20 OCTOBER 2001, Page 40


From Dr Ian Verner Sir: I am afraid that Michael Vestey (Arts, 6 October) will be disappointed if he attempts to experience the perilous pleasures of opium by dissolving poppy seeds in alcohol, for the seeds are the only part of the poppy that lack any opioid. Were this not so, poppy-seed bread and rolls would be much

more popular, considerably more expensive than they are at present, and require undercover distribution. Opium is obtained by drying the milky juice exuded after scratching the skin of unripe seed capsules of Papa ver somniferum. To make it palatable it was dissolved in alcohol and called laudanum, or chloroform water, and used as a paregoric. Of course, Michael could always smoke it and compound his perils.

Ian Verner

Froxfield, Hampshire