Narcotic drugs produce their effect by
stimulating opioid receptors in the central
nervous system and surrounding tissues.
The abuse of narcotics occurs as a result of the
euphoria and sedation that narcotics produce
within the central nervous system. Abusers of
intravenously injected heroin describe the
effects as a "rush" or orgasmic feeling followed
by elation, relaxation, and then sedation or
Narcotics used for short-term medical
conditions rarely require weaning since
stopping the medication after a brief period
rarely produces adverse effects. If
circumstances allow, the dose for people using
narcotics over an extended period of time for
medical purposes is slowly lowered over a few
weeks to prevent withdrawal symptoms. The
goal is to wean individuals off narcotics so that
they are pain-free or able to use a less potent
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF NARCOTICS ABUSE?
The term narcotic has several definitions but often
pertains to opioid drugs that produce actions
similar to morphine. Narcotics are used
therapeutically to relieve pain, induce anesthesia
and treat additional symptoms such as cough and
diarrhea. The physical effects of narcotics make
the drugs desirable, however, and may contribute
to their abuse. Narcotic abuse is defined as any
use of a narcotic that is inconsistent with medical
Narcotics produce a variety of physical
manifestations that are desirable for narcotic
abusers. Narcotics produce an exaggerated sense
of well-being or euphoria, decreased anxiety, pain
relief and sedation. Over time, tolerance to the
euphoric effects of the narcotic develops.
Unless taken in lethal doses, use of medically
prescribed narcotics rarely directly results in
death. There is an increased risk of disease,
infection and overdose, however, with illicit drug
use often due to the lifestyle of narcotic abusers.
For example, injection of narcotics without sterile
equipment increases the risk of skin infection,
heart inflammation, hepatitis, and AIDS.
Furthermore, according to the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration, narcotics sold on the
street may contain additional compounds, making
their effects unpredictable and potentially lethal.
Narcotics do not cause birth defects; however,
regular use of narcotics during pregnancy causes
physical dependence in the newborn child.
Furthermore, use of narcotics during labor and
delivery can cause a decrease in uterine
contractions and respiratory depression in the
newborn. Respiratory depression in a newborn is
a potentially fatal condition and babies born to
mother's using narcotics must be monitored
Physical dependence refers to the state in which
an abstinence syndrome, or withdrawal, will occur
if the drug is discontinued abruptly. Furthermore,
physical dependence indicates that the body
requires the narcotic to be present in order to
function normally. Withdrawal from narcotic
abuse can be extremely unpleasant but is rarely
fatal. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, the severity of withdrawal
depends on the narcotic used, the total daily dose,
duration of use, frequency of use and the overall
health of the abuser.
Often, narcotic abusers continue to think about
using narcotics even after the physical demand for
the drug has passed. Narcotic abusers have a
difficult time adjusting to daily life without the use
of narcotics and may feel overwhelmed and
anxious. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, narcotic abusers have a high rate
of relapse if the factors contributing to the abuse
have not been resolved or removed.
Tolerance to narcotics and their effects
develops with continued narcotic use.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, tolerance is defined as a
shortened duration and decreased intensity of
a narcotic's desirable effects which generates
the need to consume progressively larger
doses to attain analgesic, euphoric, and
sedative effects. Tolerance does not develop
for the other physical manifestations of drug
use including constipation, papillary
constriction and respiratory depression.