opium

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opium,

substance derived by collecting and drying the milky juice in the unripe seed pods of the opium poppypoppy,
common name for some members of the Papaveraceae, a family composed chiefly of herbs of the Northern Hemisphere having a characteristic milky or colored sap. Most species are native to the Old World; many are cultivated in gardens for their brilliantly colored if
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, 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 morphinemorphine,
principal derivative of opium, which is the juice in the unripe seed pods of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. It was first isolated from opium in 1803 by the German pharmacist F. W. A. Sertürner, who named it after Morpheus, the god of dreams.
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, a narcoticnarcotic,
any of a number of substances that have a depressant effect on the nervous system. The chief narcotic drugs are opium, its constituents morphine and codeine, and the morphine derivative heroin.

See also drug addiction and drug abuse.
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. Other constituents are the alkaloids codeinecodeine
, alkaloid found in opium. It is a narcotic whose effects, though less potent, resemble those of morphine. An effective cough suppressant, it is mainly used in cough medicines. Like other narcotics, codeine is addictive. See drug addiction and drug abuse.
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, papaverinepapaverine
, alkaloid found in opium that acts as a muscle relaxant and vasodilator. The drug relaxes the smooth muscle of the larger blood vessels and is used to increase the blood supply to the brain or to the heart, as in the treatment of angina pectoris.
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, and noscapine (narcotine); heroinheroin
, opiate drug synthesized from morphine (see narcotic). Originally produced in 1874, it was thought to be not only nonaddictive but useful as a cure for respiratory illness and morphine addiction, and capable of relieving morphine withdrawal symptoms.
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 is synthesized from morphine. Morphine, heroin, and codeine are addicting drugs; papaverine and noscapine are not. A tincture of opium is called laudanumlaudanum
, tincture, or alcoholic solution, of opium, first compounded by Paracelsus in the 16th cent. Not then known to be addictive, the preparation was widely used up through the 19th cent. to treat a variety of disorders.
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; paregoricparegoric
, alcoholic solution of opium and camphor first prepared in the 18th cent. Because of the constipating effect of opium, paregoric has been used to control diarrhea. It was formerly a constituent of many cough elixirs.
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 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 B.C. 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 WarsOpium Wars,
1839–42 and 1856–60, two wars between China and Western countries. The first was between Great Britain and China. Early in the 19th cent., British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain.
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. 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 WarCivil War,
in U.S. history, conflict (1861–65) between the Northern states (the Union) and the Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.
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 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, cocainecocaine
, alkaloid drug derived from the leaves of the coca shrub. A commonly abused illegal drug, cocaine has limited medical uses, most often in surgical applications that take advantage of the fact that, in addition to its anesthetic effect, it constricts small arteries,
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, marijuanamarijuana
or marihuana,
drug obtained from the flowering tops, stems, and leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa (see hemp) or C. indica; the latter species can withstand colder climates.
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, 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 abusedrug addiction and drug abuse,
chronic or habitual use of any chemical substance to alter states of body or mind for other than medically warranted purposes. Traditional definitions of addiction, with their criteria of physical dependence and withdrawal (and often an underlying
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.

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).

Opium

 

the air-dried milky juice obtained from incisions in the unripe capsules of the opium poppy. Opium is an analgesic containing about 20 alkaloids—derivatives of phenanthrene (codeine and morphine) and isoquinoline. The pharmacological properties are determined mainly by the morphine, which constitutes about 10 percent of opium’s total content. The use of opium, as of any narcotic, is dangerous because of possible addiction. Opium preparations in the form of powders, dried extracts, and tinctures are used to alleviate peristalsis of the intestine in some cases of diarrhea. Small quantities of opium are used in cough and expectorant preparations.

opium

[′ō·pē·əm]
(pharmacology)
A narcotic obtained from the unripe capsules of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum); crude extract contains alkaloids such as morphine (5-15%), narcotine (2-8%), and codeine (0.1-2.5%).

opium

the dried juice extracted from the unripe seed capsules of the opium poppy that contains alkaloids such as morphine and codeine: used in medicine as an analgesic