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Opium is a narcotic analgesic drug which is obtained from the unripe seed pods of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L. or the synonym paeoniflorum).
To harvest opium, the skin of the ripening pods is scored by a sharp blade. The slashes exude a white, milky latex, which dries to a sticky brown resin that is scraped off the pods as raw opium.
Opium has powerful narcotic properties. Its constituents and derivatives are used as painkillers. Therefore, legal opium production is allowed under the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and other international drug treaties, subject to strict supervision by the law enforcement agencies of individual countries. The leading legal producer of opium is India, which is also the only place on earth where opium is still legally harvested by the traditional method of incising the pods. Other important national cultivators of opium poppies for the pharmaceutical industry are Tasmania in Australia, and France. Several other countries cultivate the poppy to satisfy the demand of their domestic pharmaceutical companies, but not for export. However, it is not str...