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opium

opium, substance derived by collecting and drying the milky juice in the unripe seed pods of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. Opium varies in color from yellow to dark brown and has a characteristic odor and a bitter taste. Its chief active principle is the alkaloid morphine, a narcotic. Other constituents are the alkaloids codeine, papaverine, and noscapine (narcotine); heroin is synthesized from morphine. Morphine, heroin, and codeine are addicting drugs; papaverine and noscapine are not. A tincture of opium is called laudanum; paregoric is a mixture of opium, alcohol, and camphor.

Effects and Addictive Nature

Opium and its various constituents exert effects upon the body ranging from analgesia, or insensitivity to pain, to narcosis, or depressed physiological activity leading to stupor. Opium users describe experiencing a feeling of calm and well-being. Opium addicts in otherwise good physical and mental health whose drug needs are met are thought to experience no debilitating physiological effects from their addiction, although there is some evidence that immune function is compromised. However, their preoccupation with the drug and its acquisition can lead to malnutrition and general poor self-care and an increased risk of disease.

Medical Uses

Opium was commonly used as an analgesic until the development of morphine. Morphine continues to be prescribed for relief of severe pain, but fears of its addictive potential have limited its use. Laudanum was used in the 1800s to promote sleep and alleviate pain; codeine suppresses coughing; paregoric stops diarrhea. Medicinal opiates were freely available in the United States and Europe in the 19th cent., and the number of addicted people surged as a result.

History

The medicinal properties of opium have been known from the earliest times, and it was used as a narcotic in Sumerian and European cultures at least as early as 4000 BC The drug was introduced into India by the Muslims and its use spread to China. Early in the 19th cent., against Chinese prohibitions, British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain, an act that set the stage for the Opium Wars. Chinese emigrants to the United States, who were employed to build the transcontinental railroad, brought the opium-smoking habit to the West Coast.

During the 19th cent. opium was grown in the United States as well as imported. Besides indiscriminate medical use, opiates were available in the United States in myriad tonics and patent medicines, and smoking in opium dens was unhindered, resulting in an epidemic of opiate addiction by the late 1800s. The generous use of morphine in treating wounded soldiers during the Civil War also produced many addicts.

Importation of opium by Chinese nationals was prohibited in 1887; in 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act required accurate labeling of patent medicines. The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 taxed and regulated the sale of narcotics and prohibited giving maintenance doses to addicts who made no effort to recover, leading to the arrest of some physicians and the closing of maintenance-treatment clinics. Since then, numerous laws attempting to regulate importation, availability, use, and treatment have been passed, and the concern with opium addiction per se has largely been replaced by concern with heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and other illegal drugs.

Large quantities of opium are still grown, some for legitimate use, on opium poppy farms in Southwest Asia (primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan), Southeast Asia (the "Golden Triangle," primarily in Myanmar), and Latin America (primarily Colombia); the vast majority of the world's opium is currently produced in Afghanistan. The opium gum may be crudely refined and smoked (e.g., "brown sugar" ) or converted to morphine and heroin. Growers usually make more for opium than for other crops, and the cultivation and refining employ hundreds of thousands of people, but the real profits go to the drug traffickers. It is estimated that the street price for heroin is 153 to 183 times that of the opium bought from the farmer. Despite laws and agreements to control its use, a worldwide illicit opium traffic persists.

See also drug addiction and drug abuse.

Bibliography

See publications of the Drugs & Crime Data Center and Clearinghouse, the Bureau of Justice Statistics Clearinghouse, and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information; M. Booth, Opium: A History (1996); P.-A. Chouvy, Opium: Uncovering the Politics of the Poppy (2010).

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Opium

Opium

Opium is a drug that is derived from the poppy plant. Its pain-relieving qualities have been known since ancient times. Opium was used by prehistoric inhabitants of Switzerland, by Egyptians by about 1590 b.c., and by ancient Greek physicians around 400 b.c.. Opium was introduced to India and China around 600 b.c. by Arabian traders.

A Popular Drug

From the 1600s through the 1800s opium was one of the principal drugs in Western medicine. It was particularly promoted by the English physician Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) to relieve pain, induce sleep, and treat strangulated bowel obstruction. Sydenham developed laudanum, a preparation of opium dissolved in sherry and flavored with saffron.

Opium was an ingredient of many of the popular patent medicines. While some of these products provided good medical treatment, many more were nothing more than opium-or alcohol-based solutions that numbed the body. Opium was also widely prescribed to consumptives (people suffering from tuberculosis) to relieve coughing and promote a sense of well-being. Opium use became widespread among artists and writers involved in the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century. In the days before ether was used as an anesthesia, opium was used to deaden the pain during surgery. Massive doses were usually the norm.

Opium Derivatives

Morphine, the main active ingredient in opium, was discovered in 1805 by German chemist Friedrich Serturner (1783-1841). Codeine, another pain-killer derived from opium, was discovered a few years later by French chemist Pierre-Jean Robiquet (1780-1840). After the hypodermic syringe was invented in 1853, Alexander Wood (1817-1884) of Edinburgh, Scotland, developed a method of injecting morphine to relieve neuralgia (a severe sharp pain along the course of a nerve).

Morphine injection for relief of pain was enthusiastically embraced by the medical community. Doctors even taught their patients how to inject themselves. Morphine injection greatly increased the amounts of the drug that users were taking as compared with laudanum.

Gradually, the addictive properties of opium and morphine were recognized. Regular use resulted in dependency, and stopping use caused uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The recognition of these addictive effects and the discovery of ether as an anesthetic greatly reduced the use of opium. Despite the addictive qualities of morphine, it continues to be used. When prescribed properly and carefully it remains a very important and effective pain reliever. Ironically, the search for a morphine substitute that would kill pain but be nonaddictive resulted in the discovery of heroin.

[See also Anesthesia ]

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Opium

OPIUM

papaver somniferum, the air-dried, milky juice obtained from incisions to the unripe seed pods of the poppy plant.

Opium is a powerful analgesic of mixed blessings. It is one of the richest sources of many useful medicinal alkaloids, such as codeine, morphine, and papaverine. But repeated and extensive use of it and its derivativesmost notoriously heroinare known to cause severe addiction.

The poppy plant grows wild just about everywhere in the plains of Asia and the Mediterranean, and by the late medieval period there are references to opium use in various parts of the Middle East, as both a medicine and a narcotic. The escalation of opium production and trade seems to have been closely linked to burgeoning European colonial and commercial interests in Asia, and official international controls of opium trafficking, cultivation, and consumption are a twentieth-century phenomenon. The United States spearheaded this effort with an international conference convened by President Theodore Roosevelt in Singapore in 1909. This was followed by a series of conventions held in The Hague, culminating in the convention of 1912.

Despite international initiatives undertaken during the twentieth century, Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey still produce a substantial portion of the world's opium supply. In Afghanistan in particular, precarious living conditions and geopolitical developments caused its production of opium to skyrocket during the 1990s, making it the world's largest opium producer. As of 2003, most of the drug of Afghan origin is reportedly distributed northward through the neighboring countries of Central Asia, with Europe as its final destination.


Bibliography


Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues. "The World Geopolitics of Drugs: 1998/1999 Annual Report." April 2000. Available from <http://www.ogd.org/2000>.


karen pinto
updated by ana torres-garcia

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opium

opium a reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy and used illicitly as a narcotic; opium addiction is a strong theme in 19th century literature. In 1822 Thomas De Quincey had published his autobiographical Confessions of an Opium Eater. From the 17th century, the word has also been in figurative use.

Recorded from late Middle English, the word comes via Latin from Greek opion ‘poppy juice’, from opos ‘juice’, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘water’.
opium of the people something regarded as inducing a false and unrealistic sense of contentment among people. The term originated as a translation of German Opium des Volks, used by Karl Marx.
Opium Wars two wars involving China regarding the question of commercial rights. That between Britain and China (1839–42) followed China's attempt to prohibit the illegal importation of opium from British India into China. The second, involving Britain and France against China (1856–60), followed Chinese restrictions on foreign trade. Defeat of the Chinese resulted in the ceding of Hong Kong to Britain and the opening of five ‘treaty ports’ to traders.

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opium

o·pi·um / ˈōpēəm/ • n. a reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, used as a narcotic and in medicine as an analgesic. PHRASES: the opium of the people (or masses) see the opiate of the masses at opiate. ORIGIN: late Middle English: via Latin from Greek opion ‘poppy juice,’ from opos ‘juice,’ from an Indo-European root meaning ‘water.’

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opium

opium Drug derived from the unripe seed-pods of the opium poppy. Its components and derivatives have been used as narcotics and analgesics for many centuries. It produces drowsiness and euphoria and reduces pain. Morphine and codeine are opium derivatives.

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opium

opium (oh-piŭm) n. an extract from the poppy Papaver somniferum, which contains a number of alkaloids, principally morphine (which accounts for its analgesic, euphoric, and addictive effects). See also opiate.

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opium

opium XIV (anglicized †opie). — L. — Gr. ópion, dim. of opós vegetable juice.

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opium

opium •columbium •erbium, terbium, ytterbium •scandium • compendium •palladium, radium, stadium, vanadium •medium, tedium •cryptosporidium, cymbidium, idiom, iridium, rubidium •indium •exordium, Gordium, rutherfordium •odeum, odium, plasmodium, podium, sodium •allium, gallium, pallium, thallium, valium •berkelium, epithelium, helium, nobelium, Sealyham •beryllium, cilium, psyllium, trillium •linoleum, petroleum •thulium • cadmium •epithalamium, prothalamium •gelsemium, premium •chromium, encomium •holmium • fermium •biennium, millennium •cranium, geranium, germanium, Herculaneum, titanium, uranium •helenium, proscenium, rhenium, ruthenium, selenium •actinium, aluminium, condominium, delphinium •ammonium, euphonium, harmonium, pandemonium, pelargonium, plutonium, polonium, zirconium •neptunium •europium, opium •aquarium, armamentarium, barium, caldarium, cinerarium, columbarium, dolphinarium, frigidarium, herbarium, honorarium, planetarium, rosarium, sanitarium, solarium, sudarium, tepidarium, terrarium, vivarium •atrium •delirium, Miriam •equilibrium, Librium •yttrium •auditorium, ciborium, conservatorium, crematorium, emporium, moratorium, sanatorium, scriptorium, sudatorium, vomitorium •opprobrium •cerium, imperium, magisterium •curium, tellurium •potassium • axiom • calcium •francium • lawrencium • americium •Latium, solatium •lutetium, technetium •Byzantium • strontium • consortium •protium • promethium • lithium •alluvium, effluvium •requiem • colloquium • gymnasium •caesium (US cesium), magnesium, trapezium •Elysium • symposium

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