In 1829, at a meeting of the Westminster Medical Society, a group of physicians wondered why the ‘East India Opium’ was being overlooked in favour of the opium from Turkey, particularly when the efficacy and purity of the former and the quantity of morphia that it yielded had been extremely positive from the results of its analysis by medical institutions and practitioners. Opium from Smyrna (present day Izmir, Western Turkey) and Constantinople (present day Istanbul), dominated the world market for raw opium then, and there was much concern among a section of intellectuals on the need to end Britain’s dependency on Turkish opium.
As European medical botanists and scientists set about conducting various experiments on the East India Opium, in India the manufacture and disposal of opium alkaloids had been engaging the attention of both the Board of Revenue and the Government. Ever since the decline of the opium trade with China, the shortage of supplies of cinchona and the growing demand of alkaloids in the United Kingdom had been much discussed by British officials. Faced with the imminent extinction of the opium trade with China, the British government was also frantically looking for possibilities to expand the government opium monopoly over excise opium and exploring the manufacture of medicinal preparations of opium. The loss of trade with China had made the issue of alkaloids a ‘question of great practical importance.’ Although it appeared that the British Government seemed to accept the prospective loss with admirable calm, and the opium system in India was adapting to the changing conditions, the opium establishment in Ghazipur was gradually being prepped up for the manufacture of high-grade medicinal opium.