No End in Sight: The Abuse of Prescription Narcotics (Cerebrum):
“For centuries upon centuries, people have used opium or its components—morphine and other similar narcotics—to get “high” or feel mellow. Opium is tied to ancient civilizations in Egypt, Persia, and China and such figures as Alexander the Great, Hippocrates, John Keats, and John Jacob Astor. Paintings portray old Chinese men relaxing and apparently deep in thought in rocking chairs, smoking pipes filled with opium, dried latex that comes from poppies grown in many regions in Asia. In countries such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, opium production and exportation is the basis of their economies.
While raw opium products historically have been highly prized mood-altering drugs, one of their main active components, morphine, converts very easily, with a simple chemical step, to heroin. ” Keep reading article over at Cerebrum.