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Narcotics

Narcotics Addiction

If you have been paying attention to the news or media lately, you have probably heard a lot about drugs, narcotics, and addiction in general. While many people are familiar with the term narcotics they may not know exactly what the word means.

So just in case, here is the definition of narcotic from Dictionary.com:

“Noun. Any of a class of substances that blunt the senses, as opium, morphine, belladonna, and alcohol, that in large quantities produce euphoria, stupor, or coma, that when used constantly can cause habituation or addiction, and that are used in medicine to relieve pain, cause sedation, and induce sleep.

There are other narcotic definitions as well, but this is the one in most common use. As you can see, “narcotic” is a very broad and general term that refers to a wide array of substances. Narcotics can also be street or illicit drugs, and basically just about any form of drug or substance that can be used or abused could potentially be called a “narcotic.”

Addiction to and abuse of narcotics go back in history just about as far as people do. One of the first recorded mentions of a narcotic is from ancient Sumeria from around 5,000 years ago. There are mentions of drug use and addiction in many ancient texts including the Bible. In more recent history, new processes, discoveries, and advancements in refinement technologies have produced much stronger, more potent, and more addictive forms of these drugs, and even more recently we have seen the rise of many synthetic narcotics which can be unbelievably powerful. An example of this is the synthetic opiate Fentanyl.

Narcotics

Fentanyl and some of the street drugs that have been made to replicate it are extremely potent narcotics. Depending on its purity, it is estimated to be fifty times more powerful than heroin and up to one hundred times stronger than morphine. So why have we been hearing so much about narcotics and drug addiction in the news lately?

There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is that in the United States, we are currently seeing the highest numbers of people addicted to drugs in our history. The primary drug culprit at this time is opiates. Opiates are narcotics derived from the poppy plant and get their name from one of the oldest drugs in history: Opium.

Opium is known for its relaxing and numbing effects and is also a refinement of the poppy plant. Opium is also very addictive. The more modern versions of this drug share these properties and the largest differences between opium and its modern counterparts are their methods of manufacture, and their potency.

Modern opioids are extremely numerous but some common variants include heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and methadone just to name a few. They are sold and prescribed under many brand names. Their most common medical use is the management of moderate to severe pain, but they also produce a euphoric high and have a high risk of forming a physical and mental dependence.

Opioid Addiction

Opioids have been prescribed an increasingly elevated rate over the last two decades and the effects of this are now starting to be felt. Many people who either had chronic pain or acute pain from a surgery or injury were prescribed opioid painkillers to manage and relieve their pain. The drugs they were given, however, were much stronger and far more addictive than many had been led to believe, and they were often given prescriptions that covered long periods of time. Over the course of their prescription, many of these people became addicted to their medicine without knowing it.

Once addicted, it becomes very difficult indeed to stop taking the drug, and many of these people had to get more of the drugs or they would start to feel terrible. What they were really doing though was staving off the symptoms of withdrawal from the drug upon which their body had become dependent.

As this vicious cycle progresses, addicts start to go to greater lengths in order to keep getting the drugs they need.

This can include:

  • Getting prescriptions from more doctors.
  • Lying to doctors about symptoms.
  • Committing other forms of prescription fraud.
  • Resorting to getting the drug they need from illegal drug dealers.
  • Failing to get the drugs they were using, they may start taking similar drugs that are more readily available with similar chemical makeups and effects in the body such as heroin.

Aside from the obvious inherent risks of overdose that come with abusing narcotics like opiates, there are numerous unhealthy side-effects of using and abusing such drugs.

Some of these effects in the short-term include:

  • Feelings of euphoria (often why the drug is abused)
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea

If abused or taken for longer periods of time, opioid narcotics may cause the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed energy levels
  • Dependence and addiction

For those that do end up taking illicit drugs such as heroin, or other “street drugs,” the risk of an accidental overdose goes up significantly because street drugs are of course completely unregulated and are frequently cut with other dangerous substances to spread the dealer’s supply or to make the narcotic more potent. One never really knows just what they are taking when using street drugs.

In many recent cases, street drugs such as heroin have been cut with extremely potent fentanyl to increase its strength. This has led to a shocking and tragic rise in the number of people who have died from an accidental overdose when they take what they think is a normal dose of the drugs they are used to but instead unknowingly take a massive dose of the new stronger mixture.

This massive uptrend in opiate addiction and related deaths in the United States has been dubbed the “Opioid Crisis” and has been classed as a National Health Emergency by President Trump. Several states have also declared their own states of emergency, and the medical and law enforcement communities are scrambling to come up with solutions to keep the problem from continuing to get worse.

What can be Done About Narcotics Addiction?

There are many things being done and being planned for the future to combat the opioid crisis and addiction to narcotics in general, but at its root, the overall issue of narcotic addiction boils down to a few problems.

Some of these major problems in no particular order are:

  • The people who are now addicted need help. This means expanding the treatment options available to them and giving options to those who need them.
  • Doctors need to be better educated on the risks of addiction these drugs pose and stop making new opiate addicts. This has been happening as public awareness of the problem has risen, but needs to continue.
  • Future generations need to be better educated on the risks and dangers of drug use. If they have situations in their lives that might predispose them to future drug use, then these situations should be resolved without the use of drugs so that our society of tomorrow can have a better chance of living free from narcotics and the horrors of addiction.

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