Editor's Proviso: Please note the following article is presented for educational purposes only. Implementing the steps described below is illegal in most jurisdictions. This article is presented in the context of total collapse of society and government, in which government has become nonexistent.
Pain management is one of the most serious aspects of any medical situation whether it is life threatening or not. Many of us have chronic pain issues which get worse as we age or as our physical workload increases. Pain exacerbates shock when traumatic injuries are sustained. Pain management can comfort us in during palliative care and make the transition into the next world easier – both for the person who is dying and to ease the anxiety of loved ones. The reality is that pain management should be a concern for all of us who are preparing to meet whatever the future holds.
Most of us do not have access to effective pain management medications beyond Tylenol, Aspirin and Ibuprofen. Narcotics that are regularly prescribed for serious pain are unavailable to add to our medical kit, and will certainly be unobtainable when TSHTF. All is not lost, however, but we must be prepared to grow our own painkillers. Fortunately, this is neither expensive nor difficult. The answer is to begin growing opium poppies just as our ancestors did up until a century ago. Opium poppies are used to produce morphine and codeine, and do not require much processing to create a useful painkiller that can be grown in your garden.
Which Poppies to Grow?
Opium producing poppies are known by their botanical label Papaver somniferum. Variants go by the names Giganteum, Hens and Chicks, Persian White, Persian Blue, Danish Flag. Each type will have a different morphine content genetically, and conditions will also affect the potency of the poppy. They are readily available as seeds and are legal to order and possess. 500 to 1000 seed packages can be had for $10 to $20 and are viable if stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place for 3 to 5 years. One poppy pod can produce several hundred seeds that are easily harvested, so a rotating seed stock is easy to maintain.
Growing the Opium Poppy
Opium Poppies tend to like a cooler environment for germination, warmer for the growth phase and into maturity for opium production. Early Spring is a good time to plant when there is still snow on the ground. Some folks plant in the Fall and let the poppies sit dormant over winter to spring to life as it warms up. I have found it best to plant seed directly in the garden and let them germinate there. They require only a shallow covering of topsoil. Soil should be well drained, and sandy soil works well for this. The poppy roots near the surface and does not extend roots down into the soil very far. Sowing many seeds close together and then thinning the group a couple of times early in the growing season works well. The mature poppy needs space – 10” to 12” around the poppy is a good idea. A soil and water pH level of 7 (neutral) is good. Manure based fertilizer is excellent. Water and fertilize the poppies regularly. Poppies are quite hardy, but they don’t like weeds, so weeding your plot is essential.
Poppies grow tall (4’ is common), and so must be somewhat sheltered from the wind. Full sun in a temperate climate is good, but in very warm climates partial shade is appropriate. Once the poppies reach their full height, they will develop a lovely flower and seed pod. The petals of the flower will last less than 2 weeks and will be shed completely leaving the pod. Once the petals appear, cut back on watering, but do not allow the roots to dry out. This will push the pods to produce more opium.
Harvesting the opium
Once the seed pods have shed the petals and the pods are mature, you can begin to score the surface of the pod with a sharp blade. Draw the blade from near the bottom of the pod to near the top. Do not go deeper into the skin than 1/16”. Immediately you will see a milky substance appear. After a couple of hours the substance will begin to get gummy and you can scrape it off the pod with a blade or flexible piece of thin steel like a putty knife. This is the raw opium and will contain a quantity of up to 20% morphine.
The pods can be scored multiple times over multiple days until the plant dies. Once the plant has perished, cut the poppy at the stalk about 5” from the bottom of the pod. The pod will contain hundreds of seeds, and once it has dried, the pod can be crushed and the seeds extracted. The remaining plant matter can be collected and ground up to make a vile tasting tea that has many of the painkilling properties as the raw opium. Seed pods can be harvested and stored for future use and may deteriorate slower than grinding and storing the powder, but they will take up more room.
What to do with the opium
For centuries opium was ingested orally. From the 16th to the late 19th Century, it was sold as Laudanum, which was simply the opium “latex” (the raw scrapings from the pod) that was powdered and mixed with alcohol. As well as being more soluble than water, alcohol aided the painkilling properties of the opium and likely preserved and increased the shelf life. Small bottles of 10% opium and 90% ethanol alcohol would make excellent barter goods and be a way to dispose of excess opium.
As discussed earlier, tea made from adding crushed poppy plant matter to hot water makes a fairly powerful painkiller, but getting the dosage right could be a problem, so using multiple small doses is the best way to start with opium tea.
The best way to meter dosage is to actually smoke the opium latex. Direct heat to the latex works, but not as effectively as vaporizing it. Simple vaporizing is done by heating the pipe bowl rather than applying heat to the opium directly. Small, match-head size pieces can be smoked and the effects are fairly immediate.
Another use for opium
Opium also acts as a good anti-diarrheal agent. The opiate derivatives of opium – morphine, codeine and heroin are known to stop up users. This can be a problem in a survival situation, so starting a laxative regimen may be necessary. But, where diarrhea is accompanied by pain, opium may be the best solution in a self-sufficient environment.
Opium is addictive and should be treated with due care and respect. Coming off of protracted usage is difficult and painful both physically and psychologically. However, if used for managing real physical pain, addiction is often not an issue as long as the usage is stopped when the pain subsides for good. Opiates are still the most used and often most effective painkillers prescribed today.
Legal issues. While it is widely legal to own opium poppy seeds, it is also just as widely illegal to grow poppies for opium production. Having hundreds of poppies growing in your garden prior to TSHTF will invite arrest. Growing a few poppies for decorative purposes will go unnoticed, and the dried seed pods are widely available for decorative flower arrangements. Growing just a few poppies every year and storing the seeds is what I do.
Where to get seeds
I got my first seeds online after searching Papaver somniferum. There are many dealers, and they are inexpensive to buy. I know have several strains growing in my garden, as do relatives and friends. They are beautiful plants, and will certainly come in handy some day.
Editor's Proviso: I must reiterate that the preceding article is presented for educational purposes only. Implementing the steps described below is illegal in most jurisdictions. This article is presented in the context of total collapse of society and government, in which government has become nonexistent.