Prescription Drug Addiction & Rehab

What Are Narcotics and What Makes Them so Dangerous?

what is a narcotic

Taking prescription drugs for non-medical reasons is among the first steps of developing a dangerous dependency which can lead to harmful physical effects on that body and a need for treatment later down the line. Painkillers are the most abused drug in the United States, with addiction rates steadily growing among teens and young adults.

If you are still unclear about what a narcotic is or what makes them dangerous, this article is for you. Keep reading for more information.

What is a Narcotic?

Opiates and painkillers fall into the drug category of narcotics. These are drugs that help you to relieve pain by blocking the pain receptors found in the nervous system.

When these pain receptors are blocked, the brain tells our bodies there is no longer pain to feel.

Narcotics are commonly prescribed by doctors in one of two scenarios. The first is a result of pain from surgery, an illness, or an injury that over the counter drugs aren’t strong enough to treat. The other is when a patient has tried to treat pain with other medication but the pain hasn’t subsided.

Because they aren’t safe for long-term use and have addictive properties, these prescriptions aren’t usually for long-term use. This is a list of legal narcotics that a doctor might prescribe to you:

  • Tramadol
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Meperidine
  • Hydrocodone

The most common illegal narcotics are heroin and opium. Although the narcotics listed about can be used illegally if you don’t follow the instructions that came with your prescription.

What Makes Narcotics Addictive?

Narcotics are strong enough to relieve pain severe and debilitating pain, which is great for patients who are recovering from surgery or injuries. But that isn’t the sole reason these medications are addictive.

When you take a narcotic, you can end up feeling euphoric, happy, and well. These side effects tend to make patients want to overuse their narcotics. The decrease in pain is expected, but the euphoria is an added bonus that many don’t want to let go.

Narcotic misuse becomes even more possible in patients who are experiencing high levels of stress, struggle with depression and other mental disorders, have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, and have chronic pain.

Signs of Narcotic Misuse

Terms such as opioid abuse, drug abuse, and drug dependence were used interchangeably for years. But doctors have stopped using words like abuse, dependence, or addiction in more recently. Instead, you might be diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD) or narcotic misuse.

These are symptoms a doctor will look for during the diagnostic process:

  • The inability to cut back
  • Taking higher doses than recommended for longer than recommended
  • Having cravings or an urge to use
  • Building a high tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
  • Continued use despite social or legal problems
  • Continued use despite physical and mental problems

Not everyone who misuses narcotics have the same level of this condition. Your condition can be mild moderate or severe depending on your symptoms.

Mild- Two or three symptoms within a year’s time.

Moderate- Four to 5 symptoms within a year.

Severe- 6 or more symptoms within a year.

Your Body on Narcotics

You might wonder what makes narcotics so harmful if all they do is treat pain. Long-term use of these drugs can wreak havoc on healthy bodies and it only gets worse if you’re ill or have a weaker immune system.

Narcotics can cause a series of complications, with some being permanent. Overusing these drugs can result in:

Short-term Effects on the Body

Because of the way they work to relieve pain, narcotic drugs can take a major toll on your brain and central nervous system. When you take too many, you can have slurred speech, an inability to concentrate, and go in and out of consciousness.

Additionally, extreme chills and hot flashes, mood swings, shallow breathing, nausea, hallucinations, insomnia, vomiting, delusions, and worsening mental health can occur.

Long-term Effects on the Body

The long-term effects of narcotics are sometimes permanent. You can develop hypoxia, a condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain as a result of shallow breathing. Hypoxia can cause permanent liver and brain damage among other serious problems.

With that said, when a person overdoses from this type of drug, it is usually a result of respiratory depression. The lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs causes choking.

What is Narcotic Withdrawal?

Withdrawal describes the physical changes your body goes through when you suddenly stop taking a substance you’ve become dependent on. Narcotic withdrawal is very painful and causes you to have muscle aches, blurred vision, intense cramping, vomiting, fevers, seizures, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.

Depending on the person and the number of narcotics in their system, it can take between 72 hours and a week to come out of the withdrawal phase. The symptoms are known to worsen before they subside which can cause users to relapse in order to feel better.

This, of course, makes things worse. If you have become dependent on narcotics and are ready to quit, don’t go through the withdrawal process alone. You will need to enlist the support of close friends and family to help guide you along the way. But you should also enlist the help of medical professionals along your journey to sobriety.

Help is Available

When you check yourself into a rehab center for narcotics, you are taking the first step in becoming well again. If you choose an inpatient facility, you will have doctors and other medical staff on standby to monitor your health while you go through withdrawal. This will ensure that you’re safe at all times, receiving the proper counseling or therapy, and learning healthy habits that will help you rebuild your future.

You can find a nonprofit treatment center by using our directory which is organized based on the state you live in. The nonprofit facilities you will find on this list can be inpatient, outpatient, state-funded and more.

If you learned from reading, “What is a Narcotic and Why are Narcotics Dangerous?” you will benefit from the other articles on our blog. Check it out today for more information.

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About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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