Investigation into the geographical differences in alkaloid content of Korean opium

Sections

Poppy cultivation
Experiments
Results
Conclusions

Details

Author: CHANG KI LEE, , HYUNG KOOK KIM,
Pages: 41 to 46
Creation Date: 1970/01/01

Investigation into the geographical differences in alkaloid content of Korean opium

CHANG KI LEE,
HYUNG KOOK KIM,
Narcotics Division, Department of Drugs, National Institute of Health, Seoul

Various scientific methods have been applied in many countries in the world for the determination of the origin of opium. This information can be highly useful in combating the illicit traffic in this drug, since the origin of a sample of seized opium can be determined by analysis.

To establish the origin, determination of the alkaloid content, calculation of the alkaloid ratio [ 1] , [ 2] , [ 3] , [ 4] , [ 5] , [ 6] , [ 7] , [ 8] , [ 9] , microscopic characteristics [ 10] , [ 11] , colour reactions [ 12] , [ 13] , [ 14] and direct absorption spectrophotometry [ 15] , [ 16] , [ 17] , [ 18] , [ 19] , [ 20] ) have been used.

The research described below was undertaken by us, on the one hand, for determining the origin of opium and, on the other, as an experimental cultivation of the opium poppy to produce opium under controlled conditions in eight districts of the Republic of Korea. The purpose of this trial was to analyse the content of the five major alkaloids in samples of opium produced in these districts.

Poppy cultivation

Although the cultivation of the opium poppy in the Republic of Korea is prohibited, there is some illicit cultivation. Sowing by illicit cultivators takes place in spring and autumn; in the warmer southern districts the seed is usually sown in the autumn.

It is always advisable to sow as early as possible but owing to certain circumstances we carried out our experimental sowing from 20 March to the early part of April 1968.

Figure I shows the selected regions for cultivation. The dates of sowing, cultivation and harvest are indicated in table 1.

For our purpose we had to select arable lands in Seoul, Chunchon, Taejon, Chongju, Chonju, Kwangju, Taegu, Pusan and Cheju, since these are comparatively close to urban areas so that supervision and control can be effectively exercised.

As shown in table I, the sowing dates varied because we had to convey the opium seeds ourselves to each selected district.

In Chunchon and Cheju, the sowing was done too late to result in good germination and growth. Especially in Cheju, the temperature was much higher than in other districts so that the seedlings withered and yielded no harvest at all. We think that in that district it would be better to sow in the autumn.

TABLE 1 The cultivation of opium poppy in selected regions

   
Seoul
Chunchon
Taejon
Chongju
Chonju
Kwangju
Taegu
Pusan
Sowing
 
Mar. 21
Apr. 5
Mar. 26
Mar. 27
Mar. 21
Mar. 23
Mar. 25
Mar. 26
Germination
 
Apr. 1
 
Apr. 6
Apr. 13
Apr. 1
Apr. 3
Apr. 15
Apr. 2
Thinning-
1st
May 3
   
Apr. 26
 
May 1
May 3
Apr. 26
out and
2nd
May 7
 
-
Apr. 30
 
May 8
May 6
May 5
weeding
3rd
May 14
 
-
May 6
 
May 13
May 12
May 10
Manuring
 
May 10
   
May 20
May 4
May 21
May 10
May 20
   
May 14
             
Flowering
 
Jun. 9
   
Jun. 13
 
Jun. 9
Jun. 4
Jun. 14
  1st
Jun. 20
   
Jun. 20
Jun. 17
Jun. 17
Jun. 13
Jun. 21
Lancing
2nd
Jun. 23
   
Jun. 22
Jun. 18
Jun. 19
Jun. 17
Jun. 24
  3rd
Jun. 26
   
Jun. 25
Jun. 19
Jun. 21
Jun. 19
Jun. 25
Crude opium amount (g)
  31.50 2.0 22.5 8.0 5.1 4.0 29.7 3.0

FIGURE 1. - The selected regions for opium poppy cultivation

Full size image: 40 kB, FIGURE 1. - The selected regions for opium poppy cultivation

The germination of the poppy seeds started between the eighth and twenty-first day after sowing, according to the region. Thinning-out and weeding were done after the first four leaves had formed and was repeated three times. The superfluous seedlings were removed so as to leave about 15 to 25 cm between the plants, according to local conditions.

Manuring was done uniformly with night soil and chicken soil before sowing, and 30 to 40 days after germination; additional manuring was done with bean cake.

We thinned out the buds in order to allow one or three capsules only to develop and grow larger. Flowering started from 4 June onwards, according to the district.

Almost all plants reached their full development in about 60 days and collection of opium was begun from the eighth to the twelfth day after flowering. The crude opium was collected from three incisions and the yield varied according to the area of cultivation.

Experiments

1. Assay preparation

Dry the crude opium at 60°C, pulverize and dry it again to constant weight. Extract for five hours continuously an accurately weighted quantity of about 0.8 g of the sample with 25 ml of methanol. Add 1 ml of aqueous ammonia to the methanol extract, followed with ethylacetate and decant it.

After complete evaporation of the combined organic solutions dissolve the dry residue in 10 ml of methanol and add 10 ml of 0.5 N HCl. Let the methanol evaporate completely under reduced pressure. Transfer the residual solution completely with the aid of 0.5 N HCl into a 2.5 ml volumetric flask and fill it up to the mark. After centrifuge, the supernatant is used as assay solution.

2. Separation and assay of main alkaloids

This assay solution was used for the extraction and separation of the individual alkaloids, as shown in figure II.

FIGURE II. - Determination of morphine, codeine, thebaine, noscapine and papaverine in opium

Full size image: 39 kB, FIGURE II. - Determination of morphine, codeine, thebaine, noscapine and papaverine in opium

Colour Reagents α max

Morphine: 2.4-Dinitrophenylhydrazine 500 mμ

Codeine: 2.4-Dinitrophenylhydrazine 500 mμ

Thebaine: Phosphoric acid 343 mμ

Noscapine: Chloramine T 515 mμ

Papaverine: Chloramine T 505 mμ

TABLE 2 Alkaloid content of Korean opium (Percentage)

 
Seoul
Chunchon
Taejon
Chongju
Chonju
Kwangju
Taegu
Pusan
  16.38 19.20 18.04 15.45 14.71 15.14 16.46 14.59
Morphine
17.13 18.90 17.57 15.03 14.66 15.64 16.29 14.71
  16.56 19.23 17.82 15.24 14.80 15.26 15.60 14.65
x =
16.69 19.11 17.81 15.24 14.72 15.34 16.12 14.65
  5.33 6.48 6.01 5.50 5.83 3.93 4.41 4.27
Codeine
5.48 6.53 5.99 5.37 5.70 4.12 4.45 4.27
  5.34 6.53 5.51 5.11 5.70 4.22 4.52 4.37
x =
5.38 6.51 5.87 5.33 5.74 4.09 4.46 4.30
  1.42 1.32 1.23 1.02 0.87 1.48 0.91 1.54
Thebaine
1.47 1.51 1.02 1.15 0.86 1.50 0.98 1.49
  1.48 1.35 1.12 1.05 1.08 1.35 1.10 1.60
x =
1.46 1.39 1.12 1.07 0.94 1.44 1.00 1.54
  8.19   6.58 7.05 5.86 8.71 8.12 8.25
Noscapine
8.24
-
6.78 7.00 5.69 8.74 7.72 8.04
  8.19   6.52 7.05 5.99 8.52 7.56 8.26
x =
8.21   6.63 7.03 5.78 8.66 7.80 8.18
  1.15   1.13 1.11 0.97 1.51 1.30 1.31
Papaverine
1.36
-
1.09 1.15 1.17 1.50 1.22 1.27
  1.52   1.09 1.13 1.07 1.51 1.32 1.29
x =
1.34   1.10 1.13 1.07 1.51 1.28 1.29

The quantitative determination of morphine, codeine, noscapine and papaverine separated in this way was carried out by Sakurai's method [ 7] and thebaine analysed by Falck's method [ 9] .

Results

Experimental results are recorded in table 2. Each of the samples collected by district was analysed separately three times.

The results of these analyses showed that the morphine content of opium collected in the Seoul, Taejon and Chunchon areas is comparatively higher than that of other areas. There is not much difference in the codeine content, but that of opium grown in Kwangju, Pusan and Taegu is comparatively lower than in the case of other areas. The noscapine content of Chonju opium is lower than that obtained from opium in other areas. The papaverine and thebaine content varies only slightly from one regional group to another.

The results also show that the content in alkaloids, such as morphine and codeine, of opium from the northern parts is higher than in the case of opium grown in the southern parts of the Republic of Korea.

This is our first tentative project; therefore, on the basis of experimental results obtained so far it would be premature to determine the origin of opium by the differences in the content and ratio of alkaloids. In consequence, there is still room for further study of cultivation methods and analytical determination.

Comparing the average alkaloid content of domestic opium by regional groups with data published by authors in other countries [ 7] , [ 9] , [ 20] , it appears that Korean opium contains comparatively more morphine, codeine and noscapine than opium produced in other countries.

Table 3 shows the ratios of the different alkaloids plotted against morphine content and multiplied by 10. According to the results, there is little difference in alkaloidal ratios among the regional groups, but the ratios of domestic samples are different from those of foreign opium.

In Seoul and Taegu, we inched the poppy capsules three times and collected and analysed the crude opium samples separately.

TABLE 3 Comparison of alkaloidal ratios between domestic opium

 
10 codeine / morphine
10 thebaine / morphine
papaverine / morphine
10 noscapine / morphine
Seoul
3.2 0.9 0.8 4.9
Chunchon
3.4 0.7
-
-
Taejon
3.3 0.6 0.6 3.7
Chongju
3.5 0.7 0.7 4.6
Chonju
3.9 0.6 0.7 3.9
Kwangju
2.7 0.9 1.0 5.6
Taegu
2.8 0.6 0.8 4.8
Pusan
2.9 1.1 0.90 5.6

TABLE 4 Variation of alkaloidal content according to the incision

 

Alkaloidal content (percentage)

Region

Incision

Morphine

Codeine

Thebaine

Noscapine

Papaverine

  1st 16.69 5.38 1.46 8.21 1.34
Seoul
2nd 12.59 6.02 1.37 6.38 1.13
  3rd 13.33 5.82 1.00 7.91 1.19
  1st 16.12 4.46 1.00 7.80 1.24
Taegu
2nd 11.80 4.49 1.22 7.31 1.25
  3rd 11.05 3.87 1.42 7.39 1.10

The results shown in table 4 indicate that as regards the second and third incision the content of codeine, thebaine, papaverine and noscapine does not seem to vary greatly, but the morphine content decreases markedly in the two last collections as compared to collection after the first incision.

TABLE 5 Analytical results of seized opium and alkaloidal ratios

1. Alkaloidal content (percentage)

Sample
Morphine
Codeine
Noscapine
Papaverine
1 10.8 3.5 4.5 1.2
2 15.2 4.2 7.1 1.3
3
+
+
+
+
4 8.3 2.9 3.7 0.6
5 6.7 2.1 3.2 0.5
6 9.3 3.3 3.5 0.8

2. Alkaloidal ratios

Sample
10 codeine morphine /
10 noscapine morphine /
10 papaverine morphine /
1 3.2 4.2 1.1
2 2.8 4.7 0.9
4 3.5 4.5 0.7
5 3.1 4.8 1.0
6 3.5 3.8 0.8
Korean
3.2 4.7 0.8

Against the background of our analysis of Korean opium produced under controlled conditions, we analysed samples of crude opium seized by the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in 1967 (table 5).

Sample No. 3 has a very low alkaloid content and Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6 have a slightly lower content than the opium we cultivated.

The former is considered to be opium from which alkaloids have already been extracted and the latter to be adulterated crude opium. But regardless of this we can conclude from the similarity of individual alkaloidal ratios obtained by our investigation that the opium seized by the competent authorities was of domestic production.

Conclusions

  1. Korean opium is different from that of foreign origin in its alkaloid content and ratio. The content of morphine, codeine and noscapine is higher than that of foreign samples.

  2. The alkaloid content can vary according to the different regions. The morphine and codeine content of opium produced in the northern parts of the country seems to be higher than that obtained in the southern parts of the Republic of Korea; however a similarity in alkaloidal ratios is nonetheless noticeable.

  3. In view of the fact that the alkaloidal ratios of the seized opium samples are similar to those of the opium we have cultivated, the seized opium referred to above is considered to be of domestic production.

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