Effects of Narcotic Drugs on the Mind & Body

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  • 0:00 Understanding Narcotics
  • 1:21 Narcotic Effects on the Mind
  • 2:16 Narcotic Effects on the Body
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley has a JD degree and is an attorney. She has taught and written various law courses.

Narcotics are pain relieving drugs that work by affecting the user's brain in a particular way. This lesson explains the effects of narcotic drugs on a user's mind and body.

Understanding Narcotics

Many people use the term narcotics to refer to all types of controlled substances. Some people incorrectly believe narcotics are simply illicit drugs. However, narcotics are a particular type, or class, of drug that affect the brain and are highly addictive.

Some narcotics are legal, and some are illegal. For example, Vicodin, OxyContin, and codeine are prescription narcotics that are legal when taken as prescribed. However, when a user takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else, or in a manner not intended by the prescribing doctor, it's known as prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse is the illegal use of a legal drug. There are also illegal narcotic drugs, such as heroin. All possession and use of heroin is outlawed in the U.S.

Whether legal or illegal, narcotics are pain relieving drugs that work by affecting certain receptors in the user's brain and dulling the user's sense of pain. They affect the same receptors that tell the brain it's experiencing pleasure and reward. Many drug abuse experts cite this as the main reason narcotics are one of the most widely abused drugs.

In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around two million people in the U.S. abuse prescription narcotics, and over 450,000 are addicted to heroin.

Narcotic Effects on the Mind

When prescription narcotics are taken in recommended doses, the user likely won't experience many noticeable effects, outside of pain relief. However, there are several obvious effects when narcotics are taken in large doses. Initially, the user may feel a sense of euphoria, which is an intense feeling of elation and excitement. Euphoria is most extreme for users who inject or snort narcotics.

Other psychological effects of narcotics include:

  • Calm or relaxed feeling
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Hallucinations or psychosis
  • Positive outlook
  • Feeling as if the user cannot get through the day without narcotics

Narcotics are highly addictive because many of these psychological effects are perceived to be positive by the user. However, users quickly develop a tolerance, which means the user needs a higher dose in order to achieve the desired effect. Higher doses and prolonged use come with greater risk.

Narcotic Effects on the Body

When we talk about the risks involved with the use of narcotics, we're generally talking about the effects on the body. Narcotic drugs have several different effects on the user's body, including:

  • Sedation or drowsiness
  • Slowed movement, delayed reactions, and lack of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation, reduced appetite, and other stomach ailments
  • Reduced pain
  • Constricted pupils
  • Itchiness or other skin irritations
  • Dry mouth and dehydration
  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Brain disorders or brain damage from extended use
  • Collapsed veins or scarred veins from injections
  • Infections and diseases caused by the use of shared or dirty needles, such as HIV and hepatitis
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

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