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What is a Narcotic?

What is a narcotic drug, and how is addiction to narcotics affecting America today?  According to recent statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 47,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2014, and 61% of those overdose deaths involved the use of a narcotic drug. Fortunately, new treatment options offer a path to sobriety for many Americans struggling with narcotics addiction.

3 Minute Read | Published Oct 01 2023 | Updated Mar 05 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by

So, What is a Narcotic Exactly?

Narcotics Defined

After decades of research, medical professionals have created a narcotics definition that includes many of the most commonly abused drugs. Narcotic analgesics are defined as medicines that relieve severe pain by binding to opioid receptors in the body. These receptors play a large part in controlling both pain and pleasure. Narcotic drugs are able to increase the level of pleasure experienced by the user through the release of natural endorphins. The influence of the narcotic upon the opioid receptors can cause a reliance upon the narcotic to continue promoting an increased endorphin output, leading to addiction in the user.

Types of narcotics

What is a narcotic?” is a seemingly simple question, but the category of narcotics is broad and includes many types of narcotics. The following narcotic drugs are some of the most commonly prescribed and abused:

  • Codeine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (also known as Oxycontin and Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin)
  • Heroin

These drugs differ in some respects. Codeine, for example, is commonly used in prescription drugs that are designed to treat mild to moderate pain and diarrhea and is generally not prescribed for long periods of time. Hydrocodone, by contrast, is usually prescribed for patients suffering from severe pain and may be used to treat either acute or chronic pain. It is also important to note that the broad category of narcotics includes both legal and illegal drugs. Heroin, one of the most commonly abused illegal drugs, is also a narcotic. Obviously, the question “What is a narcotic?” is quite a complex one that requires greater examination.

What is a narcotic addiction and what are its common side effects?

A narcotics user who develops a physical or psychological dependency upon narcotics suffers from addiction and may experience side effects associated with narcotics addiction.

Despite the fact that these drugs differ in legality and in their intended uses, the narcotics definition provided above applies to all of these drugs because they share similar attributes common to narcotics. One of the most common side effects of narcotics use is drowsiness, which can contribute to impaired judgment. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, itching and constipation.

Narcotics abuse may also lead to overdose and, in some cases, death. One of the principal causes of overdose is shortness of breath, which occurs because the narcotic affects the part of the brain that controls breathing. Respiratory depression of this kind can lead to severe brain damage and death if not promptly treated.

Withdrawal symptoms

Drug abusers who ingest many types of narcotics may experience painful and potentially dangerous side effects if they attempt to quit using narcotics without proper monitoring or care. Common symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid breathing

Narcotics users may also suffer from psychological side effects of withdrawal such as anxiety and extreme irritability. These symptoms create obstacles to sobriety that typically lead narcotics users back to their former patterns of drug abuse.


Narcotics abusers do not have to suffer alone. Rehabilitation centers across the country offer programs designed to help narcotics abusers seeking to break their addictions through the use of withdrawal control and management and one-on-one and group therapy. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction to narcotics, please find a rehabilitation program that fits your needs as soon as possible.

Recovery from a narcotics addiction can be difficult to achieve alone. For those seeking qualified professional help, call Better Addiction Care at (800) 429-7690 today.


bullet Drugs.com
"Opioids (narcotic analgesics)"
Retrieved on August 02, 2017
bullet MedlinePlus
"Pain medications - narcotics"
Retrieved on August 02, 2017
bullet WebMD
"Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen - Uses, Side Effects, and More"
Retrieved on August 02, 2017

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