Trusted Content

What Is A Narcotic?

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

March 21, 2018

Narcotics are drugs that are known for the effects of dulling or relieving pain. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) explains that narcotics was a term historically used for all illicit drugs. Today, it includes opioids (like opioid medications and heroin), opium, synthetic opioids, and opioid derivatives.

To be classified as a narcotic, the drug has to produce certain effects. Though narcotics differ in the intensity of effects they produce and the time of onset, drugs in this class share common characteristics. These can include a sense of well-being, feelings of euphoria (rush), and a decrease in aggression, anxiety, and tension.

With these relaxing, yet simultaneously exciting, effects, narcotics become drugs of choice for many people who fall into abuse of them. Prescription opioids are easy to obtain for pain or other ailments, and if you don’t have access to them, heroin is an inexpensive alternative.

But these drugs are also highly addictive. The effect narcotics have on the brain changes the way it communicates. Your brain quickly adapts, and as a result, you feel the need to seek the drugs again and again to get the same effects. When you can’t, you might feel strong urges or cravings, or even undergo withdrawal symptoms.

Side Effects Of Narcotics Abuse

Along with the seemingly desirable effects of narcotics comes the side effects.

These can range from mild to moderate, and include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Reduced pupil size (pinpoint pupil)
  • Vomiting

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

If you are taking an opioid medication, it’s best to know the signs of abuse early. Addiction can, and often does, follow abuse. Due to the highly addictive properties of narcotics, abuse happens easily, and you may not see the risk of it at first.

Signs Of Narcotic Abuse

If you or someone close to you has been taking an opioid medication, or recreationally using another narcotic, here are some signs of abuse to watch for:

  • You have strong cravings for the drug when not taking it
  • You have uncontrollable urges to seek use of it
  • You began taking an opioid medication more frequently or in ways other than prescribed (such as crushing and snorting a tablet instead of taking orally for a faster effect)
  • You’ve done some risky things to get more of the drug when normally you wouldn’t
  • You’ve started having problems at school, work, or with other obligations due to drug use

Signs Of Addiction To Narcotics

Abuse of narcotics becomes a habit quickly. The drugs produce a sense of euphoria that is hard to ignore and that you’ll want to experience over and over. Because of this, addiction quickly follows the abuse of narcotics.

Treatment is always possible for addiction and must be comprehensive for those who fall into addiction. First, you have to recognize your substance use disorder for what it is: a chronic disease that affects your mind, body, and spirit.

Here are some signs to look for if you suspect someone you know is struggling with addiction to narcotics:

  • Loss of control: no longer able to control the use of narcotics, even if you want to
  • An overwhelming desire to abuse the drugs, even when you know it’s harming you
  • Repercussions at school, work, or other obligations due to drug abuse
  • Legal troubles: gaining a criminal record, court dates, jail time, etc., due to drug abuse
  • Financial issues: spending a great amount of time and money on obtaining drugs of abuse
  • Tolerance: you no longer feel the effects of the narcotics, and have to take larger and more frequent doses to get the desired effects
  • Withdrawal: you start feeling physical symptoms when not taking the drugs, such as headache, nausea, insomnia, or muscle aches

Who Is Affected?

Narcotics are a large class of drugs, and abuse of them affect many in the United States and worldwide. The unfortunate truth is that these drugs tend to lead to addiction. With risk of addiction comes increased risk of overdose. This is especially true for narcotics.

Addiction to narcotics can happen quickly, and with it can come tolerance. When you no longer get the desired effects of the drug but are struggling with addiction, you keep taking the drug to try to get the same feeling. But our bodies can only process so much of any substance at a time.

This results in an excess of the drugs in our body, which can lead to overdose. The amount of overdose deaths related to abuse of narcotics is staggering. Opioids alone were involved in the deaths of 33,091 people in 2015, a number that has quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What Can Be Done For Narcotics Abuse And Addiction?

The best solution for addiction to narcotics is a comprehensive treatment program. When you’re struggling with addiction, you might feel isolated, like no one understands your struggles. But drug addiction programs are designed to support you in your time of need.

At inpatient rehab centers, you’ll find experienced, trained professionals who can help you manage addiction, change behavior for the better, and treat your physical symptoms all in a relaxing, comfortable environment.

What Treatments Are Available?

Treatments for narcotics often require a range of methods for a well-rounded approach. You’ll start with detoxification, a necessary process that allows you to rid your body of the substance abused. This process is medically supervised to help you manage the symptoms and safely taper off the use of the drug until you reach a safe level for withdrawal.

After detox, treatment can begin. Your individualized treatment plan might incorporate a number of methods, some of the best of which may include:

  • Counseling: this helps you work through the troubling thoughts and emotions you may experience during treatment, or resulting from past trauma
  • Behavioral therapy: such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which allow you to build positive lifestyle changes to combat substance abuse long-term
  • Group-specific treatment: different groups have different treatment needs, and that’s why you may find it useful to have treatment specific to the needs of men, women, teens, or pregnant women
  • Adventure or wilderness therapy: not everyone connects with only traditional methods, and outdoor therapy works to build skills and connect healing of the spirit with the healing of the body and mind
  • Nutrition and exercise guidance: these two components are important parts of healing, and the best rehab centers implement them into treatment plans
  • Aftercare support: relapse is a possibility, so knowing how to continue treatment goals long-term is helpful

Where To Find Treatment

Facilities that offer inpatient, residential services and private, professional care are the best places to find well-rounded treatment. We can connect you with the treatment center that will best meet your needs, help create a treatment plan that best meets your needs, and direct you to any necessary resources along the way.

We also have experts on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Getting into treatment is a big step, and a life-changing decision. Having someone to help every step of the way can put you at ease, and allow you to focus on exactly what you need to do to get better.

Get Help With Finding Treatment Today

Narcotics abuse and addiction can leave you feeling like you may never break away—it’s the reason many don’t seek treatment even if they want to. But if you’re currently struggling with addiction, and want to make a change, we can help. We know it’s not easy to seek help, but we have experts ready to help you find the best rehab center for treatment and feel more secure in your decision.

Contact us today at to learn more about narcotics abuse and addiction, treatment, and the best rehab centers available for treatment.

National Institute On Drug Abuse - America’s Addiction To Opioids: Heroin And Prescription Drug Abuse

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Pain Medications: Narcotics

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Find Treatment For An Addiction To Narcotics Today.
Find Treatment For An Addiction To Narcotics Today.
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592