Record Detail

Catalogue Number DBN 5158
Artefact DescriptionThis reddish-brown opium powder is well known throughout the world for its place within the illegal drug trade. Opium is hardened latex harvested from the ripening pod of the opium poppy. Chemically processed opium, known as heroin, is used as a narcotic drug, but many families that produce opium for trade are also known to smoke it raw as a means to combat extreme poverty and hunger. Whether processed or pure, opium is a highly addictive substance. Today Afghanistan is the primary producer of opium.

Opium was also the first painkiller known to modern medicine and is still an important source of pain relief drugs such as morphine. The edible poppy seeds are added to various cuisines from around the world.

This particular object originated from the Patna Opium Factory which, during the 1800s, was the center of opium trade in Northern India. Patna was one of two factories the British East India Company ran and the center of it's opium plantations. The Dutch, French and Danish are also reported to have had factories there. The raw opium was formed into small balls, wrapped in poppy petals and dried on shelves. It was then placed in boxes and shipped to China and Europe. By the mid-1800s a large portion of the Chinese population had developed an addiction to the substance resulting in a ban on all opium imports. This was subsequently followed by the First and Second Opium Wars in which the British fought to maintain the lucrative trade.
TaxonPAPAVERACEAE Papaver somniferum
TDWG ContinentAsia-Tropical
TDWG RegionIndian Subcontinent
TDWG Botanical CountryIndia
TDWG UseSocial Uses - Smoking Materials/Drugs
SourceThe Imperial Institute - Patna Opium Factory
NotesFor more information see: Trocki, C. A. 1999 Opium, Empire and the Global Economy: A Study of Asian Opium Trade. Routledge