On a Morphiometric Process for the Pharmacopoeia.

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The question, "What is the best process for assaying opium to determine its morphia strength, suited for adoption into the United States Pharmacopoeia?" was accepted by the writer at the Chicago meeting.

Reflection on the query suggests that it is not so much what is the best analytical process, as to decide what process is best suited for practical use by druggists and pharmaceutists in determining the morphia value of opium for the purposes of the Pharmacopoeia. Those who take the view that the process should embody the nicest and most refined manipulations of the analytical laboratory, may not accept this view, but when it is understood that a large majority of the persons needing its use are not analytical chemists, it is believed that simplicity, united to a fair degree of accuracy, is more available than extreme accuracy, beyond the reach of most apothecaries, applied in a complex process.

So many able chemists have published processes, some of which are well known in connection with their names, as Staples' process, Mohr's, Guillermond's, &c., that the ground would appear to be well examined. The process of Staples is that of the United States Pharmacopoeia. Its point is in the employment of alcohol to retain the coloring matter in solution during the precipitation of the morphia, and in mixing the ammoniacal precipitant also with alcohol. The process of Mohr avails itself of the selective power of boiling limewater to reject narcotina, and retain morphia in solution. Both of these processes extract the opium with cold water. Guillermond's process employs alcohol of 71 per cent. to extract the opium, which is then precipitated by ammonia. The precipitate, as in Staples' process, contains narcotina.

One difficulty in extracting the portion of opium soluble in water is the caoutchoucoid matter which tends to resist its solvent action. The idea of employing benzine or light coal oil to remove this, as well as the free narcotina, has been suggested by Albert E. Ebert for another purpose, and has been used by Dr. Flückiger in his examination of opium. It is believed that, the preliminary use of this solvent in opium assays may be usefully adopted.

Believing that the best way to arrive at a solution of the query was to try several processes with the same solution of opium, a sample of nearly dry opium, weighing 300 grains, was triturated to coarse powder, and then rubbed with repeated portions of water, until finely divided and macerated in six times its weight of water for twelve hours, then percolated on a filter until the washings were nearly colorless. The united liquids (amounting to 4500 grains) were divided into three equal portions, each representing 100 grains of opium.

No. 1. The solution was evaporated with moderate heat to half a fluid ounce, mixed with an equal bulk of alcohol (sp. gr. 835), filtered through a small filter, and the latter washed with a little diluted alcohol. 50 minims of solution of ammonia (sp. gr. 960) was mixed with 2 fluid drachms of alcohol. One-half of this was added to the alcoholic solution of opium with agitation, and allowed to stand six hours, when the remainder of the ammonia was mixed in and the vessel permitted to rest for twenty-four hours. The crystalline matter deposited on the interior of the vial being detached, the contents were at intervals poured on a small-tared filter, and the crude morphia washed, first with diluted alcohol and then with water, dried at 120°, and weighed. The product was 9.75 grains. This was treated several times with boiling non-alcoholic ether, and the ethereal solution evaporated in a small-tared capsule gave 0.81 grains of crystalline prisms, equivalent to 0.31 per cent. of narcotina, and 9.44 per cent. of morphia in the opium examined.

No. 2. This portion was treated with solution of subacetate of lead till it ceased to be precipitated, the precipitate separated on a filter and well washed, the filtrate treated with diluted sulphuric acid by drops to separate the excess of lead as sulphate, and filtered. The clear solution by moderate heat is reduced to half a fluid ounce, mixed with its bulk of alcohol filtered, and the filtrate mixed with fifty grains of solution of ammonia containing alcohol, in two portions added half an hour apart, and allowed to stand twenty-four hours. The morphia was deposited in large distinct crystals, very few of which were attached to the interior of the vessel. They were collected on a filter, washed with diluted alcohol and water, dried and weighed 8.75 grains . This, repeatedly boiled in ether and the ethereal liquids evaporated, afforded but a trace of crystalline matter, too small to weigh and yet distinctly visible in minute prisms.

No. 3. This was mixed with sixty grains of lime, previously hydrated and boiled for fifteen minutes, the decoction filtered hot from the dregs, and these well washed with hot water. The filtrate slightly acidulated with muriatic acid was evaporated to half a fluid ounce, mixed with its bulk of alcohol and filtered; an excess of alcoholic ammonia was added and mixed, and the vessel set aside for twenty-four hours. The colored crystalline powder and the portion attached as a crust to the interior, were carefully collected on a filter, washed, dried and weighed, affording ten grains of impure morphia, more colored than either of the other results.

The use of alcohol in this process is intended to retain the coloring matter yet did not succeed in producing a light-colored morphia.

The last result, according to Mohr, should contain no narcotina, yet when boiled to exhaustion in ether deprived of alcohol, the ethereal liquid afforded 0.75 grain of narcotina, making the result of morphia 9.25 per cent., and narcotina 0.75 per cent.

It will appear, by a comparison of these results, that the Staples process, whilst less complicated than either of the others, yields a purer product than the Mohr process, and a slightly larger yield of morphia; whilst the process No. 2, which is suggested by the writer, affords the purest and best crystallized morphia, but is more complicated than either of the others. Hence, it is the first, or Staples' process, that is to be preferred, modified by treating the powdered opium with warm benzine as a preliminary operation. The final success is greatly aided by conducting the evaporation of the liquor at a moderate temperature, which renders the product less contaminated with coloring matter. By reducing the bulk before precipitation to the extent noted above, the precipitation of the morphia is facilitated, whilst the crystals are equally light colored. By using benzine beforehand the extraction of the opium will be more thoroughly accomplished. —Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 1870.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).