Narcotic drug abuse is a serious epidemic in the United States. The toll on the user, family and society is tremendous. Knowing the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and understanding what can be done about it is a good step to eradicating this problem.
Commonly abused narcotic drugs include morphine, oxycodone (percoset, oxycontin), Hydrocodone (vicodin, lortab), codeine (Tylenol #3), dilaudid, fentanyl, heroin, opium, and propoxyphene (darvocet).
Narcotic Drug Abuse, Dependency and Addiction
Narcotic drug abuse is when a person uses the drug when not needed, or uses more than is required or prescribed. This is when use starts to interfere with social, family, home, school or work responsibilities.
Narcotic drug dependence happens when the body requires the drug to prevent physical withdrawal. This can happen when a person has been taking the medication as prescribed for a legitimate medical reason, but is now beginning to require more of the drug to accomplish the same goals it did in the beginning if the use. Dependency does not equal addiction.
Narcotic drug addiction is when the signs of dependence occur, plus the person becomes obsessed with using and will begin to do anything they need to do to get the drug. The addicted person will not be able to stop at this point and needs assistance. Addicts will neglect social, recreational, occupational or personal responsibilities.
There may be a noticeable change in appearance, mood, health, and thinking and reasoning skills.
Signs and Symptoms of Narcotic Drug Abuse
The person who is using narcotic drugs may show signs of feeling diminished or no pain when there should be pain, euphoria, decreased respiratory rate, shallow breathing, small pupils, itching, confusion, poor judgment, slurred speech, constipation, needle marks on the skin, nausea and vomiting.
Risk Factor Associated with Narcotic Drug Abuse
The person abusing narcotics may develop heart problems, have accidents, suicidal thoughts and actions, psychosocial problems, legal issues, and financial problems.
Using needles to inject a drug increases the risk of communicable diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and other bacterial, fungal and viral infections.
Risk Factors of Drug Abuse
Family history such as drug use in the home, physical, sexual abuse, neglect and criminal behavior all increase the risk that a child will develop drug problems. Psychological and mental health problems, social isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression are all risk factors also. Drug use early in life, and the method of administration such as smoking and intravenous drug use pose the highest risk as the drug goes straight to the brain, which makes the high more intense and sudden.
Narcotic Uses Effects on the Brain
Drug use changes the way the brain works. It effects the way brain cells communicate and targets the reward system of the brain.
Narcotic use affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and endorphins.
The overstimulation of dopamine produces euphoria and endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers. Taking narcotics decreases the bodies’ need to make natural endorphins and this in turn makes the body think it needs an ever increasing supply of narcotics.
Withdrawal from Narcotics
Signs and symptoms of narcotic withdrawal include anxiety, agitation, cravings, increased breathing, yawning, runny nose and eyes, salivation, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, confusion, large pupils, tremors, and poor appetite.
In general, narcotic withdrawal is not life threatening unless the person has underlying serious medical problems.
There are treatment centers out there that can help. Narcotics Anonymous is a self help group that relays on others to help them stay clean.
Medical management of narcotic withdrawal offers a safe, effective way to get off the drugs, however follow up management with support groups and counseling increase the chances of staying off the narcotics.
Concurrent treatment of the family and/or significant others increases the chances of recovery as drug addiction is a family disease.