Prescription Drug Abuse

What Is Narcotic Abuse?

When used only for pain relief, patients are unlikely to become addicted to these drugs. However, some narcotics provide an intoxicating high when injected or taken orally in high doses. Opioids are powerful anxiety relievers and are one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. 

Narcotic abuse is the deliberate use of a narcotic medication beyond or without a doctor's prescription. They are used to get high or to relieve anxiety. Dependence happens when the body develops a tolerance to the drug, therefore higher doses are needed to get the same effect. Stopping the drug produces intense drug withdrawal symptoms. 

Narcotic addiction happens when the person has drug dependence, but also has psychological effects, including compulsive behavior to get the drug, drug craving and continued use despite negative consequences, like legal problems or losing a job. 

What are other types of narcotic drug abuse? 

  • Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Ativan and Xanax
  • Barbiturates such as Seconal, Amytal, Nembutal and Luminal 

Note: Benzodiazepines and barbiturates have less pain-relieving effects, but are sedating and anxiety relieving. Benzodiazepine abuse, barbiturate abuse and narcotic abuse all result in tolerance and physical dependence over time, and withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation. 

What are the symptoms of narcotic abuse? 

Symptoms of narcotic abuse include:

  • Analgesia, or feeling no pain
  • Confusion or poor judgment  
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria, or feeling high
  • Itching or flushed skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sedation
  • Shallow or slow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Small pupils 

What are the symptoms of narcotic drug withdrawal?

If a person stops using narcotics abruptly after they have become physically dependent on the drug, they will experience drug withdrawal symptoms, which may include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Drug craving
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Goose pimples
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Salivation
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning 

The symptoms of narcotic drug withdrawal aren't always medically dangerous. But they can be agonizing and intolerable, and may lead to continued drug abuse. Methadone or Suboxone can help prevent withdrawal symptoms during a process called detoxification ("detox"). After detox, the person is no longer physically dependent on the drug. But psychological dependence may continue. Most people with drug addiction sometimes relapse in response to stress or other powerful factors.

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