Opium, and its alkaloid counterparts, are produced from the poppy plant (left).(www.telegraph.co.uk)
Morphine, nicotine, and Caffeine are all addictive alkaloid molecules that had a great impact on trade relations between various nations throughout history. (Le Couteur & Burreson 246-268)
Morphine, the active ingredient in Opium, is an extremely effective painkiller, and in some cases has a narcotic, and hallucinogenic effect. Variations of the morphine compound, are heroin and methadone. Morphine mimics the natural painkilling endorphins in our brains and explains their effectiveness as painkillers. Morphine has generally been prescribed throughout history as a cure for many different symptoms including coughing, headaches, asthma, emphysema, and tuberculosis. The Chemical structure of morphine, and its derivatives, are essential for its narcotic effects. In this structure, known as the morphine rule, the molecule must have a phenyl or aromatic ring, a quaternary carbon atom, and a CH2-CH2 group attached to a tertiary Nitrogen atom. It is believed that the required structure of the morphine rule is responsible for the narcotic effects of many chemical compounds. (Le Couteur & Burreson 246-268)
Use of Tobacco was first discovered in Latin America and the brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus. The use of tobacco spread wildly throughout Europe because of its addictive qualities. Tobacco has at least 10 different alkaloids, the most common being Nicotine. Biologically, Nicotine acts as a stimulant in small doses and a depressant in large doses. Furthermore, it has been discovered that nicotine is 1000 times more potent when it is absorbed through the skin than when it is taken orally. Nicotine is also used as an extremely effective natural pesticide.(Le Couteur & Burreson 246-268)
Caffeine is naturally found in tea leaves, coffee beans, cacao pods, and cola nuts. When in the body, caffeine goes to the brain where it blocks the absorption of adenosine at the synaptic gap. Adenosine slows down the firing of Neurotransmitters which therefore makes you tired, but if caffeine inhibits the absorption of this neurotransmitter, then it explains caffeine's awakening effect. Caffeine is also toxic as well as highly addictive, it is estimated that 80g-100g is the lethal dose for an adult. But, it is nearly impossible to consume that much caffeine at one time.