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opium poppy Group designation of the active substances of the opium poppy (botanic name: Papaver somniferum), above all Opium, morphine, heroin and codeine, see structural formulas.

The white-flowering poppy grows particularly in Iran, Kurdistan, Aserbeidschan, in the Balkans, in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and east Turkey, in the Near East in Persia, Lebanon and Afghanistan, in the far east in India and Pakistan, in Asia in China, Viet Nam and particularly in the "golden triangle" between Burma, Laos and Thailand, as well as in Central America in Mexico and Colombia.

The most important opiate kinds are:

  • Opium, the dried milk of the opium poppy with the active substances morphine and codeine
  • Morphium, chemically pure form of morphine, the most important of 25 opium alkaloids
  • heroin or diacetylmorphine results from a chemical reaction of morphine and acetic acid, manufactured for the first time 1898 in the Elberfelder Manufactory with the purpose to heal the dependence of morphine-addicted, since it was erroneously accepted that it does not lead to addiction in the difference to Morphium.
  • codeine (morphine methylether), is particularly in certain use up-requiring cough mixtures available, in order to absorb the cough stimulus. Historical Laudanum is to be mentioned as opiate preparation, this was used already of Paracelsus in the 16th Century.

Physiological effect

The physiological effect of the opiate exists particularly in a decrease of pain; it can with increasing dosage also release cramps. Investigations of R. Tremmel (1975) refer to certain chemoreceptors in the brain, so-called opiate receptors, particularly in the "limbic system" and in the "amygdale", in which opiate deposit preferentially. These brain areas play particularly with fear and escape reactions a role as well as with the emotional and affective processing of sensory perceptions. In these brain regions morphine is able to affect the routings for pain (decrease of pain effect) and euphoria to release (euphoric effect).

According the WHO, opioid means the generic term applied to alkaloids from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), their synthetic analogues, and compounds synthesized in the body, which interact with the same specific receptors in the brain, have the capacity to relieve pain, and produce a sense of well-being ( euphoria). The opium alkaloids and their synthetic analogues also cause stupor, coma, respiratory depression in high doses. Endogenously occurring compounds with opioid actions include the endorphins and enkephalins.

Psychological effect

An Opium smoker comes psychologically into a dawning condition between sleeping and being awake, with received consciousness ascends frequently to erotic dream pictures. More strongly than Opium work morphine and heroin, which are injected directly under the skin, into the muscles or intravenously. Opiate users (Scene term: Fixer) describe the effect as succession of the so-called "flash" (lightning), short-term euphoria and "feeling", to a somewhat longer persisting luck feeling. These psychological effects lead after more frequent use above all increasing psychological dependence, which in contrast to hallucinogenic drugs, e.g. Cannabis, are accompanied by a strong physical dependence. Already after four to five opiate injections can come it to strong withdrawal symptoms. For the achievement of the same effect desired ever-higher doses must be injected (increase of dose). When leaving the drug effect (after approximately 4 hours) as well as during a dose reduction or when setting the opiate off it comes to physical "withdrawal symptoms", which resemble flu symptoms, like nose running, pains of the joints and diarrhea. In addition psychological "withdrawal symptoms" come like attraction bareness and depressions. With chronic opiate consumption a physical dismantling becomes visible: pale appearance, decrease in weight, sweats, stomach intestine disturbances, skin excursions and syringe abscesses, angina Pectoris accumulations, sexual disturbances with dys- and amenorrhoe or power disturbances with gonad damage. In addition drug-conditioned infections, above all hepatitis C and by it conditioned liver damage, come and in the last years HIV infections and AIDS. During hereditary damage (teratogenic effects) with children of opiate addicted women were so far not determined clear, newborn children of mothers, who were during the pregnancy morphine or heroin dependent, show withdrawal symptoms (so-called "heroin babies"). They need therefore a physical withdrawal with methadone as substitution therapy.

Social drop out

To the psychological and intellectual descent comes the social drop out, the abort of family relations, training and professional training as well as frequently one by the drug acquisition caused subsequent criminality (e.g. pharmacy break-downs, prescription falsifications, shoplifting, robbery), as well as with female opiate addicts frequently prostitution.


The treatment of the acute opiate withdrawal symptom can take place with the active substance Clonidine, (Paracefan®). After successful Opiate withdrawal the therapy can be supported by Naltrexone (Nemexin®).


The Greeks already used the milk won from the poppy caps as drug and gave it the name "Opium" (Greek: juice), in the Arab and Persian area as well as in China Opium in porcelain or water whistles was smoked. In the19th Century spread the opiate consumption also in Europe, in England among industrial workers and in France first under intellectuals (e.g. Ch. Baudelaire: "An Opium eater", 1816). While in Germany in the 70's medical personnel with opiate consumers outweighed, who injected above all Morphium ("classical morphinists"), since 1980 a "drug wave" spread from England and the USA among young people? In Berlin thereby a transition to ever more strongly working opiate, of opium-Tincture in the process of this drug wave over the so-called "Berliner Tinke" (a mixture from opium and acetic acid) up to heroin.

Lit.: Tremmel, R.: Effect mechanism of the drug, South German newspaper of the 24th October 1975, quoted after Schmidbauer, v. Scheidt, 1989
Baudelaire, Ch: The artificial paradises, Hamburg, 1964

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