Font Size

Narcotic Abuse (cont.)

Narcotic Abuse Symptoms

Patient Comments

Narcotics users can develop tolerance, as well as psychological and physical dependence to opioids when they take them over an extended period of time.

  • Tolerance refers to a decreased response to a drug, with increasing doses required to achieve comparable effects.
  • Psychological dependence refers to compulsive drug use in which a person uses the drug for personal satisfaction, often in spite of knowing the health risks.
  • Physical dependence occurs when a person stops using the narcotic but experiences a withdrawal syndrome (or set of symptoms).
  • Signs and symptoms of narcotic abuse
    • analgesia (feeling no pain),
    • sedation,
    • euphoria,
    • respiratory depression (shallow breathing),
    • small pupils, bloodshot eyes,
    • nausea, vomiting,
    • itching skin, flushed skin,
    • constipation,
    • slurred speech,
    • confusion, poor judgment, and
    • needle marks on the skin.

Signs and symptoms of narcotic withdrawal: The withdrawal syndrome from narcotics generally includes signs and symptoms opposite of the drug's intended medical effects. The severity of the withdrawal syndrome increases as the drug dose increases. The longer the duration of the physical dependence to the narcotic increases, the more severe the withdrawal syndrome. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal generally appear 12-14 hours after the last dose. Symptoms of methadone withdrawal appear 24-36 hours after the last dose. Heroin withdrawal peaks within 36-72 hours and may last seven to 14 days. Methadone withdrawal peaks at three to five days and may last three to four weeks. Although uncomfortable, acute narcotic withdrawal for adults is not considered life-threatening unless the person has a medical condition that compromises their health (for example, if someone has severe heart disease). Some of the signs and symptoms of narcotic withdrawal are listed below:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Craving for the drug
  • Increased respiratory rate (rapid breathing)
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Salivation
  • Gooseflesh
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Tremors
  • Lack of appetite

Complications of narcotic abuse: Many complications can result from narcotic abuse, the most common being infectious conditions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/7/2016
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Narcotic Abuse

Addiction Addiction is possible whenever ingesting a subs...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Narcotic Abuse:

Narcotic Abuse - Symptoms

Have you or a loved one been addicted to narcotics? Please describe your experience.

Narcotic Abuse - Treatment

What treatment did you or a loved one receive for narcotic addiction?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Toxicity, Narcotics »

Pain is arguably the most common reason why patients seek treatment, especially in the ED.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary