Last Updated on February 8, 2017 by Morris Green
Opiate, narcotic, stimulant, depressant, these are just a few of the terms you may see when learning about drugs and addictive substances. Understanding what they mean can impact your ability to raise awareness and make smart decisions. In this installment of Drug Education, we’re going to discuss just what a narcotic is and why it’s so dangerous.
Narcotic comes from the Greek word “narkos,” meaning sleep, but this just scratches the surface of what a narcotic does. According to Wikipedia, its original derivation also means “to make numb.” When the term narcotic was first introduced to the medical world, it referred to any psychoactive compound that induced sleep. Since then, narcotics have become associated with opiates and opioids, primarily morphine, codeine, and thebaine.
Current Uses for Narcotics
Today’s narcotics are most commonly used to relieve pain. Also referred to as opioid pain relievers, narcotic painkillers bind to receptors in the brain to block pain. According to MedlinePlus, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, narcotic drugs should not be taken for more than three to four months unless under the strict direction and monitoring of a direct care health provider.
Narcotic painkillers can be habit-forming. They are also associated with death due to accidental overdose. The twelve most often prescribed include:
Most narcotics are legal if prescribed and monitored by a qualified medical professional. Doctors often prescribe to treat temporary and chronic moderate to severe pain, cough, diarrhea, and insomnia. For some, narcotics can reduce feelings of severe anxiety or aggression.
The Dangers of Narcotic Use
Narcotics can be taken in numerous ways depending on whether prescribed by a healthcare professional or sought after recreationally. They are often orally ingested in the form of pills or liquid, injected, smoked, or taken as a suppository. While they can be beneficial, the do pose a range of noteworthy risks. For example, according to Narcotics.com, unwanted side effects commonly include:
- Chronic constipation
- Decrease in or lack of sex drive
- Drug-induced illnesses or disease (such as HIV/AIDS)
- Insomnia without a narcotic
- Toxic psychosis
- Tremors or muscle twitches
The longer a narcotic is used, the more pronounced or at-risk of developing side effects the user grows. Additional dangers can also present. Perhaps the most understated and important hazard of using a narcotic is the risk of physical dependence. For people with an addictive personality, these drugs can be a gateway to substance abuse and addiction. As the body grows increasingly tolerant and dependent, prescriptions can become harder to attain, and the result for some is turning to equivalent street drugs like heroin.
Narcotic prescription drugs have many benefits. When used and monitored properly, they can assist in the management of temporary and chronic conditions. If you’re using a narcotic or researching one before trying it, be aware of the pros and cons. Avoiding a substance use, abuse, or addiction disorder is often as simple as knowing what to expect, what to watch for, and how to respond.