What Are Narcotics and Why Are They Addictive?

May 26, 2016

Close up on the definition of narcotic

Thousands of varieties of drugs, both legal and illegal, are available for use. All drugs affect a user’s body in some way, but their exact effects depend in large part on their particular chemical components. Most drugs are classified according to specific categories, such as hallucinogens, stimulants, and depressants.

Narcotics are a type of drug that have the potential to be addictive. Because of their addictive potential, this type of drug should only be used according to a doctor’s specific prescription. Any other type of use is considered abuse and can lead to addiction and other possibly life-threatening conditions.

Facts About Illegal Drug Use in America

Illegal drug use, abuse, and addiction are serious problems in the United States. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2012 found that 23.9 million Americans aged 12 and older, or 9.2 percent of that population, had used illegal drugs in the month before the survey. It also reported that over 22 million people aged 12 and older struggled with either substance abuse or dependence.

Definition and Examples of Narcotics

Narcotics, also known as opiates or painkillers, are commonly abused in the United States. The National Institutes of Health explain that narcotics work in the body by binding themselves to pain receptors in the nervous system so that the pain signals are blocked. As a result, this type of drug is sometimes prescribed to temporarily treat severe pain that doesn’t respond to other forms of pain relievers.

There are both legal and illegal narcotics.

The following types are considered legal as long as they are prescribed by a doctor and taken exactly according to the prescription’s recommendations:
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Tramadol
The most common illegal narcotics are:

  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • Any of the medications listed above taken outside the recommendations of a doctor’s prescription
As Donna M. White describes, the side effects of narcotics often include:
  • Decreased sense of pain
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Physical dependence
  • Decreased respiration
  • Sedation
  • Stomach upset, including nausea, vomiting and constipation
  • Tolerance
When a person uses a narcotic over a period of time, they greatly increase their risk of developing an addiction. This is especially true if they are using the drug outside of a doctor’s recommendation. Narcotics can be addictive because they temporarily make the person feel good, and the person begins to crave the feelings that the drug provides. Moreover, sometimes the person’s body starts to need the drug in order to function normally. When this happens, they have developed a physical dependence to the narcotic substance.

Complications Related to Narcotic Abuse

Narcotics can be dangerous not only because of their potential for abuse and addiction but also because they can sometimes lead to overdose and death. The Centers for Disease Control report that in 2011, drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death. Out of the 41,340 drug overdose deaths in America, 16,917, or 74% of deaths related to prescription medication overdose, involved narcotics. Additionally, over 400,000 emergency room visits were prompted by the nonmedical use of prescription narcotics.

How to Get More Information About Narcotics and Their Addictiveness

When used according to a doctor’s specific instructions, narcotics can be extremely beneficial for people suffering from severe pain. If abused in any way, though, these drugs can become dangerous and potentially addictive. Abusing narcotics can also significantly increase a person’s risk of overdose and death. If you or a loved one is struggling with narcotic abuse or addiction and unsure of where to turn, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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