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opium

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opium, substance derived by collecting and drying the milky juice in the unripe seed pods of the opium poppy , 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 morphine , a narcotic . Other constituents are the alkaloids codeine , papaverine , and noscapine (narcotine); heroin is synthesized from morphine. Morphine, heroin, and codeine are addicting drugs; papaverine and noscapine are not. A tincture of opium is called laudanum ; paregoric is a mixture of opium, alcohol, and camphor.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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