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Narcotic Abuse


Narcotics are medicines used to decrease or take away severe pain. Narcotics may also be called opioids. Some common names of narcotics ordered by a doctor are codeine and morphine. Heroin is an illegal street drug that is made from morphine.


Risks of narcotics:

  • An overdose of narcotics can lead to a coma and death.
  • HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis B and C are serious diseases that can be spread through needles, syringes, and other supplies used to inject narcotics. You may also get an infection if you inject narcotics using dirty needles or supplies.
  • Illegal narcotics may be mixed with things like talcum powder, baking soda, or poisons. If there are lumps that do not melt when mixed with water, the lumps may get stuck in your veins and cause infections or clots. Clots can travel to your heart, lungs, or brain and may kill you.
  • Snorting or sniffing heroin may cause a hole to develop in the cartilage that separates the 2 sides of your nose. If you use pure heroin, you may overdose and die.
  • Black tar heroin may contain the bacteria that causes botulism. Botulism is a serious illness that can be life-threatening.

How narcotics can harm a pregnant woman and her baby:

  • Tell your primary healthcare provider right away if you are trying to get pregnant or you are pregnant and you are using narcotics. Your doctor may suggest other medicines to control pain and prevent withdrawal. If you go through withdrawal while pregnant, you may miscarry your baby. Women who take illegal narcotics or overdose on narcotics while they are pregnant may also miscarry. They also risk having a stillborn baby, or having a baby that is very small and has other medical problems.
  • Babies born to women who used narcotics during pregnancy may show signs of withdrawal. This includes unexpected weight loss, poor feeding, and more crying than normal. Your baby may also have a fever, throw up, and have diarrhea. He may also have learning problems or other health issues when he gets older. If you have a baby and are using narcotics, you may have trouble caring for your baby. Narcotics may be passed to your baby through breast milk. Talk to your primary healthcare provider before breastfeeding your baby if you are using narcotics.

How to know if your child is abusing narcotics:

You may see 1 or more of the following signs and symptoms if your child is using narcotics:

  • Your child's grades go down or he is absent from school a lot. You may also have trouble trying to discipline your child.
  • Your child may begin to borrow money from parents, siblings, or friends. He may also begin to steal small items.
  • Your child may begin to wear sunglasses a lot, even at night. He may also wear long-sleeved shirts even when it is hot.
  • Your child may stop taking care of his hair and clothes. He may begin to look sloppy.
  • Your child may suddenly get secretive about his activities. He may also want to keep you from going in his room or going through his things.
  • Your child's attitude may change. He may change from being helpful and upbeat most of the time to being angry and depressed.
  • Your child's friends may change. His new friends may be known as drug users.

For support and more information:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Web Address:
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9561
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-1124
    Web Address:

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You want help or information on how to stop using or abusing narcotics.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are very drowsy.
  • Your speech is slurred.
  • You have trouble thinking, remembering things, or focusing.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.