Opium is one of the most important traded commodities in history. It is derived from the sap of the opium poppy. Opium is rich in morphine and codeine, both of which have narcotic properties. It has been used for millennia as a recreational drug, in religious ritual, and for medical purposes. Because of its addictive properties and its consequent ability to attract consumption, opium has also been used by governments as an instrument of taxation and trade policy. At its zenith in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the opium trade spanned most of the world, including North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. During this period, the consumer culture of opium underwent a profound transformation. This entry focuses on the ...

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