There’s a stigma that’s associated with the word ‘narcotic’ because of how it is used in law enforcement. The word commonly refers to any illegal drug, regardless of type. That’s why when we hear the word ‘narcotics’ we immediately think “that’s illegal”.
But that’s not really accurate. In the medical field, narcotics have a specific definition—and these drugs are not always harmful. Understanding what these drugs are can help us avoid addiction and substance abuse. Let’s have a closer look.
What are Narcotics?
Narcotics are also known as opiates, opioids, and analgesics. Some of those terms certainly sound illegal if you don’t know about them. But these are all just painkilling medications. These prescription painkillers are used to treat moderate to severe pain.
This means narcotics are helpful for those who are suffering from cancer pain, post-surgical pain, and traumatic pain.
Unlike how it is used in law enforcement, this term actually refers to medications that are prescribed by doctors worldwide. They work by attaching to certain receptors on nerves in the brain in order to increase our pain threshold. It increases the amount of stimulation it takes for us to feel pain.
By reducing the perception of pain, the patient’s discomfort is easily relieved. It can lessen and remove pain entirely, hence the term ‘painkiller’.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason behind the stigma. As useful as they are, narcotics have a high potential for abuse. That’s why they are often associated with drug addiction and drug abuse rather than pain management and mental health. We will discuss that further later on. But the takeaway here is that these drugs are beneficial if used properly.
What are the Examples?
Here are a few examples of narcotic analgesics, for your reference: codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, morphine, and Fentanyl. Variants and other formulations exist as well. For example, oxycodone is available as a time release medication called OxyContin.
All of these pain medications are currently available in the US. Prescription drugs like codeine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and methadone are all available as immediate-release tablets.
Oxycodone and morphine are both available as extended-release tablets. Meanwhile, morphine and hydrocodone are both available in extended-release capsule form. That means they are not illegal per se—but can be obtained with a prescription from a licensed physician.
Abuse of the Drug
The fact that it is available via prescription makes it much easier for illicit users to take narcotics recreationally. This is part of the reason why narcotics have such a bad reputation despite their benefits.
Opiates and opioids are abused because of the high they produce. Aside from relieving pain, these narcotics also produce a euphoric sensation—this is what makes them addictive. If your doctor ever prescribes any of these painkillers, be sure to follow the prescription carefully. Do not take larger doses of these opioid analgesics even if you accidentally miss a previous dosage.
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If you experience any side effects, tell your doctor about it. Narcotics are habit-forming and very potent despite their effectiveness against chronic pain, so even if you take them in pharmaceutical doses, you might encounter some side effects.
Common side effects of narcotics include constipation, sedation, nausea, dizziness, itching, vomiting, headaches, and dry mouth.
Of course, abusing narcotics is illegal, even if obtained via prescription. It will also lead to worse adverse effects such as respiratory depression, chest pain, cardiac arrest, and even death. Overdose can be fatal. And long term abuse can lead to physical dependence and addiction, along with all the risks mentioned above.
Despite the difficulty of struggling with addiction, it is still possible to get better and live a sober life. There are many treatment options available for all kinds of abused drugs. Look for a rehab center near you today and find out how narcotic addiction can be treated. It may take a long period of time before you can recover from opioid addiction, but it’s better than always being at risk of drug overdose.