What are Narcotic Drugs?
Historically, the term “narcotics” has referred to a broad range of mind-altering substances and illicit drugs. Currently, narcotic drugs are legally defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a particular class of drugs with sedative effects, characterized by how they affect the body. They bind to opioid receptors within the brain or throughout the nervous and digestive systems, which primarily govern natural pain-relieving mechanisms in the body; some opioid receptors also produce sedative, euphoric, or dissociative effects. Many narcotics are legal to use with an appropriate prescription and are formally used to relieve pain and sleep disorders, and sometimes for digestive issues as well. Narcotics may also be referred to as painkillers, though not all medications with analgesic properties are necessarily narcotics.
Most Common Narcotic Drugs
Narcotics are classified as either naturally-derived opiates or synthetic opioids, though the term “opioid” is also used interchangeably with narcotics as a whole. Opiates come from the opium poppy, whose painkilling effects have been known for thousands of years. Traditionally, morphine and codeine have been used as powerful analgesics since the 19th century, though synthetic opioids are more common nowadays. Such opioids and some of their common brand names include:
- hydrocodone (Vicodin, Zohydro ER, Norco)
- hydromorphone (Exalgo, Dilaudid)
- oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Percodan)
- methadone (Duramorph, Avinza)
- fentanyl (Fentora, Actiq, Duragesic)
Additionally, pure opium and heroin are produced and sold as highly addictive illicit drugs. Any of the above medications, when used outside of a doctor’s prescription, are also considered illegal.
How are Narcotic Drugs Abused?
Teen narcotics abuse frequently starts with access to another person’s prescribed opioids, such as those of their parents. Many teens are also coaxed into trying narcotics in social settings to get high. Addiction can set in as soon as the first dose. Addicted teens can become withdrawn and defensive to hide their narcotics abuse, and they may resort to other illegal behaviors to obtain more opioids. As tolerance builds up, dosages steadily increase and are taken with alcohol or crushed and snorted for more potent effects. All too often, the results are fatal, either from cumulative damage to vital organs, a sudden overdose, or an accident caused by the dangerous acts they resort to.
Unfortunately, the habit-forming effects of narcotics can arise even within responsible use as prescribed by a doctor. Many opioid addictions start this way when a teenage patient becomes addicted to prescribed painkillers and starts taking more beyond the recommended dosage, sometimes also leading into stealing from another person’s prescriptions or feigning pain to continue receiving medication.
Narcotics Abuse Treatment
Fortunately, recovery from teen drug use is possible. Recognizing the early signs of narcotics abuse is the first step to treatment; even if a teen is aware of their addiction, the pain of withdrawal and fear of punishment can keep them from reaching out. These signs include:
- Mood swings
- Lapses in concentration and short-term memory
- Tolerance to medications
- Increased pain sensitivity without medication
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Difficulty or disinterest in maintaining obligations
- Unexplained financial strain
- Uncoordinated movement, slurred speech, flushed face, and shallow breathing indicate opioid intoxication
Intervention and treatment should prioritize compassion and care rather than punishment; the teen’s well-being is the goal. A comprehensive approach works best, following detoxification with regular counseling and behavioral therapy. Daily support from loved ones encourages the patient to open up, mitigating dangerous learned behaviors. In many cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can counteract relapse through medications that interact more benignly with opioid receptors, aiming to weaken opioid dependency.
Teen narcotics abuse is widespread, and its effects are frightening and harmful to both the teen and their loved ones. Despite this, professionals are ready and willing to help. At Anthony Louis Center, teens have the opportunity to start their journey to recovery in a safe and supportive environment. For more information, contact us today.