The opium poppy belongs to a family of plants called "Papaveracea". There are about 200 species that belong to this family of plants. The most famous, naturally, is the species "papaver somniferum" which produces Opium, from which Morphine and Codeine are extracted for use as an analgesic narcotic in the treatment of mild to severe pain. Its medicinal use goes back centuries; as does its illicit use. This plant is why the Opium wars started between England and China in around 1840, and why Hong Kong belonged to Great Britian for about 150 years.
There are also many varieties of papaver somniferum: there are papaver giganthemum, which are very large pod's; Hen's and Chicks which are smaller pod's that will have many smaller pod's surrounding them; and there are papaver nigrum, which are about the size of a pecan. The papaver somniferum seed pod is very distinct in its shape and texture -- set apart from other varieties of this species, and once you see one, you will know them from then on.
Refining raw opium poppy into heroin is a tedious, multistep process. Once the opium gum is transported to a refinery, it is converted into morphine, an intermediate product. This conversion is achieved primarily by chemical processes and requires several basic elements and implements. Boiling water is used to dissolve opium gum; 55-gallon drums are used for boiling vessels; and burlap sacks are used to filter and strain liquids.
When dried, the morphine resulting from this initial process is pressed into bricks. The conversion of morphine bricks into heroin is also primarily a chemical process. The main chemical used is acetic anhydride, along with sodium carbonate, activated charcoal, chloroform, ethyl alcohol, ether, and acetone. The two most commonly produced heroin varieties are No. 3 heroin, or smoking heroin, and No. 4 heroin, or injectable heroin.
The refining process has been perfected to the point where heroin purity levels are above 90 percent, as the product leaves the refinery. However, as the heroin makes its way to US, it passes through many hands. To maximize individual profit, substances that make the heroin less pure and more bulky are added at each stop.
These dilutants are white and powdery just like the heroin and include caffeine, baking soda, powdered milk, and quinine. By the time the heroin gets to the user, it is often only about 40 percent pure, and little is known by anyone involved in the production or trafficking of the drug about the components of the other 60 percent.
FAMILY : Papaveraceae
GENUS / SPECIES :
Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum L.
Prickly Poppy - Argemone mexicana L.
COMMON NAMES : Poppy, Opium Poppy, Mawseed, Prickly Poppy
An erect, herbaceous annual or bi-annual herb which grows from 50 to 150 cm tall. Glabrous or glaucous, sometimes with a few spreading bristles. The stems are slightly branched with many large erect leaves, ovate to oblong, serrate to dentate-serrate, clasping at base, glaucous, the lower ones pinnatifid; flowers on long peduncles with nodding buds that expand into erect flowers; petals 4-8 cm long range from white to purplish, in varieties also pink, violet, bluish, or red, 5-7 cm long; sepals glabrous, 1.5-2 cm long; fruit a capsule, ovoid to globose, glabrous, 4-6 cm long, 3.5-4 cm in diameter, with 8-12 rayed sessile stigmas; seeds oily, white, dark gray to black, or bluish. Fl. and fr. nearly year round in tropical areas, elsewhere in spring and summer. Several days after flowering, the petals drop, leaving bulbous green capsules atop the stalks. It is from these pods that the opium containing milky latex is collected. The pods of the prickly poppy are covered by stout spines.
Poppies generally like sun and fertile, well-drained soil