Opium (poppy tears, lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Opium contains approximately 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade and for legal medicinal use in some countries. The latex also includes the alkaloid codeine and its similarly structured cousin thebaine. It also contains non-analgesic alkaloids such as papaverine and noscapine. The traditional, labor-intensive, method of obtaining the latex is to scratch ("score") the immature seed pods (fruits) by hand; the latex leaks out and dries to a sticky yellowish residue that is later scraped off, and dehydrated. The word "meconium" (derived from the Greek for "opium-like", but now used to refer to infant stools) historically referred to related, weaker preparations made from other parts of the poppy or different species of poppies.
The production of opium itself has not changed since ancient times. Through selective breeding of the Papaver somniferum plant, the content of the phenanthrene alkaloids morphine, codeine, and to a lesser extent thebaine, has been greatly increased. In modern times, much of the thebaine, which often serves as the raw material for the synthesis for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and other semi-synthetic opiates, originates from extracting Papaver orientale or Papaver bracteatum.
Opium for illegal use is often converted into heroin, which is less bulky, making it easier to smuggle, and which multiplies its potency to approximately twice that of morphine. Heroin can be taken orally, by intravenous injection, intranasally, or smoked (vaporized) and inhaled.
Opium is a highly addictive narcotic drug acquired in the dried latex form from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) seed pod. Traditionally the unripened pod is slit open and the sap seeps out and dries on the outer surface of the pod. The resulting yellow-brown latex, which is scraped off of the pod, is bitter in taste and contains varying amounts of alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, thebaine and papaverine.