Narcotics are used to control chronic or severe pain. Like alcohol or sedatives, they depress the central nervous system and have mood-altering effects. Narcotics are highly addictive and must be used carefully in a well-controlled manner.
Abuse of prescription narcotics usually involves pills prescribed to treat pain. Because narcotics have cough suppressant effects, they are used in cough syrups, so this is another form that is abused. The risk of using narcotics is that people without a history of addiction can become addicted in several weeks. Sometimes, patients begin with the prescribed dose and go on to use more than the prescribed dose. Some individuals who are addicted to prescription narcotics make frequent trips to many different doctors and hospitals to get a supply of the drugs. Others find that their doctor is not properly supervising and authorizes refills repeatedly, allowing them to slip into addiction.
Methods of Use
Prescription narcotics are generally taken orally.
Opiate narcotics are among the most commonly abused narcotics. Codeine, methadone, and morphine (from which heroin is derived) are examples. All pain-relieving narcotics, including Percodan, Vicodin, and Percoset are very addictive.
Effects on the Central Nervous System
Narcotics induce an “opioid analgesia” by altering the perception of pain at the spinal cord and brain. They also affect emotional responses to pain. Opioids have stimulating effects as well because they block inhibitory neurotransmitters. Repeated use of these drugs can cause long-term changes in the way the nervous system functions
Addiction is a major risk with prolonged use (over 2-3 weeks) of narcotics. Even moderate doses of some narcotics can result in a fatal overdose. When increasing doses of narcotics, the person may first feel restless and nauseous and then progress to loss of consciousness and abnormal breathing. Other risks include withdrawal symptoms that may last for months.
Withdrawal from prescription narcotics can be painful and unpleasant, especially when the drugs have been used at abusive levels. Medical detoxification is recommended. Symptoms can include the following:
- Runny nose
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
Contact a physician or a treatment facility if you have questions about detoxing for prescription drug addiction treatment.