Opiate, opiates, opium compounds
The study of opium and the isolation of its constituents
ranks among the most important achievements
in the history of pharmacology (cf. Papaver
somniferum). In ancient times, opium was already
known as the best of all analgesics (cf. soporific
sponge). The isolation of morphine from opium
revolutionized pain therapy in Europe. No other
component of opium has a comparably powerful
effect. The potency of morphine would not be
exceeded until heroin (diacetylmorphine) was
synthesized (Snyder 1989). Subsequent pharmacological
research has led to the creation of
numerous morphine analogs (fentanyls), some of
which are as much as 7,500 times more potent
than morphine (Sahihi 1995,31 ff.*).
The opium alkaloids codeine and morphine
have become culturally significant as psychoactive
substances. Papaverine is used in medicine as a
treatment for impotence.
Some opium alkaloids are also found in other
Papaver species (Papaver spp.), although these
species usually contain only traces of these substances
(Khanna and Sharma 1977; Ktippers et al.
1976; Phillipson et al. 1973; Phillipson et al. 1976).
Aporphines, whose structures are analogous to
those of the opium alkaloids, occur in Papaver
fugax Poir. [syn. Papaver caucasicum M.-B., Papaver
floribundum Desf.] and Nymphaea ampla. Other
substances related to the opium alkaloids are
present in Argemone mexicana, Eschscholzia californica,Nuphar lutea, and Papaver spp.
See also the entries for Argemone mexicana, Papaver
somniferum, Papaver spp., codeine, morphine, and
Khanna, P., and G. 1. Sharma. 1977. Production of
opium alkaloids from in vitro tissue culture of
Papaver rhoeas 1. Indian Journal ofExperimental
Krikorian, A. D., and M. C. Ledbetter. 1975. Some
observations on the cultivation of opium poppy
(Papaver somniferum 1.) for its latex. Botanical
Ktippers, F. J. E. M., C. A. Salmink, M. Bastart, and
M. Paris. 1976. Alkaloids of Papaver bracteatum:
Presence of codeine, neopine and alpinine.
Phillipson, J. D., S. S. Handa, and S. W. EI-Dabbas.
1976. N-oxides of morphine, codeine and
thebaine and their occurrence in Papaver species.
Phillipson, J. D., G. Sariyar, and T. Baytop. 1973.
Alkaloids from Papaver fugax of Turkish origin.
Scully, Rock, with David Dalton. 1996. An American
odyssey: Die legendare Reise von Jerry Garcia und
den Grateful Dead. St.Andra-Wordern: Hannibal
Snyder, Solomon H. 1989. Brainstorming: The science
and politics ofopiate research. Cambridge and
London: Harvard University Press.
The Constituents of Opium
The composition of the alkaloid mixture can
vary greatly, depending upon the strain of poppy,
the location of cultivation, and the processing
technique (Krikorian and Ledbetter 1975).
1. Isocholine derivates