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What is a Narcotic?

A narcotic is a type of drug that is used to dull the senses and alleviate severe acute or chronic pain. Narcotics such as opioids work by interacting with the pain receptors in areas of the body such as the brain and spinal cord. This interaction reduces nerve excitability which is responsible for the sensation of pain. 

Narcotic drugs also cause the release of endorphins which are chemicals that heighten pleasure. This results in a sense of euphoria known as a ‘high.’ Over time people taking narcotic drugs can develop a dependency on this ‘feel-good’ sensation which can lead to addiction. Long-term use of narcotic drugs also lowers the pleasurable feeling, which results in people taking higher doses to achieve the same feeling. This can lead to misuse and overdose.   

Some of the most common narcotic drugs are: 

  • Morphine 

  • Codeine 

  • Oxycodone 

  • Tramadol 

  • Fentanyl 

Narcotic drugs can be taken in many forms such as: 

  • Oral tablets 

  • Liquids 

  • Skin patch 

  • Nasal spray 

  • Injection into the vein or muscle 

Why are narcotics important in healthcare?

Narcotics are important in healthcare as they are an effective pain management therapy for a wide range of conditions. As they carry a risk of misuse and addiction, it is vital that they are prescribed appropriately.