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Though commonly used to refer to all drugs, narcotics are in fact those drugs which are derived from opium, opium derivatives, or opium synthetics. Opium is collected from the sap of unripe seed pods from the Palaver somniferous poppy.

These poppies have been in cultivation for their narcotic since 300 BC. Unable to be grown in the North American climate, they are primarily cultivated in Mexico, Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Lebanon. The most infamous area of opium production is the Golden Triangle region in Southeast Asia. This includes the countries of Thailand, Laos, and Burma. This area has historically been the major source of opium/heroin in the United States.

The following are commonly encountered narcotics: opium, morphine, codeine, heroin, hydromorphine (diluadid), meperidine (Demerol), percodan, methadone, darvon.

The opium is harvested by scoring the unripe seed pods of the poppy. This releases a milky fluid which is allowed to dry in the sun into a gum. The gum is later scraped from the seed pod and refined into the finished opium product.

Virtually no restrictions on trafficking or use of opium were in effect prior to the 1900's. A variety of medications existed prior to that which contained opium, though the user was not always advised so by the medication label. Today, basically the only medicinal application of opium is in certain types of antidiarrheal preparations. Opium can either be ingested in its raw form or smoked must in the same manner as marijuana and marijuana derivatives.

Heroin is a semi-synthetic opium derivative, derived from morphine. Diacetylmorphine, or heroin as it is commonly refereed to, was first synthesized by the British in 1874. It is believed the name heroin was derived from the German word heroish, which means heroic and powerful. Used as a cough suppressant and in the treatment of morphine addiction, the Bayer Corporation first marketed heroin in 1890. In light of it's addictive properties and growing abuse, heroin manufacturing and importation was banned in the United States in 1924.

Heroin is smoked, inhaled, or injected by the abuser. The effects of opium and it's derivatives use are constricted pupils, depressed respiration, constipation, nausea, drowsiness, euphoria, apathy, and decreased sexual drive. Upon ingestion of the narcotic, abusers feel an initial period of exhilaration, which includes a tactile tingling and warm flush of the skin, and what has been described as an "orgasmic" sensation. These first sensations are followed by a period of lethargy, tranquillity, and loss of tension and/or fear. This period is commonly refereed to as the "nods". Within 24-36 hours of last dosage, withdrawal symptoms appear, lasting three to five days. Withdrawal symptoms include tearing, runny nose, sweating, dilated pupils, loss of appetite, gooseflesh, restlessness, muscle tremors, weakness, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.

Derived from Opium, Morphine today remains very effective in the use of pain management. Generally consisting of 5 to 25% opium, morphine generally is odorless, ranging in color from clear to dark brown. Morphine can be found in a white crystalline, tablet, or liquid form. As a result, morphine can be administered orally or by injection.

Addiction and tolerance levels vary from user to user, but generally both develop rapidly.

Produced from morphine, Codeine normally produces less sedation and respiratory depression than morphine. Codeine's use as a pain reliever is widespread, normally combined with other products such as Tylenol. Codeine is also used extensively in a liquid suspension form for a variety of cough medicines. Due to its narcotic nature, addiction and tolerance can develop when used over an extended period of time.

Hydromorphone, or Dilaudid, is the second oldest semi-synthetic narcotic. Dilaudid, found in both tablet and liquid form, is a very potent narcotic. Due to this, Dilaudid is much sought after by illicit drug users, and can command as much as $50 dollars for one tablet. Normal dosage effects last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. Tolerance and addiction can occur as with all narcotics.

Chemically dissimilar to heroin or morphine, Methadone was initially developed by German scientists during World War II due to a shortage of morphine. Primarily used to control narcotic addiction and the attendant withdrawal symptoms, the effects of administration can last up to 24 hours.

The 1960's saw a heralding of methadone as a cure-all for heroin addiction. Though certainly help- ful in some cases, methadone too carries a capacity for tolerance and addiction. This has led in some cases to the heroin addict just trading addictions from a drug to another. Normally administered by mouth in liquid from, methadone can by nature also be injected.

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