Suppression

Opium

Category: Medicines - plant based

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

In naming this section Opium, it is important to realise I mean opium and nothing else.  Not codeine, not morphine or heroin, not poppy straw, or poppy seed tea or laudanum, not opioid analgesics, but Opium.

And the reason is that the dried latex of the seed pod of Papaver Somniferum contains a very specific set of chemicals in very specific quantities, available in no other part of the plant and in no other plant.  If you should accidentally include the seeds you will suffer from the effects of Thebaine, for example, much as you will if you use poppy straw.  I found  very few reports on EROWID or some of the drug forums of anyone who had experienced genuine opium.

There is no substitute for opium.

“I have always found it fascinating that only Opium gives me truly noticable CEV's [closed eye visuals] and occasionally OEV's [open eye visuals]. No other pill or compound in the Morphian universe does that for me. Sometimes the visions can be quite fantastic, especially when I am about to go to bed, and my mind is calm. I mainly see .. visions of nature, and my dreams seem to come very easily to me, while influenced.”

In this section I will be looking at some very very specific uses of opium.  These uses are the only ones where it should be used.  Opium is hugely addictive, but used only in the context I have described is an extremely useful plant/chemical.

Uses

Opium is not a recreational drug or even a drug for regular use, but it has some very specific uses.

Training for meditation

One of the very real difficulties that anyone practising contemplation and detachment has is to still the chattering mind.  To calm it to a point where it is still.  For some people it is also almost impossible to imagine what that state is like, they have been so used to have a head buzzing with thoughts that they are unable to even understand what stillness means.  And this has been one of the traditional uses of opium to help people understand this state.  It is used perhaps only once in very small doses to give those embarking on the route of contemplation some idea what it means to be ‘empty’.  The following description from a one off EROWID user sums it up nicely

The pipe went around and I took several hits. It didn't taste like hash, or smell like it. Expecting to get a hash high, I was surprised to discover that I wasn't getting 'High' at all. I commented that the hash was kind of weak and was informed that we were smoking Opium. They looked concerned, but I didn't care and told them so. As a matter of fact, I felt decidedly tranquil and sober at the same time. I  didn't notice any strong physical effects. No buzzing, no spinning or dry mouth.  Unlike the highs I was familiar with, Opium seemed to leave the thought process intact, as if at baseline. But it had a profound effect on emotion. It ELIMINATED it. I had no emotion at all. Not happy. Not sad. Not nervous. This lack of emotion left the mind clear. I was perfectly content to stare at the wall and be blank. Most drugs provide escape from reality by altering the perception of it. Opium provides escape from it by removing all concerns about it .

End of life care

For those who are dying, it appears that Hospice care is a far kinder and more humane way of helping a person than the hospital route.  In a study completed in Taiwan, they found that the use of natural opium in those with aggressive cancers that can cause horrendous pain, offered real benefits.  By using natural opium the person required less ‘aggressive procedures’, and in some senses was allowed to die in peace.  Life was not prolonged unnecessarily and the side effects often experienced from synthetic opioids and pharmaceuticals were not suffered.

HCC patients in hospice wards received more narcotic palliative care, underwent fewer aggressive procedures, and incurred lower costs than those in acute wards. Hospice care should be promoted as a viable option for terminally ill, elderly patients.PMID: 23790184

Help with premature ejaculation

Opium appears to help with premature ejaculation.  In a study completed in Iran, for example, of men in the age range 17-80 years with this problem, six hundred and forty-three patients (18.6% of the study group) always consumed opium to help their problems . [Ref PMID: 19732308].  Many considered themselves addicted, but this is difficult ground to tread on - what is their addiction - the ability to have sex without worries or the opium?

Sex magick and sexual stimulation

One of the strange  side effects of the opioids is ‘Prepulse inhibition’ (PPI) deficit or the  inhibition of PPI.  PPI inhibition results in people becoming super sensitive, their 5 senses do not dull down after a first arousal, but continue in a super heightened mode.  At the same time, opium in its entirety relaxes, removes pain temporarily and slightly sedates.  It is an anti-anxiety substance.   Furthermore, the combination of the opioids with papaverine has the overall effect of slowing down the need to ejaculate whilst prolonging the erection.  In woman the clitoris may be particularly ‘sensitive’.  In essence opium and sex magick and sexual stimulation seem to be made for one another.  The ideal in both activities is not to need a medicine like opium.  But if there are problems, opium does seem to be the answer.

Apparent Health issues

Opium has an apparently appalling health record.  It is linked to oesophegal cancer, bladder cancer, laryngeal cancer, plus other cancers.  But we need to think about what this link means.  Some of these cancers are caused by the toxins from smoke inhalation, opium smoking appears to have degenerated in some parts of the world to an illicit pastime which involves inhalation via tobacco and not an opium ‘pipe’. In addition to this many so called opium users do not use opium, they use poppy seeds or poppy straw extract, or the resin from other cheaper poppy plants.  
The other major link appears not to be something ever discussed in these [mostly Moslem] countries.  Opium is a great aid to sexual activity of all sorts.  But of course with increased sexual activity comes the risk of a vast range of very unpleasant viruses – many of which cause cancer.  In effect, it is not the opium which is causing the cancers, but the viruses, some of which are passed on by ‘men who have sex with men’.

In this cross-sectional study, 400 drug abusers referred to our … [Iranian] clinic were evaluated for high-risk sexual behavior. Approximately a quarter of patients (25.5%) had high-risk sexual behavior among which 47% had not used a condom in their last sexual contact. PMID:  22475984

Sources

Opium comes from the genus of plants called PapaverOpioids can be found in many plants and even animals and amphibians, but opium is derived from poppies.
Seventy to 100 different varieties of poppy exist and you can get an opium like extract from most of them. 
The opium like extract from a poppy can contain between 30 to 50 alkaloids or it may contain very few alkaloids – the type of poppy is thus absolutely key.
The attributes of each of these constituents is often widely different with different receptor bindings, so the effects of one type of poppy could be significantly different from another depending on the proportions of each of these alkaloids.  For example,  the Iranian Poppy (Papaver bracteatum), contains a great deal of codeine and large quantities of thebainePapaver setigerum is a source of morphine but it is somewhat less concentrated than in Papaver somniferum.
More examples.  Four native Papaver species of Iran, Papaver glaucum, Papaver tenuifolium, Papaver dubium and Papaver fugax, when tested for their morphine, codeine and thebaine content were found to be quite different. Papaver dubium and Papaver glaucum contained all of the three mentioned narcotic alkaloids, while morphine was not found in Papaver fugax, and Papaver tenuifolium was free from codeine.
Many other species of poppies do not contain morphine but may contain minor opium alkaloids like protopine, which are not narcotic.
So you have to know your poppy.  It is possible to poison yourself on the wrong kind of poppy.

Papaver somniferum


Papaver Somniferum

The Opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, is the main species of plant from which true opium  is extracted.  The opium poppy is, by definition, the root source of all opioids considered opiates.

  • Opium is the latex harvested by making incisions on the green capsules (seed pods).
  • Poppy straw is the dried mature plant except the seeds, harvested by mowing. 
  • Poppy seeds also contain opiates in varying quantities. It  has been  demonstrated that one could test positive for narcotics after consuming four poppy seed bagels. On one science TV show, subjects tested positive after eating only two poppy seed bagels!
  • Poppy seed oil extracted from the seeds contains even less opiates

I have NOT covered poppy seeds and poppy straw because the effects are very different from opium.  Poppy straw in smoking mixtures or 'teas' could kill you.

The name of Papaver somniferum is derived from the word Somnus.  In Greek mythology, Hypnos was the personification of sleep; whilst the Roman equivalent was known as Somnus.  The Latin botanical name  - somniferum - means "sleep-bringing".  

Papaver somniferum varieties

Papaver somniferum has many sub-species or varieties and cultivars.  Opium - to be genuine - should come from a cultivar that has not been genetically engineered or modified, or which is a mutant.  Most of the engineering and breeding that has taken place has been for the pharmaceutical industry so that they can produce codeine and the patented derivative pain killing drugs from morphine or thebaine, that they can sell. 

Thebaine, for example, is a minor constituent of the ‘normal’ opium poppy, but the ‘Tasmanian poppy’  - Papaver somniferum Norman  - has very large amounts of  thebaine.  This poppy mutant known as top1 (for 'thebaine oripavine poppy 1'), accumulates the morphine and codeine precursors thebaine and oripavine and does not complete their biosynthesis into morphine and codeine. The original discovery of top1 stimulated a re-structuring of the opioid industry in Tasmania, which grows over 40% of the world's licit opiates, in order to produce thebaine and oripavine efficiently from morphine-free poppy crops to provide precursors for analgesics and other pharmaceuticals.   Papaver somniferum  Przemko also has very low morphine content (less than one percent), with much higher concentrations of other alkaloids.

The opium poppy is also extremely pretty and has been bred for ornamental use too.  Colours of the flower vary widely, as do other physical characteristics such as number and shape of petals, number of flowers and fruits and number of seeds.  Papaver somniferum Paeoniflorum has lovely double flowers. Papaver somniferum Laciniatum has flowers which are highly double and look like a ruffly pompon.  But these are not opium poppies.  Papaver somniferum L. elite, contains 92% morphine, codeine, and thebaine in its latex alkaloids, whereas the condiment cultivar "Marianne" has only one-fifth this total, with the remaining alkaloids made up mostly of narcotoline and noscapine.

Opium comes only from the original Papaver Somniferum plant - not engineered, not hybridised, not mutated.

Growing the plant

At the time of writing this, Opium poppy cultivation for garden use in the United Kingdom, for example, does not require a licence.  In Italy small numbers of Papaver somniferum can be grown without special permits ‘for purely ornamental purposes’.  In general, even in the USA, the growing of opium poppies for personal use for ‘ornamental or food purposes [poppy seed]’ is not controlled.  In South American countries, opium poppies are technically illegal, but nonetheless appear in some nurseries as ornamentals. The Arab countries, however, are a lot stricter.

How it is produced

Harvesting

Poppies produce a decorative and highly distinctive seed capsule.  Opium is obtained by scoring the unripened seed capsule.  Incisions are made while the pods are still ‘raw’, with no more than a slight pale green tint, and must be shallow to avoid penetrating hollow inner chambers or loculi while cutting into the lactiferous vessels. The latex enters the seed pod if the cut goes too deep and ruins both the opium and the seeds.
The latex method can involve either vertical or horizontal slicing of the unripe pods with a two-to five-bladed knife with a guard developed specifically for this purpose to the depth of a fraction of a millimetre and scoring of the pods can be done up to five times.

In the Indian Subcontinent, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran, the special tool used to make the incisions is called a nushtar or "nishtar" and carries three or four blades three millimeters apart, which are scored upward along the pod.   In the Soviet Union, and some Eastern bloc countries, pods are typically scored horizontally. 

There is also a ‘spiral method’ which involves one long cut that spirals round the pod.  Here only one cut is made and only one collection of the latex.  An alternative method sometimes used in China in the past is to cut off the poppy heads, run a large needle through them, and collect the dried sap 24 to 48 hours later. 

If incisions are used, they are often made at intervals of two to three days in the late afternoon or early evening.  Each time the "poppy tears," which dry to a sticky brown resin, are collected the following morning. One acre harvested in this way can produce three to five kilograms of raw opium.

The milky latex which exudes from the seed capsule is collected and dried and it is this dried latex that we know as opium.

Suppliers and trading routes

A bit of history on the 'manufacturers' and past and present day trading routes is provided in the science section Opium supply routes.

   

Chemical constituents

Opium contains two main groups of alkaloids  - Phenanthrenes and Isoquinolines.

  • Phenanthrenes includes morphine, codeine, and thebaine are the main narcotic constituents.
  • Isoquinolines are not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act.  They include  papaverine and noscapine [also known as narcotine],  narcein, laudosantine, laudanine, cotarnine and hydrocotarnine

A detailed description of some of these can be found by following the links.

The alkaloids in opium have a quite marked effect upon each other and one cannot assume that opium behaves like morphine, for example, despite the fact that morphine is the prevalent alkaloid.  There appears to be a finely balanced set of opposing actions present, meaning some of the unfortunate effects of just morphine are cancelled out by the other alkaloids – it is often the isoquinolines that provide the balance.

There are two opposing actions in opium – sedation and relaxing and stimulating.  Whilst morphine, papaverine and codeine are largely sedating, thebaine and laudanine are stimulants, laudanine particularly so. 

There is also a flammatory and anti-inflammatory action, with morphine producing itching [pruritus] via histamine release and noscapine seemingly acting as an anti-inflammatory.

Whilst it is possible to be quite cold with morphine and get hypothermia, the overall effect of opium is diaphoresis – you can be quite sweaty and hot.  This is discussed in more detail shortly, but it should be clear from this that opium is a hugely complex balanced set of chemicals, take its chemicals separately and you have lost the balance.

Percentages

The percentage of each alkaloid in the ‘normal’ Papaver Somniferum is not constant and can vary depending on the climate, the soil, the country and region, the time of year planted and harvested, method of harvest, number of harvest from each pod  and the food it is given.

In the following table, however, I have brought together figures from a variety of sources to show the types of percentages which can be expected. 

 

 

Generic figure

Cultivated experimental

Commercial

1

Commercial

2

Home grown

morphine

20%

25%

17%

20%

14%

noscapine

5%

-

8%

7%

8%

codeine

2%

10%

5%

6%

3%

papaverine

2%

9.3%

1%

1%

2.4%

thebaine

1%

9.3%

1.5%

1%

2%

Overall:

  • Morphine is the most abundant alkaloid found in opium.  Morphine meconate is a major form of the alkaloid in the poppy, as is morphine pectinate, nitrate and some others.
  • Noscapine if the next most abundant
  • Codeine is the third most abundant.  In some unadulterated poppies, codeine can be as high as 3%-6% or so of the alkaloid content. It is usually present in raw opium as free alkaloid in addition to codeine meconate, codeine pectinate, and possibly other naturally occurring codeine salts.  Pseudocodeine and some other similar alkaloids are found in trace amounts in opium as well. 
  • Papaverine although only present in small amounts,  it is the Papaverine that helps with 'treatment of visceral spasm, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction'.  While it is found in opium, papaverine differs in both structure and pharmacological action from the analgesic (morphine-related) opium alkaloids
  • Thebaine  has some opioid receptor capability, but most of its action is antagonistic against the calming GABA and glycine receptors.  So what we may have here is a substance that at low doses helps to counteract some of the more severe sedative properties of the other constituents in opium, but at high doses is poisonous.  It is as if the plant is signalling that used in moderation it will help its user, but at high doses it will attack.  Thebaine in the true opium poppy represents a very minor constituent and as such these effects are only likely to really manifest in cultivars with a high thebaine content, in adulterated opium or in thebaine itself.  They may also manifest in severe overdoses of opium.
  • Others - I could find no figures on the other chemicals - narcein, laudosantine, laudanine, cotarnine and hydrocotarnine, despite the fact their action does seem to be key to the overall effect.

The importance of knowing the source

The importance of knowing your source was demonstrated by an experiment done in Taiwan, in which samples of crude opium seized by the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs of the Korean Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in 1967, were analysed and compared with a home grown sample [see table below].  The home grown sample is sample 2, the rest are the seized samples and were found to be ‘adulterated crude opium’.  They also found a sample in which there were apparently no alkaloids because they had already been extracted.  

Sample

Morphine

Codeine

Noscapine

Papaverine

1

10.8

3.5

4.5

1.2

2

15.2

4.2

7.1

1.3

3

8.3

2.9

3.7

0.6

4

6.7

2.1

3.2

0.5

5

9.3

3.3

3.5

0.8

Which cut?

The first cut is the most effective in producing morphine.  In one study in Taiwan, they measured the percentages after each cut, the table below shows the results from just two of the regions.  As you can see the results show that the codeine, thebaine, papaverine and noscapine content does not seem to vary in the first, second and third incision, but the morphine content decreases markedly in the two last collections as compared to collection after the first incision.

 

Alkaloidal content (percentage)

Region

Incision

Morphine

Codeine

Thebaine

Noscapine

Papaverine

 

1st

16.69

5.38

1.46

8.21

1.34

Seoul

2nd

12.59

6.02

1.37

6.38

1.13

 

3rd

13.33

5.82

1.00

7.91

1.19

 

1st

16.12

4.46

1.00

7.80

1.24

Taegu

2nd

11.80

4.49

1.22

7.31

1.25

 

3rd

11.05

3.87

1.42

7.39

1.10

Overall effect

The sum of the effects of all the alkaloids I have just described cannot be precisely determined because it will depend on the actual percentages in the opium you use, but if we do a very rough bringing together of the effects I have described for each main alkaloid, the following picture emerges.

Positive

Negative or neutral

General pain relief [analgesia]

Sedation and relaxation

Inhibition of the  reasoning system

Slowing of metabolic activity

Empathy, loving feelings, sociability

Curiosity, drive and ambition improved

Anticipation - ‘looking forward to things’.

Euphoria and pleasure

Antidepressant anti-anxiety effects

Better immune response

Anti-tussive effects

Regulation of the release of dopamine and glutamate

Anti-inflammatory action

Ability to have an erection

Stomach spasm slow down

Relief from constipation

Clitoris stimulation

 

Respiratory depression -   shortness of breath, pleural effusions

Heart effects - hypotension, bradycardia, tachycardia , decrease of  heart rate, vasodilation

May cause degradation of cells

Increase in urine production

Hypothermia

Miosis and Visual distortions

Hair thinning

Itching and rash

Irritability

Constipation

Stimulation and flushing of face

 

 

 

The anti-inflammatory effects of noscapine and papaverine  may help to cancel out the itching and rash often experienced with morphine and codeine alone. Some of the sedatory effects may be counteracted by the effects of thebaine, but only to a minor degree.

The attack on the reasoning system should help still the chattering mind and open us more to spiritual experience.

The anti-anxiety effects should help to cancel any feelings of irritability.  The constipation often experienced from codeine and morphine is balanced by the opposite effects from, for example, the Papaverine.  Any depression in sexual effects brought on by morphine will probably be counteracted by the papaverine.  The overall effect is a slowing down of the need to ejaculate whilst prolonging the erection.  In woman the clitoris may be particularly ‘sensitive’.

There will be some regulation of the dopamine levels, meaning that there will not be the destructive effects we see from the reuptake inhibitors, for example, like cocaine.

In general, it appears that pure unadulterated opium from the original plant is a far kinder and more effective pain killer and medicine than any of the pharmaceuticals derived from it.  Nature knows best.

Method

There are two basic ways in which opium can be used:

  • Ingestion - The first is ingestion – you eat it in some way.  The effects appear quickly after ingestion and last for six to eight hours.
  • Opium smoking - The  second is ‘smoking’ which is actually not smoking it is inhalation of the vaporised opium fumes.  When opium is ‘smoked’, the effects usually last a few (one to three) hours.  Follow the link for more details

Ingestion

The following list provides you with some of the many ways in which opium has been or can be ingested.  The list is partly by way of an historical record showing just how much opium was used in various ways at one time.  I am not recommending any way.  If you need it, the choice is yours.  The links take you to a more detailed explanation:

  • Opium powder (pulvis opii) - As it sounds – pulverised opium crystals
  • Opium extract (extractum opii) -  made by macerating raw opium with water. To make opium extract, 20 parts water are combined with 1 part raw opium which has been boiled for 5 minutes to ease the mixing process
  • Poppy tea - note not poppy seed tea, poppy head tea
  • Laudanum - this has an entry of its own because it was used by so many people at one time. 

References and further reading

J Palliat Med. 2013 Jul;16(7):780-5. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2012.0482. Epub 2013 May 13.  Hospice offers more palliative care but costs less than usual care for terminal geriatric hepatocellular carcinoma patients: a nationwide study.  Hwang SJ1, Chang HT, Hwang IH, Wu CY, Yang WH, Li CP.

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