Signs, Symptoms, and Side Effects of Narcotics Abuse

Narcotics, also known as opiates and opioid analgesics, are prescribed to relieve acute pain. Narcotics are used to treat several types of pain. They are widely overused and are associated with over two million cases of substance abuse that have resulted in overdoses.

What Are Narcotics?

Narcotics are a class of drugs that are used to treat moderate to severe pain, as well as severe acute pain. There are many types of narcotic pain medications. Some of the more common narcotic pain medications include:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Methadone

Narcotics are usually prescribed to alleviate intense, short-term pain as in the case when someone has a medical condition (cancer) or when someone is recovering from a surgery. The narcotics bind to nerve receptors located in the brain in order to block and reduce pain.

Some narcotics are stronger than others and may only be used when severe pain occurs. Codeine is typically prescribed when someone experiences mild to moderate pain. A doctor may prescribe something stronger when pain intensifies, like morphine or fentanyl.

Someone who is prescribed a narcotic pain medication should take it only as instructed in order to reduce the risk of addiction and abuse. Do not take narcotics with alcohol or other pain medications as it may result in severe liver damage.

When taking a narcotic, one may experience side effects. Each side effect varies, as some may experience more intense side effects.

Some common side effects of narcotics are:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Itching (usually mild)

Severe narcotic side effects include:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pains

Narcotics Addiction

If someone is prescribed a narcotic pain medication for long-term use, or that person has been illicitly using a narcotic, the risk of addiction and dependence increases greatly.

Long-term use of narcotics will cause one’s body to become tolerant to the drug, which reduces the euphoric feelings. To achieve that same feeling, someone may have to take the narcotic more frequently in order to get that relaxed feeling back. This often leads to addiction and dependence.

There are many signs that indicate when someone is struggling with an addiction to narcotics. A person may begin to take the drug even when there are no symptoms of pain. Another common sign is when someone develops a high tolerance for narcotics. Abuse of a narcotic may also cause slurred speech.

Narcotics Long-Term Effects

A person who has been chronically using narcotics and suddenly stops taking them will experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, the withdrawal symptoms of a narcotic are not life-threatening. Most symptoms of withdrawal will appear within 24 to 36 hours after the last dose was taken. The withdrawal symptoms will worsen and peak around the first five days. The timeframe for withdrawal varies, but usually lasts around three to four weeks. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Reduced appetite

Never attempt to face withdrawal alone. It is important to seek help from a treatment center. If you believe that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, visit to learn more or call us 24/7 at our toll-free hotline 855-548-9825.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.