Opium (poppy tears, lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Opium contains approximately 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine. The traditional method of obtaining the latex is to scratch ('score') the immature seed pods (fruits) by hand; the latex leaks out and dries to a sticky yellowish residue that is later scraped off. The modern method is to harvest and process mature plants by machine. 'Meconium' historically referred to related, weaker preparations made from other parts of the poppy or different species of poppies. The production of opium itself has not changed since ancient times.
Contributions by Tom harrison, 184.108.40.206, and Alhutch.