Are Opioids Considered Narcotics?

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Although some may casually use the term “narcotics” to describe any illegal drug, the CDC states narcotics refer to opioids alone to help avoid any confusion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the term “narcotics” refers to only opioids, although some use the term casually for illegal drugs. However, the CDC states narcotics refer strictly to opioids to help avoid confusion.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), prescription opioids are Schedule II controlled substances. This means opioid medications can be habit-forming, potentially leading to physical or psychological dependence.

Some are prescribed opioid drugs for pain management, as it may help those suffering from severe pain. However, your prescribing doctor will determine the strength of the pain reliever and monitor your dosage due to the high potential for abuse.

Examples Of Opioids/Narcotics

There are various opioids prescribed for pain relief. Some consist of:

Side Effects Of Opioids/Narcotics

Although used for chronic pain, opioids can be abused. Even when used as prescribed, the drug may cause various side effects.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some of the side effects of opioid may include:

  • general impairment
  • lightheadedness
  • sleepiness
  • blurred vision
  • released inhibitions
  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • calming effects
  • dizziness
  • slowed heart rate
  • sedation

How Do Opioids Affect The Body?

When this kind of pain medication is taken, it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, depressing the central nervous system (CNS). Additionally acting as a CNS depressant, the opioid will affect the neurotransmitter gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).

This releases dopamine in the brain and provides the effects of the drug which can consist of sedation and feelings of euphoria.

Dangers Of Opioid/Narcotic Abuse

There are many dangers associated with narcotics. Strong opioid medications are capable of causing life-threatening health concerns when abused, and these risks are further increased when opioids are combined with other substances.

Drug Interactions

Those who participate in drug use may consume more of the drug than prescribed or combine other substances with the opioid. Those taking opioid drugs should avoid other substances such as:

  • benzodiazepines
  • antihistamines
  • alcohol
  • stimulants
  • other opioid prescription drugs
  • certain antidepressants

Combining these substances can result in an unintentional overdose death due to the slowed breathing and loss of consciousness which can occur.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Those experiencing opioid withdrawal may find themselves suffering from a range of symptoms which may consist of:

  • mental health issues such as depression or anxiety
  • cravings for the drug
  • sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • sleeping difficulty
  • hallucinations
  • mood swings
  • tremors

Opioid Overdose

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some of the symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • coma
  • muscle weakness
  • seizures
  • confusion
  • respiratory depression
  • sudden death

If you suspect an opioid drug overdose has occurred, contact 911 immediately. When you seek urgent medical attention, healthcare professionals can act fast, even providing naloxone (Narcan) to help reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

For those of you struggling with opioid misuse, consider finding treatment at Ohio Recovery Center. At our rehab center, we offer a variety of therapies and evidence-based care options like medication-assisted treatment with methadone and buprenorphine.

Contact us today to speak with one of our healthcare representatives who can assist you in learning more about our opioid use disorder treatment options.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Food and Drug Administration
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  4. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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