Absorption of morphine from opium by porous earthen pots

Sections

Abstract
Introduction
Experiment
Reference
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Details

Author: V. S RAMANATHAN, Kesav PRASAD, R. M GUPTA
Pages: 21 to 25
Creation Date: 1965/01/01

Absorption of morphine from opium by porous earthen pots

V. S RAMANATHAN
Kesav PRASAD
R. M GUPTA
Government Opium and Alkaloid Works, Ghazipur, India

Abstract

Poppy cultivators in India collect and store raw opium initially in unglazed earthen pots. It has been proved that these porous earthen pots absorb about 8.5 per cent of the potential morphine from opium during storage. It is suggested that these earthen pots may be replaced by non-porous vessels for collection, storage and transportation of raw opium from the fields to the Government opium factories.

Introduction

India produces in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan about 700 tons of raw opium in a year which is nearly 70 per cent of world production [ 1] , [ 2] . The licensed cultivators in India growing opium poppy and collecting opium number about 200,000. The cultivators after collecting the opium from the poppy capsules store it in porous earthen pots till it is delivered to the District Opium Officers at the weigh-ment centres. Opium which is suspected to be adulterated is sent in earthen pots to the Government Opium and Alkaloid Works, Ghazipur, for chemical examination [ 3] [ 4] . The number of earthen pots used for collection and transportation of the opium by the cultivators would be enormous. The cultivators use the earthen pots for storage as they are cheap containers which absorb the moisture in opium and thus raise its consistency quickly, to facilitate easy transportation to the District Opium Officers.

The grading of opium in the Government factories for storage and the evaluation of the export opium is based on morphine content. It was felt that while the earthen pots absorb moisture, they may be absorbing the morphine also as it remains in solution in opium. Air dried Indian opium [ 5] contains 8 to 14 per cent anhydrous morphine as compared to about 17 per cent in Macedonian opium [ 6] , [ 7] . Hence this investigation was carried out to study whether morphine was absorbed from opium during storage in porous earthen pots and if so to find out percentage of the same absorbed.

Experiment

Determination of the porosity of the earthen pots

Six earthen pots selected at random were broken and one piece from each of the pots was taken for determining its porosity. The pot pieces were dried at 105 °C in an air oven to constant weight. All the pieces were then suspended by means of threads into water and the vessel containing the water heated. The water was boiled for one hour and allowed to cool. The pot pieces were kept hanging inside the water for 24 hours. The pot pieces were then taken out of the water and their surfaces were wiped out gently with a moist towel to remove all extraneous moisture. They were weighed and the percentage absorption of water calculated. The results obtained are shown in table 1.

In a similar manner the above experiment was conducted with six fresh pieces from six different pots, replacing water with dilute solution of opium at room temperature. Opium was dissolved in cold water and filtered. The clear filtrate having a consistency of 6.41 (dry solids) was used in the experiment. The weighed pot pieces were suspended in the cold opium solution for 48 hours and then taken out, the surfaces wiped and the results obtained are reported in table 2.

Storage experiments with raw opium in earthen pots

Five hundred grammes of raw good opium at about 60°consistence was stored in a fresh unglazed earthen pot. At the end of three weeks it was noticed that the entire quantity of opium from the pot could not be taken out to find out its weight. The opium had formed a hard coating on the inner surface of the pot which would not leave completely even after repeated washings with water. After removing the opium, the internal surface of the pot was made free from opium by rubbing with sand paper and scraping with a sharp blade to remove a thin layer of the earthen surface. The pot was then broken and a few pieces extracted with boiling water. The aqueous extract gave tests for morphine and meconic acid indicating the absorption of opium and morphine.

TABLE 1: Absorption of water by porous earthen pot pieces

Pot No.

Weight of pot piece dried at 105 °C gramme

Weight of pot piece after keeping in water for 24 hours gramme

Weight of water absorbed gramme

Percentage absorption of water

1 23.5778 27.6248 4.0470 17.16
2 17.3544 20.5200 3.1656 18.24
3 19.7094 23.0580 3.3486 16.99
4 22.2858 26.5000 4.2142 18.91
5 19.2650 22.7600 3.4950 18.13
6 22.4900 26.3626 3.8726 17.22

TABLE 2

Absorption of opium solution of consistence 6.41° by porous earthen pot pieces

Pot No.

Weight of pot pieces dried at 105 °C gramme

Weight of pot pieces after keeping in cold opium solution for 48 hours gramme

Weight of opium solution absorbed gramme

Percentage absorption of opium solution

1 19.4624 22.7808 3.3184 17.05
2 21.5658 25.2596 3.6938 17.13
3 20.0378 23.4288 3.3910 16.92
4 22.2444 25.9120 3.6676 16.53
5 23.2944 27.2700 3.9756 17.03
6 20.1948 23.9900 3.7952 18.79

To avoid the hard incrustation of opium on the inner surface of the pot several experiments were conducted using filter paper, filter press cloth, Dusuti cloth, etc., as a separating medium between the opium and the inner surface of the pot. In the end a double layer of Khadi cloth and/or markin cloth gave the desired result. *

Inside a clean, wide mouth unglazed earthen pot, a double layer of tared white markin cloth was placed and 500 grammes of raw opium whose consistence and morphine content had been estimated by the B.P. method (8) was kept over this. The mouth of the pot was then tied with a piece of cloth and allowed to stand for 15 days.

* Markin Cloth: It is a thin, unbleached mill-made cotton fabric of medium count.

Dusuti Cloth: It is a bleached mill-made double ply yarned cotton fabric.

Khadi Cloth: It is a hand-spun, hand-woven cotton cloth of coarse variety.

Thereafter it was noticed that below the markin cloth a free flowing dark liquid had collected. The cloth with the opium was then lifted from the pots and the gross weight determined to arrive at the net weight of opium over that. The liquid opium below the cloth was transferred to a separate vessel to find out its weight. The pot was then washed repeatedly with hot water and the washings collected and weighed. The morphine content in the opium over the cloth, the liquid opium oozed out and the washings was determined by the B.P. method. In the B.P. method the estimation of morphine in all the samples was done at 20 °C and a period of 16 hours was adopted to be "as over night" for the duration of the precipitation of morphine. No opium was found sticking to the surface of the pot. The pot was broken and a few pieces digested with water containing a few drops of dilute hydrochloric acid and the extract gave tests for morphine. The morphine absorbed by the inner surface of the pot could not be fully extracted for quantitative estimation and this quantity has therefore been arrived at by difference as shown in table 3.

In another experiment the same opium was stored under identical conditions as described above in a porous earthen pot and in a tared glass beaker which cannot absorb opium and morphine. The results obtained are given in table 4. In the experiment conducted in the glass beaker there is no loss of opium and morphine. The little unaccounted morphine on the plus side in the opium stored in glass beaker may be considered to be within the limits of the experimental error in the estimation of morphine at the various stages.

TABLE 3

Effect on morphine content in opium stored in earthen pots

Opium taken for experiment

Opium remained on markin cloth

Opium oozed out in pot below cloth

Washings of pot

Unaccounted morphine and percentage absorbed of potential morphine

Earthen pot No. 1
1. Quantity 500 g
400 g 11 g 27 g  
2. Consistence 61.33°
68.75°
85.00°
3.00°
 
3. Wt. of opium at 100° consistence: 306.65 g
275 g 9.35 g
0.81 g
 
4. Morphine content on dry matter 11.44%
10.96%
14.68%
14.68%
 
5. Potential morphine in 500 g of opium: 35.0808 g
30. 1400 g
1.3726 g 0.1189 g
3.4493 g 9.83%
Earthen Pot No. 2
1. Quantity 500 g
334 g 45.90 g 24.31 g  
2. Consistence 55.55°
68.126°
73.05°
2.5°
 
3. Weight of opium at 100°consistence 277.75 g
227.54 g 33.53 g 0.6078 g  
4. Morphine content on dry matter 10.52%
9.80%
13.83%
13.83%
 
5. Potential morphine in 500 g of opium: 29.220 g
22.299 g 4.637 g 0.0841 g
2.1999 g 7.53%

TABLE 4

Effect on morphine content in opium stored in earthen pots and non-porous vessel

Opium taken for experiment

Opium remained on markin cloth

Opium oozed out in pot below cloth

Washings of pot

Unaccounted morphine and percentage absorbed of potential morphine

Earthen pot No. 3
1. Quantity 500 g
335.50 g 41.50 g 31.614 g  
2. Consistence 55.55°
68.816°
69.242°
2.75°
 
3. Weight of opium at 100° consistence: 277.75 g
230.88 g 28.74 g 0.8694 g  
4. Morphine content on dry matter 10.52%
9.795%
13.875%
13.875 %
 
5. Potential morphine in 500 g of opium: 35.0808 g
22.614 g 3.988 g 0.1206 g
2.4974 g 8.54%
Glass Beaker
1. Quantity 1000 g
750.10 g 166.40 g
-
 
2. Consistence 55.55°
60.70°
59.50°
-
 
3. Weight of opium at 100° consistence 555.5 g
455.3107 g 99.008 g
-
 
4. Morphine content on dry matter 10.52%
9.76%
15.00%
-
 
5. Potential morphine in 500 g of opium: 29.220 g
44.4383 g 14.8512 g
-
+ 0.8495 g

Field experiment in the collection of opium

The experiments were then extended to the collection of opium in the fields. Cultivators, selected at random in Faizabab and Bara Banki Districts in Uttar Pradesh, were instructed to divide the uniformly mixed opium collected on a day, from selected plots, into two parts. One portion of the opium was stored in a red coloured polythene bag and the other part in a porous earthen pot. When the opium was delivered after a few days by the cultivators to the District Opium Officer for weighment, the opium in the earthen pots was transferred to black polythene bags and both the red and black polythene bags with opium were forwarded to the chemical laboratory at Ghazipur for estimation of morphine. The results are shown in table 5.

In another field experiment the opium collected on a day from a selected plot in Bara Banki district was uni- formly 1mixed and divided into two parts. One portion of the opium was stored in a polythene dish and the other in a porous earthen pot. The opium in them was tested after three weeks for morphine and the results are shown in table 6. Opium stored in red polythene bags and polythene dishes, had a higher morphine content than that stored, under the same conditions in earthen pots.

Containers made of iron with tinned and galvanized surfaces were found to be affected by raw opium on storage for a fairly long time. This is due to the sulphuric, meconic, lactic and acetic acids present in opium [ 9] . Polythene is not affected by opium for its storage and transportation.

TABLE 5

Effect on morphine content in opium during collection and storage in earthen pots and polythene bags

(a) Red polythene bags = opium stored initially in polythene bags.

(b) Black polythene bags = opium stored initially in earthen pots and transferred to black polythene bags at the time of weighment.

Name of district

Sample number

Description of bag

Morphine per cent in opium on dry matter

Remarks

Faizabad
4794
Red polythene bag
13.12
Opium collected
in 1963 and
tested in the
same year
  4795
Black polythene bag
12.87
  4796
Red polythene bag
10.85
  4797
Black polythene bag
7.77
  4798
Red polythene bag
13.57
  4799
Black polythene bag
11.82
  4800
Red polythene bag
11.16
  4801
Black polythene bag
10.26
  4802
Red polythene bag
8.70
  4803
Black polythene bag
7.73
Bara Banki
7641
Red polythene bag
11.65
Opium collected
in 1963 and
tested in the
same year
  7642
Black polythene bag
10.17
  7643
Red polythene bag
15.08
  7644
Black polythene bag
11.00
  7645
Red polythene bag
12.75
  7646
Black polythene bag
8.20
  7647
Red polythene bag
8.02
  7648
Black polythene bag
7.77
  7649
Red polythene bag
10.18
  7650
Black polythene bag
9.92

Absorption of morphine from opium by porous earthen pots 25

TABLE 6

Effect on morphine content in opium on storage and transportation in earthen pots and polythene dishes

Name of district

Sample number

Description of bag

Morphine per cent in opium on dry matter

Remarks

Bara Banki
5321
Polythene dish
12.70
Opium collected in
1964 and tested
in the same year
  5325
Earthen pot
10.75
  5322
Polythene dish
13.58
  5326
Earthen pot
12.87
  5323
Polythene dish
11.66
  5327
Earthen pot
10.48
  5324
Polythene dish
12.29
  5328
Earthen pot
11.12

Results and Discussion - Results in tables 1 and 2 show that the percentage absorption of water and opium solution by the earthen pots ranges from 16.53 to 18.91. From the results in tables 3 and 4 it may be seen that the porous earthen pots take up opium and morphine during storage of opium in them. The opium stored in them contains about 40 per cent moisture and the morphine which exists as sulphate and meconate remains dissolved in it. This is evident from the fact that the liquid opium that had passed through markin cloth had a much higher morphine content than the opium over the cloth. The microscopic examination of opium under the polarising microscope shows only narcotine in the free state [ 10] . But if the opium films on the glass slides are allowed to dry and remain for a few weeks the morphine salts also crystallize which were termed "Akcasu" crystals [ 10] , [ 11] . From table 4 it may be seen that the liquid opium which oozed through the cloth in the glass beaker has a lower consistence and higher morphine per cent than the liquid opium in earthen pots which has higher consistence and lower morphine content. It therefore appears that the mud pots absorb the liquid opium which has higher percentage of morphine. From table 4 it may also be noticed that the quantity of dry solids in 1,000 g of opium taken for experiment in the beaker tally within the limits of experimental error with the total dry solids in the opium on the cloth and in the oozings in the beaker which shows that no loss of opium and morphine has taken place. The porosity of all the mud pots used in the collection of opium is not the same. The quantity of morphine absorbed from opium would depend upon the porosity of the earthen pots used. This could be one of the reasons for the comparatively lower percentage of morphine in the samples 4797, 7644 and 7646 in table 5. The usage of non-porous containers for storage of opium would prevent this. The earthen pots can be replaced by polythene containers for collection and storage of opium. Matellic containers made of copper, stainless steel and aluminium may also serve this purpose but they may be costlier than polythene vessels.

Acknowledgement - Theauthors thank Shri D. N. Kohli, Narcotics Commissioner to the Government of India for the keen interest taken and facilities afforded during this investigation. They are also indebted to the Government of India, Ministry of Finance for permission accorded to publish the results.

Reference

_____________

001

Permanent Central Opium Board Report, United Nations, Geneva, E/OB/18 (1962); E/OB/19 (1963).

002

Chemist and Druggist, 181 No. 4380 (1964), 89

003

Asthana S. V., Bulletin on Narcotics, VIII, No. 2 (1956), 31.

004

Vardhan S. K., Bulletin on Narcotics, VIII, No. 2 (1956), 35

005

Assay, Characteristics, composition and origin of opium Geneva ST/SOA/SER.K/25, 10 March 1954, K/31, 15 October 1954; K/34, 14 September 1954; K/38, 25 August 1955; K/41, 5 April 1956; K/71, 9 July 1958.

006

Vladimir Kuševic, Bulletin on Narcotics, XII ,No. 2 (1960), 5.

007

Dalev D., Bulletin on Narcotics, XII, No. 1 (1960), 25.

008

British Pharmacopoeia, 1958, 442.

009

Rakshit J. N., Science and Culture, VIII (1942), 16.

010

The Assay Characteristics, Composition and origin of opium UN Secretariat ST/SOA/SER.K/104,3 November 1960.

011

The Assay Characteristics, Composition and origin of opium UN Secretariat ST/SOA/SER.K/21,24 September 1953.