Opium poppy seed pod exuding latex from a cut.

Opium is a narcotic formed from the latex (i.e., sap) released by lacerating (or "scoring") the immature seed pods of opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). It contains up to 12% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The resin also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids, such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine.

Opium in Agent of Byzantium[]

Dr. Gian Riario used poppy juice from Egypt as an anesthetic during his treatment of smallpox in the Constantinople epidemic of 1307.[1]

Opium in "Getting Real"[]

The ritual of preparing a pellet of Opium for smoking could be as relaxing as the smoke. One would twirl some of the sticky mass on the pointy end of a dipper and gently roast it over an open flame careful not to burn it. Occasionally, one would roll it in the flat bowl of ones pipe to shape it and then continue to roast. When it was ready, it would be placed by the stem opening of the pipe and the bowl heated over the flame until the pellet frizzled. One would then inhale the smoke and feel the tranquility flow in.

Hu Zhiaoxing was such an aficionado and celebrated the peace treaty he had reached with the United States in this way after he returned to Catalina Island.

Opium in The Hot War[]

When Mao Tse-Tung's Red Chinese won the civil war, he banned possession of opium as a capital crime. Vasili Yasevich got into trouble with a Chinese commissar for refusing to sell him opium. While he denied having any, Yasevich did have a glass jar of poppy juice. As a precaution, he removed it from his lodgings and hid it in an abandoned blacksmith's shop several blocks from his place.[2]

A few weeks later, Yasevich spotted a jeep parked in front of his shack. He realized the official had sent the secret police so he slipped away unseen and went to the blacksmith's. He recovered the opium and, wanting to leave Harbin after dark, searched for and found some silver coins. He took a nap and set off when he awoke after dark.[3] He later used the jar of opium and a Mex dollar coin to bribe a fisherman to carry him across the Amur into the Soviet Union.[4]


  1. See e.g. Agent of Byzantium, 2018 edition, p. 67, tpb."
  2. Bombs Away, pgs. 319-323, HC.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 369-371.
  4. Ibid., pgs. 392-396.