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Narcotics are used only for pain that is severe and is not helped by other types of painkillers

The term “narcotics” is often loosely used. You hear it, and you think of all drugs that are considered either socially unacceptable or illegal, even products like legal bud. For example, many of our anti-drug laws use the word as a synonym for drugs. The term “narc” for narcotics agent is used to describe a law-enforcement official engaged in anti-drug efforts.

But when doctors use the term, narcotics has a much more limited meaning, referring to a distinct class of drugs. These differ markedly from the psychedelics such as LSD, or the sedative-hypnotics hhat include alcohol and barbiturates. And while many narcotics are indeed illegal and dangerous (such as heroin), others are prescription drugs that have a wide variety of medical uses, including pain relief and diarrhea control.

Narcotics work by binding to receptors in the brain, which blocks the feeling of pain. When used carefully and under a doctor’s direct care, they can be effective at reducing pain. Almost always, you should not use a narcotic medicine for more than 3 to 4 months.



  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic) — available as a patch
  • Hydrocodone ( Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Morphine (MS Contin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan)
  • Tramadol (Ultram)


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