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What are the Effects of Narcotics?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Narcotics are drugs that are primarily used to relieve pain in clinical settings. Some types of narcotics, including heroin, are also used illicitly to produce intense feelings of euphoria. Besides the immediate therapeutic effects of narcotics, the drugs produce several potentially negative short- and long-term effects. Users may experience sleepiness, nausea, and vomiting shortly after taking a drug. Most narcotics are considered highly addictive, and their abuse tends to lead to long-term dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms.

Healthcare professionals commonly prescribe narcotics such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone to help patients deal with chronic pain. They may be administered intravenously or through oral capsules, and act almost instantly to relieve pain and discomfort. Individuals under the influence of narcotics usually experience a significant drop in their ability to feel bodily pain. The immediate effects also include pleasurable, euphoric feelings; a release of anxiety and worries; and drowsiness.

Medical patients and recreational drug users commonly experience a number of symptoms as the immediate effects of narcotics wear off. It is common for an individual to feel sleepy and apathetic for several hours after using a drug. The pupils constrict, the face turns red as blood vessels dilate, and breathing becomes shallow. In addition, a person can experience mental confusion and a persistent itch all over his or her body.

It is possible to overdose on prescription or illicit narcotics. An individual's breathing can become so restricted that he or she can slip into a coma. As the central nervous system reacts to the overabundance of a narcotic, a person can suffer from severe convulsions that may lead to permanent nerve and brain damage. Without emergency medical treatment, it is very possible to die from a narcotic overdose.

Healthcare professionals have identified a number of long-term effects of these drugs as well. Clinical patients and recreational drug users gradually build a tolerance to them, meaning that they require higher and higher doses to achieve the desired effect. Users also become physiologically and psychologically dependent. A person is said to be addicted to a narcotic when he or she both builds a tolerance and becomes dependent on the drug.

There are countless ill effects of narcotic addiction. When a person's drug is not available, he or she can experience extremely intense physical withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, chills, convulsions, and severe pain. The personal, social, and professional lives of users are often negatively affected, and many people begin to neglect their most basic responsibilities, such as eating regular meals. It is possible to overcome narcotics addiction by abstaining from use and seeking professional help from counselors and rehabilitation clinics.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon242550 — On Jan 24, 2012

I just want to know about other effects of narcotics, so I can understand more.

By EarlyForest — On Dec 19, 2010

Can you tell me how the effects of narcotics compare to the effects of stimulants, say the effects of amphetamines, for example?

I had heard that the two shared some similar effects and side effects, and would be very interested to learn more about this topic, as I am researching it for a paper at uni.

Any information you could give me would be very helpful.

Thanks!

By pharmchick78 — On Dec 17, 2010

I always find it interesting how people can glamorize the effects of opium or other narcotics. You see this especially in old movies about Asia or London, where the aristocrat simply floats off on a lovely cloud of opium whenever they're stressed, and it all looks quite lovely.

Well, from a medical standpoint, here's what you're looking at with narcotics abuse:

First, you're most likely going to be constipated. Even patients who are using opioids for legitimate, medical uses have problems with their bowel movements, usually to the point where they have to take a fiber supplement or some other form of medication. You'll probably have difficulty urinating too.

Next, you're most likely going feel really itchy. As the article mentioned, an all-over body itch is one of the physical effects of narcotics, and when you're on a narcotic, time is very fluid, so you could theoretically feel like you're itching for years.

Finally, since there is no point at which opioids stop working (i.e., you can build up an indefinite tolerance to them), you can really do a lot of harm to your body long term. If you thought steroid effects were bad, just look at an old narcotics addict.

So truly, look beyond the supposed glamour, and don't abuse narcotics. Not only is it not worth it, it's simply not all that fun.

By yournamehere — On Dec 14, 2010

I never really understood the whole thing about being addicted to narcotics until I was in a bad car accident a few years ago and the doctor put me on oxycodone to deal with the pain after I was released.

If you've never felt that amazing rush that you get when that pill hits your system, I can tell you, it is so, so addictive. I even became so afraid that I would start abusing them that I got my wife to monitor my usage, and at one point even asked her to hide my credit cards so I couldn't buy more online.

That's not something I'm proud of, but the reason I say it here is to say, narcotics are extremely, extremely addictive, even the legal ones, and it is something that you don't want to get into if you can possibly avoid it.

With all the bad short term effects of narcotics (not to mention the consequences of long-term addiction!), it's simply not worth it.

So don't even take that first pill, first hit, or first dose -- it's just too hard to stop.

By anon92319 — On Jun 27, 2010

So, exactly what are the number of long-term effects of narcotics?

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