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A plant, Papaver somniferum (Papaveraceae), which is probably a native of Asia Minor. It is cultivated extensively in China, India, and elsewhere. This plant is the source of opium, obtained by cutting into the fruits (capsules) soon after the petals have fallen (see illustration). The white latex (juice) flows from the cuts and hardens when exposed to the air. This solidified latex is collected, shaped into balls or wafers, and often wrapped in the flower petals. This is the crude opium, which contains at least 20 alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. These drugs are used in medicine to allay pain, induce sleep, and relax spasms. Opium is one of the most useful drugs, but it is habit-forming and consequently should be used with the utmost caution. The opium habit is deleterious physically, mentally, and morally, and misuse of the drug is an extremely serious problem.

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