Papaver somniferum – Opium poppy



Besides hemp, opium poppy apparently is the oldest and most common psychoactive plant. It grows about one meter in height, has white or violet, on the base dark violet flowers and belongs to the family of the papaveracea. It is grown in most regions of Asia, recently also in South America, in order to obtain the manifold usable poppy seeds, opium and morphine for medical purposes, the decorative dried seed pods, but most important, as raw material for the illegal production of heroin.

As a medicinal and inebriating plant the opium poppy can look back at an at least 6000 years old history. It was well-known in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, India, China and Greece because of its outstanding effect against cough, severe diarrhea and most of all as a strong analgesic. Besides that it was already early highly valued as an inebriating drug and aphrodisiac.

Use: In order to obtain raw opium, the seed pods are several times scarified shortly after the petals fall off. The outpouring latex dries up and is scraped off the next morning. One seed pod produces around 0.05 grams of opium. This raw opium is cleaned through multiple cooking in distilled water and straining and is either smoked in this form or diluted with alcohol to an opium-tincture. Opium is occasionally also eaten. In India this is until today the most dominant method of intake.

Active constituents: The main alkaloid is morphine, besides there are codeine, thebaine and papaverine as well as some other rather irrelevant secondary alkaloids.

Effects: Consumption of opium leads to a distinct sense of pleasure, which is mostly experienced in a relaxed dreamy state. Perception of space and time can be distorted under the influence of opium. Occurring daydreams can lead to the experience of impressive and colorful scenes.

The sexual excitability increases. In the orient there were and are often pills available, that are composed of mixtures of opium, cannabis and other plants and used as erotising stimulants. Erotic scenes are often also the content of the opium-visions.

The opium-effects are throughout described as much more colorful and interesting than the effect of pure morphine. Opium is and was medically used as a pain reliever and as a reliable medicine for heavy diarrheas, as they occur for example in dysentery. Codeine is still found in many cough-syrups.

Side effects: Frequent consumption of opium can lead to addiction. As a result of long-term use a habituation of the opium-effect develops, so that the dose must be constantly increased to obtain the same effects. Overdoses of opiates can lead to death by respiratory standstill.

Chronic opium consumers often lose weight, since opium paralyses the movement of the intestines and thus acts appetite suppressing. Despite the resulting poor nutritional state, opium-consumers not rarely reach an age just as old as their opium-abstinent contemporaries.

The opinions about damages that go beyond are mixed. Reports from the first 30 years of the last century, that were focused most of all on smoking of opium in China, described often, that massive consumption of opium with negative consequences were rather exceptions. Other authors represent the contrary and claim that the chronic use of opium leads to serious physical and mental signs of deterioration.

The English author Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859) describes in his book „ Confessions of an English Opium-Eater “ his euphoric experiences under the influence of opium, but also his suffering due to his addiction.

Suppliers: The cultivation of opium poppy as ornamental plant is not permitted any more in many countries, even though this plant can still be occasionally found in gardens. Poppy seeds may mostly, for example for culinary purposes, still be possessed and traded. In some countries, which are known for their rather unreasonable hysterical drug policies, like some emirates, even a poppy-seed roll in your baggage, with some totally unfertile seeds after baking on top, might let you end up for quite a while in prison. Well, we aren’t forced to spend our holidays in places with mad regulations, right?

Miscellaneous: Opium, morphine and various preparations and relatives of these substances fall under the various narcotic drugs laws. Several of these can be prescribed by a licensed physician, like for example opium-tincture and morphine. It is thus advised against the intake of not medically prescribed opiates.

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