Narcotics, also known as opioids or opiates, are powerful painkillers that are sometimes prescribed by doctors after surgery or for painful medical conditions. Unfortunately, narcotics are also highly addictive, which, in turn, makes them dangerous when used for long term. Narcotics also cause people to experience tolerance, or a condition in which larger dosages are needed to achieve the same effect. In 2014, the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that approximately 435,000 individuals used heroin and 4.3 million people illegally used narcotic pain relievers.
Apart from reducing the pain experienced by an individual, the use of narcotics can also cause:
- Slowed breathing
Some of the common types of narcotic drugs include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin)
Most types of narcotic drugs are used in medical settings, although heroin has no medical application. Narcotics work by interacting with the body’s opioid receptors, cellular proteins that reduce the sensation of pain. Endorphins, or chemicals released during intense exercise, are also known as endogenous opioids, because they act on these receptors as well.