The Ancient Greeks knew it: my dried sap not only relieves pain – it also causes a most pleasant sensation.

They were very fond of using the sap (that they called ‘opion’, juice, which we turned into ‘opium’) for their parties.

And they certainly knew it was a potent substance. In his ‘Historia Plantarum’ the physician Theophrastus says:

“Use a handful for euphoria, twice that for delusions, three times as much to become permanently insane, and four times this amount if death must follow.”

In the 17th century opium reached China, where under the influence of the Dutch East India Company it became both a malarial medicine and an intoxicant.

The Chinese became addicted to the drug, and the colonists, naturally, exploited this craving.

Around 1790 the Company was exporting about 300 tons of opium to China every year, which eventually led to two full-scale ‘opium wars’.