People used to refer to all types of illegal and addictive drugs as narcotics, but the term has a much narrower meaning today.
What Is A Narcotic Drug?
So what is a narcotic drug, exactly? Narcotic drugs are a specific class of drugs called opioids that are used to reduce pain. Narcotics are a class of pain-relieving drugs that come from opium, which is a drug produced by the poppy plant. Commonly referred to as opioids or opiates, narcotic drugs have the ability to bind to naturally occurring opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system to produce pain relief and euphoria. For this reason, opioid painkillers are typically prescribed to patients who experience chronic pain or have acute moderate-to-severe pain after an injury or a surgical procedure.
Types Of Narcotic Drugs
Narcotic drugs come in various forms, including tablets, syrups, capsules and intravenous injections. Common opioids or narcotic drugs include illicit drugs such as heroin and prescription pain medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
Prescription opioids are common narcotic drugs that are prescribed for managing acute and chronic pain and are often prescribed with other drugs such as acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Other types of narcotic drugs include synthetic drugs also derived from opium.
Narcotic Drug Abuse
When these drugs are taken as prescribed, they are not usually addictive, but tolerance, or the need to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects, can increase the chances that a person will become physically dependent on the drug. Due to tolerance that quickly develops with opioid drugs, people may take more than prescribed to feel the drug’s effects, making abuse very common.
Narcotics abuse is common when teens take a higher dose to get “high” or take a prescription longer than they need to, or if they take opioid medications without a prescription. Teens who abuse narcotic drugs may experience the following symptoms, according to WebMD:
- Absence of pain (analgesia)
- Respiratory depression
- Small pupils
- Itching or flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Poor judgment
When opioid prescription drugs are taken without a medical need, or for recreational purposes, the effects can be devastating, contributing to overdoses and even death. Some opioid prescription drugs are easily accessible in the family medicine cabinet, particularly if family members or pets have undergone surgical procedures in the past, so it is important to be aware of the effects of abuse and to ensure that these medications are locked away in a safe place.