dormouse (Member)
04-20-00 01:29
No 108305
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Author  Topic:   opium 4 
Member   posted 04-25-98 07:30 PM          

Before opium is smoked, it is usually 'cooked'. Uncooked opium contains
moisture, as well as soil, leaves, twigs, and other impurities which
diminish the quality of the final product. The raw opium collected from
the opium poppy pods is placed in an open cooking pot of boiling water
where the sticky globs of opium alkaloids quickly dissolve. Soil, twigs,
plant scrapings, etc., remain undissolved. The solution is then strained
through cheesecloth to remove these impurities. The clear brown liquid
that remains is opium in solution, sometimes called 'liquid opium'. This
liquid is then re-heated over a low flame until the water is driven off
into the air as steam leaving a thick dark brown paste. This paste is
called 'prepared', 'cooked', or 'smoking' opium. It is dried in the sun
until it has a putty-like consistency. The net weight of the cooked
opium is generally only eighty percent that of the original raw opium.
Thus, cooked opium is more pure than its original, raw form, and has a
higher monetary value.
Cooked opium is suitable for smoking or eating by opium users.
Traditionally there is only one group of opium poppy farmers, the Hmong,
who prefer not to cook their opium before smoking. Most other ethnic
groups, including Chinese opium addicts, prefer smoking cooked opium. If
the opium is to be sold to traders for use in morphine or heroin
laboratories, it is not necessary to cook it first. The laboratory
operators generally use 55-gallon oil drums or huge cooking vats to
dissolve the raw opium before beginning the morphine extraction process.

Raw or cooked opium contains more than thirty-five different alkaloids,
including morphine, which accounts for approximately ten percent of the
total raw opium weight. Heroin manufacturers must first extract the
morphine from the opium before converting the morphine to heroin. The
extraction is a simple process, requiring only a few chemicals and a
supply of water. Since the morphine base is about one-tenth the weight
and volume of raw opium, it is desirable to reduce the opium to morphine
before transporting the product any great distance. Morphine is
sometimes extracted from opium in small clandestine 'laboratories' which
may be set up near the opium poppy fields.

The process of extracting morphine from opium involves dissolving opium
in hot water, adding lime to precipitate the non-morphine alkaloids and
then adding ammonium chloride to precipitate the morphine from the
solution. An empty oil drum and some cooking pots are all that is

The following is a step-by-step description of morphine extraction in a
typical Southeast Asian laboratory:

1.An empty 55-gallon oil drum is placed on bricks about a foot above the
ground and a fire is built under the drum. Thirty gallons of water are
added to the drum and brought to a boil. Ten to fifteen kilograms of raw
opium are added to the boiling water.
2.With stirring, the raw opium eventually dissolves in the boiling
water, while soil, leaves, twigs, and other non-soluble materials float
in the solution. Most of these materials are scooped out of the clear
brown 'liquid opium' solution.
3.Slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), or more often a readily available
chemical fertilizer with a high content of lime, is added to the
solution. The lime converts the water insoluble morphine into the water
soluble calcium morphenate. The other opium alkaloids do not react with
the lime to form soluble calcium salts. Codeine is slightly water
soluble and gets carried over with the calcium morphenate in the liquid.
For the most part, the other alkaloids become part of the residual
sediment 'sludge' that comes to rest on the bottom of the oil drum.
4.As the solution cools, and after the insolubles precipitate out, the
morphine solution is scooped from the drum and poured through a filter
of some kind. Burlap rice sacks are often used as filters. They are
later squeezed in a press to remove most of the solution from the wet
sacks. The solution is then poured into large cooking pots and
re-heated, but not boiled.
5.Ammonium chloride is added to the heated calcium morphenate solution
to adjust the alkalinity to a pH of 8 to 9, and the solution is then
allowed to cool. Within one or two hours, the morphine base and the
unextracted codeine base precipitate out of the solution and settle to
the bottom of the cooking pot.
6.The solution is then poured off through cloth filters. Any solid
morphine base chunks in the solution will remain on the cloth. The
morphine base is removed from both the cooking pot and from the filter
cloths, wrapped and squeezed in cloth, and then dried in the sun. When
dry, the crude morphine base is a coffee-colored powder.
7.This 'crude' morphine base, commonly known by the Chinese term p'i-tzu
throughout Southeast Asia, may be further purified by dissolving it in
hydrochloric acid, adding activated charcoal, re-heating and
re-filtering. The solution is filtered several more times, and the
morphine (morphine hydrochloride) is then dried in the sun.
8.Morphine hydrochloride (still tainted with codeine hydrochloride) is
usually formed into small brick-sized blocks in a press and wrapped in
paper or cloth. The most common block size is 2 inches by 4 inches by 5
inches weighing about 1.3 kilograms (3 lbs). The bricks are then dried
for transport to heroin processing laboratories.

Approximately 13 kilograms of opium, from one hectare of opium poppies,
are needed to produce each morphine block of this size. The morphine
blocks are bundled and packed for transport to heroin laboratories by
human couriers or by pack animals. Pack mules are able to carry
100-kilogram payloads over 200 miles of rugged mountain trails in less
than three weeks.