Various opiates, such as laudanum, were once widely available. In Victorian times, anyone could purchase a bottle of laudanum for their pains, either physical or emotional, and opium was sold in large cakes wrapped in brown paper. From this, a mixture of sugar, opium and water could be made and this was frequently given to babies and small children to keep them quiet and still while their parents were busy. This naturally created a number of very young addicts, and in the 1800s there are numerous accounts of children as young as five attempting to buy bottles of laudanum for their own use.
Today, opiates are strictly regulated drugs because of their high potential for abuse. Personally, I find this a shame and an over-exaggerated fear.
The knowledge of the proper applications of opiates are no secret and have been well-known since ancient times. That doctors persist on prescribing these new 'wonder' drugs, when no-one has really any idea what they do, as they are only 'thought to work' in a particular fashion, seems impossibly reckless.
Moreover, nothing kills pain quite like opiates. There is no safer, more readily available, widely understood drug for the treatment of acute and chronic pains than the extracts of Papaver sap.
As a long-term sufferer of chronic pain (thankfully cleared up now through surgery) I understand both the great blessing of being temporarily painfree and the struggles involved to find a doctor who isn't too afraid of addiction to prescribe you a few pills.
But this is a blog about history, not the modern medical field.