United Nations Documents of Scientific Interest in the Field of Narcotics
Pages: 40 to 41
Creation Date: 1951/01/01
In 1949, at its fourth session, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs discussed the possibility of determining the origin of opium seized from the illicit traffic by means of physical and chemical tests. The representative of the United States offered to put laboratory facilities at the disposal of the Secretariat for the study of this problem.
On 6 July 1949 the Economic and Social Council adopted resolution 246 F (IX), requesting the Secretary-General "to further, within the means available, research on the methods of determining the origin of opium", and authorizing him to accept the offer of the United States.
A general programme of international scientific research on opium was started, in which the collaboration of both producing countries and countries able to do advanced scientific research on opium was requested.
During 1950, and since, members of the Secretariat have carried out scientific research on opium. A stock of opium samples has been obtained from a number of the producing countries, and a general distribution of samples to scientists recommended by governments to participate in the research began early in 1951.
The following documents were issued as Commission documents:
E/CN.7/117, which included the following articles: ( a) on determining the country of origin of opium; ( b) the identification of methadon by microcrystals (this is not connected with the opium problem, but also has scientific interest); ( c) photomicrographs of opium crystals; ( d) some minor alkaloids of opium, alkaloid 1, "porphyroxine-meconidine"; ( e) opium alkaloids-narceine; ( f) opium alkaloids-thebaine.
E/CN.7/117/Add.1: Opium alkaloids; codeine.
E/CN.7/117/Add.2: Examination of opium for distinguishing characteristics; some tentative methods.
(These papers were communicated by the representative of the Government of the United States of America.)
E/CN.7/195: The comparative determination of "porphyroxine-meconidine" (Secretariat).
E/CN.7/202: Determination of codeine in the lime-water extract of opium (Secretariat).
E/CN.7/207: Further data on "porphyroxine-meconidine" (contribution from Canada by C. G. Farmilo and P. M. L. Kennett).
A general account of the attack upon this problem was given in the first issue of this Bulletin, October 1949, "Determining the Origins of Opium".
At its fifth session, in December 1950, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs discussed the value of obtaining an improved assay of legitimate opium for its morphine and codeine content, and decided to request the Secretary-General to continue the chemical research on opium with special attention to the determination of these alkaloids, and also "to explore the possibilities of research into the methods of determining the origin of opium by scientific means other than those referred to in resolution 246 F (IX)", such as pharmacological tests.
A short discussion of the fundamental problems remaining in the chemistry of opium is included in this Bulletin.(Present State of the Chemistry of Opium and its Future Possibilities.)
It has been decided that future scientific articles on opium issued by the Division on Narcotic Drugs will be in a separate series with the designation ST/SOA/SER.K, under the general title of: "The Assay, Characteristics, Composition, and Origin of Opium".
The first article in this series is ST/SOA/SER.K/1, "The determination of morphine in opium by extraction: a new method".
The analysis of opium for morphine is useful not merely in helping to determine the origin of contraband opium seized from the illicit traffic; it is of paramount importance in the commercial and medical evaluation of licit opium, and in national and international accounting of opium used and drugs produced. It is considered, therefore, that the paper will have considerable interest to chemists in these various fields.