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Narcotic Abuse

What is Narcotic Abuse?

  • Pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical treatment. Doctors can prescribe different types of medications to relieve pain. The most potent pain-relieving medications are narcotics (opiates or opioids).
  • In the United States, narcotics are widely prescribed to treat painful conditions. Narcotics are often prescribed in conjunction with other less potent drugs (such as nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications) or as a pill that has a combination of a narcotic with either acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or aspirin.
  • Acetaminophen is also commonly found in many different products that are available as over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With the public often using OTC products that contain acetaminophen as well as prescription narcotics that might also have acetaminophen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has become concerned about dangerous interactions from combining these medications.
  • There is not just the potential for narcotic abuse but the concern that patients are accidentally ingesting too much acetaminophen from combining these products with the potential for severe liver damage or even death.
  • The use of prescription pain relievers without a doctor's prescription only for the experience or the feeling it causes is often called "nonmedical" use. Narcotic use is considered abuse when people use narcotics to seek feelings of well-being apart from the narcotic's pain-relief applications.
  • The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) report that after marijuana, nonmedical use of painkillers is the second most common form of illicit drug use in the United States. An estimated 8.9 million people aged 12 and older (3.4 percent) were current users of illicit drugs other than marijuana in 2012. The majority of these users (6.8 million people, or 2.6 percent of the population) were non-medical users of psychotherapeutic drugs, including 4.9 million users of pain relievers.
  • The most commonly abused illicit narcotic is heroin, but all prescription narcotics have the potential for abuse. In 2008, the Florida Medical Examiners Commission noted that prescription opioid painkillers (such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin) caused more deaths than illicit substances such as heroin.
  • Narcotics have many useful pain-relieving applications in medicine. They are used not only to relieve pain for people with chronic diseases such as cancer but also to relieve acute pain after operations. Doctors may also prescribe narcotics for painful acute conditions, such as corneal abrasions, kidney stones, and broken bones.
  • When people use narcotics exclusively to control pain, it is unlikely that they become addicted or dependent on them. A patient is given a dosage of opioids strong enough to reduce their awareness of pain but not normally potent enough to produce a euphoric state.
  • Adequate pain control is the goal for the medical use of narcotics. Thus, patients or health-care professionals should not allow fear of addiction to interfere with using narcotics for effective pain relief.
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017
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Narcotic Abuse - Symptoms

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Methadone as Treatment for Narcotics Abuse

Methadone works on parts of the brain and spinal cord to block the "high" caused by using opiates (such as heroin). It also helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by opiate use. The action of methadone is similar to other synthetic (man-made) medicines in the morphine category (opioids). Substances that are derived directly from the opium plant (such as heroin, morphine, and codeine) are known as opiates.

SOURCE: Healthwise

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