Abuse of opium poppies cultivated in Denmark

Abstract

In early September 1972, information was received that young drug users were sampling opium for their own use from poppies grown for seed in fields near the town of Vordingborg on Sealand (the island on which Copenhagen is situated). According to the users, the opium obtained from these poppies produced a satisfying euphoria.

Details

Author: Jens SCHOU, Birthe ERIKSEN
Pages: 57 to 58
Creation Date: 1973/01/01

Abuse of opium poppies cultivated in Denmark

M.D., Ph.D. Jens SCHOU
Birthe ERIKSEN
Department of Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen.

In early September 1972, information was received that young drug users were sampling opium for their own use from poppies grown for seed in fields near the town of Vordingborg on Sealand (the island on which Copenhagen is situated). According to the users, the opium obtained from these poppies produced a satisfying euphoria.

This information was quite surprising as in the opinion of professional circles the Danish-grown opium poppy was generally believed to have a very low morphine content. It was, therefore, decided to sample opium from the fields in question in a sufficient quantity to permit the determination of its morphine content and also to assess the yield of opium obtainable from these plants using the classical method for sampling opium in the Orient. It had initially been hoped to extend the investigation to poppies grown in fields in different localities in Denmark and in various kinds of soil but, due to the lateness of the season, the plan had to be abandoned; most of the fields had already been harvested and only very few green plants were found in the unharvested fields. A single sample obtained from the Botanical Gardens of the University of Copenhagen was also included in the investigations.

The opium was obtained by lancing the green poppy capsules horizontally. The milky exudate was collected and dried. Each sample for analysis consisted of the opium from 10 capsules. The moisture content of the raw opium, determined by drying the sample to constant weight at 105°C, was 9.8%

The amounts of opium obtained from opium poppies grown in Denmark and the morphine content determined by TLC and spectrophotometry, except for the values marked which were determined colorimetrically

Sample

Opium from 10 capsules (mg)

Morphine content in opium (w/w %)

Vordingborg 1
70.1 22.4
Vordingborg 2
77.3 20.3
Vordingborg 3
75.9 23.2
Vordingborg 4
83.2 21.2
Vordingborg 5
65.0
26.0*
Vordingborg 6
75.4
26.9*
Botanical Garden
No weight
16.2

NOTE: Mean values: 10 capsules contained 75.5±6.3 (s.d., N = 6) mg opium with 23.3±2.6 (s.d., N = 6) per cent morphine, equivalent to approximately 1.7 mg morphine per opium poppy capsule.

A similarly high concentration of morphine has been reported in opium from poppies grown in Norway by A. Nordal & M. Blyberg 1964.

Source: Nordal A., & M. Blyberg: Norges Apotekerforenings tidskrift, 1964, 72, 173.

The morphine content of the samples was determined by a combination of thin layer chromatography and spectrophotometry (Erik Nielsen, personal communication). For contSrol purposes, the morphine content of two samples was assessed in another laboratory using the colorimetric method (The Royal Danish School of Pharmacy, Dept. B.). The results are shown in the table, page 57.