Thebaine is like an odd man out – while both morphine
have sedating effects and relax the body via the CNS, thebaine
does the opposite. It is a stimulant
, but once chemically altered is responsible for many narcotic
pain killers and products to wean one off of opiate
addiction such as oxycodone
to name but a few.
[top]Opiates and Opioids: What’s the difference?
is an often-misused term. Any drug which affects the opioid receptors is often incorrectly labeled an opiate, however definitionally the opiates refer to alkaloids extracted from poppy pods and their semi-synthetic counterparts which bind to the opioid receptors. Basically to be called an opiate one has to either be a natural opioid receptor agonist or start the refining process with one of the natural alkaloid molecules. Once chemically altered, such as the process of converting Morphine into Heroin, the drug is then labeled a semi-synthetic opiate or semi-synthetic opioid - the terms can be used interchangeably. This distinction can be a little confusing since Morphine, Codeine and Thebaine are all pure alkaloids that bind to the Opioid receptors, but Papaverine, which is also a naturally occurring alkaloid inside the poppy pod is not an opiate because it does not act on the opioid receptors.
So Natural Opiates are Morphine
Semi-synthetic opiates (or semi-synthetic opioids) are Heroin (diamorphine
is a blanket term used for any drug which binds to the opioid receptors in the CNS. Opioids include all of the opiates as well as any synthesized drug that attaches itself to the CNS or gastrointestinal tract opioid receptors.
Synthetic Opioids include Methadone
, and Loperamide
Opium, Opiates and Opioids
all produce similar effects. At low doses they make highly effective painkillers, and at medium to high doses produce euphoria, nausea, sleepiness, “a warm fuzzy” feeling and a sense of peace. They are extremely addictive both mentally and physically and withdrawals from the drugs can be quite intense with effects including but not limited to suicidal thoughts, cold sweats, uncontrollable diarrhea, immobility, sleeplessness, abnormal body temperature and heartbeat and severe depression.
[top]Legal status of Opium
[top]The latest Opium threads
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