Seek a rehab referral, find out about detox, and learn about narcotic treatment timelines all in one place.
*This page was medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever in April 2021.
Narcotic drug addiction is a problem plaguing our society, the world over. From America to the USSR, we are struggling to combat our addictions to painkillers. Narcotic drug abuse is killing as many as 70,000 of us annually. In America, the CDC have gone so far as to label the problem ‘an epidemic’ and it’s no better here in the UK[i].
How can we spot a narcotic addiction in a loved one? How can we get treatment before we overdose? This page will explore all there is to know about narcotic drug addiction, so you can be forewarned and forearmed.
What is a Narcotic Substance?
Narcotics (Painkillers) are often prescribed initially by a doctor to treat pain a patient might be experiencing. If you or a loved one is suffering from a narcotics addiction, it can have long-lasting health effects. If your problem is with opioids, then we have a specific page that can help you.
Although we will use the term narcotic drugs to describe groups such as opioids and other painkillers, the technical definition of a narcotic substance is any drug that influences your mood, but especially those that are sold illegally[ii].
What is Narcotic Addiction?
Being addicted to narcotic drugs is the same as any other addiction. You use them and get a small high, so you use them again to attain that high. When you use them a second time, you find you need more of the drug so that you can achieve the same level of high. You build a tolerance to it so that the third time you use, you need even more. This eventually leads to accidental overdoses and deaths.
What do Narcotic Drugs do to you?
For the most part, narcotics prevent pain. They work through binding themselves to your nervous system’s pain receptors, which blocks the pain signals. A lot of people are prescribed narcotics by their doctor when they have been experiencing a form of severe pain and other types of pain relievers are not effective. This may have happened to you, which may have led you on a path to addiction. This is what happens with a lot of people.
There are both legal and illegal narcotics. The most common illegal narcotics are opium, heroin, and any medications that are taken outside of the doctor’s prescription recommendations.
Are they addictive?
The short answer to this question is yes. A lot of people start out taking narcotics because they have been prescribed by their doctor. However, rather than stopping when they are meant to, they keep taking them whenever they have small aches and pains, or on a continual basis to feel better. This can spiral out of control, which is how addiction can take over.
What are the different types of Narcotic Substances in the UK?
Some narcotics that are legal, so long as they are taken according to the prescription recommendations of your doctor, are as follows:
Illegal narcotics include any of the above which have not been obtained with a prescription. Other commonly used narcotic drugs include heroin and opium.
How are Narcotic Drugs Used?
The way you use a narcotic drug depends on many factors. If you have a prescription, your doctor probably won’t suggest that you inject a narcotic. If you don’t have a prescription, injection is the main way of taking heroin.
As a result, most narcotics are taken orally. A few are ground up and sniffed, but most are taken like regular medications.
Narcotic Use Statistics, UK
We know from experience that the number of people who have misused drugs in the UK numbers greater than 4 million[iv] of us. Of that four million, some 240 deaths each year are related to tramadol specifically. With tramadol being one of the most common prescribed opioid pain drugs, you can see how narcotics are influencing our society. Of the other opiates commonly prescribed by the doctor, the Office of National Statistics[v] report that there are an average of 300 deaths each year due to overdose.
The ONS also inform us that a little over 5% of all UK adults have misused a prescription painkiller that wasn’t written for them. Unfortunately, those of us with genuine painful conditions that need the medication are those most in danger from developing an addiction.
The Signs Someone You Love is Using Narcotics
If you are worried that someone you love is addicted to painkillers, it is a good idea to look out for some of the signs that indicate that this is the case. Some signs of this include…
- Poor decision making, i.e., putting herself or himself, or others, in danger
- Seeking the same prescription from several different doctors because they want a ‘back-up’ supply
- Losing medication so that more prescriptions can be written
- Borrowing medication from other people
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Mood swings, including excessive swings, from hostility to elation
- Taking painkillers when they are not in pain ‘just in case’
- Regularly taking an opioid in a way not intended by the doctor[vi]
Are you an Enabler?
If you are giving prescription painkillers to someone in your family, or to a friend or loved one, you are putting them in danger. They could have an allergy to the meds, or the doctor could have avoided prescribing them their own due to addiction. Don’t be an enabler. Don’t share your prescription medication with anyone.
Symptoms of Narcotic Abuse
There are a few symptoms of being on narcotics that might help you spot an addiction and save a loved one. We have divided them into the physical and the mental and emotional symptoms, below.
Some of the physical symptoms of a narcotic addiction include:
- Enlarged Pupils
- Sweating and shaking
- Diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
- Rapid breathing when at rest
- A runny nose or flu-like symptoms that persist
- Respiratory distress which can prove fatal
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
Similarly, there are some mental and emotional symptoms that your loved one is using narcotics. These might be:
- Loss of appetite
Long Term Health Problems Associated with Narcotic Drug Abuse
If you don’t tackle your narcotic drug abuse, the long term effects can become extremely harmful. As with any psycho-active substance, you might expect to fall into psychosis if you keep up the drug use. Severe mental health problems may follow.
One study[vii] found that 43 different research papers connected chronic opioid use to the following areas of concern in the systems of the body: the gastrointestinal system, the Central Nervous System, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. Long term opioid use was directly connected to sleep disorders, stomach problems, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation, fractures, breathing difficulties, and eventually overdose.
If you keep using narcotics they will eventually lead to your death. The only other option is to get off the drugs as soon as you can.
How Narcotic Drug Addictions are Treated?
If you are wondering how to beat narcotics addiction, you have already taken one of the most important steps; you’ve begun searching for information. There is no denying that overcoming any sort of drug addiction can be exceedingly difficult. However, it can be even more difficult when you try to do this on your own. There are withdrawal symptoms that need to be managed and there are things that are going to be happening that you may not understand.
Detoxing from Narcotics
Going through detox for a narcotic drug is difficult but it is the first step of recovery. For heroin and other opioids, it can take up to two weeks before you stop feeling fluish.
Symptoms of narcotic addiction withdrawal you can expect to endure in rehab include aches and pains, sweats and shakes, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and an upset stomach. If you do not opt for a medically assisted detox and decide to get off drugs at home, you risk hallucinations, psychotic episodes, seizures, and even cardiac arrest[viii].
Put simply: do not try and detox from narcotics without medical supervision. You might die.
Rehab for Narcotic Addiction
Rehab clinics are there to help your recovery. They facilitate this by offering therapy treatments and techniques which get to the root of your addiction and pull it out. Some therapies used will include group therapy, talking therapies, and even holistic approaches such as art therapy.
Transitioning Back to Normal Life
When you are ready to go home, your rehab clinic ought to provide you with some form of ongoing support. We call this secondary treatment. It should make the process of returning to your life far easier.
The Causes of Narcotic Drug Addiction
There are several risk factors when it comes to narcotic drug addictions. These includes the following:
- A serious injury or illness – This can lead you to require painkillers, and then developing a dependency on them.
- Genetics – If you have a parent with a drug problem, you are more likely to suffer the same disorder.
- Social factors – This could be because you make friends with people who peer-pressure you into taking them, for example.
- Life stresses and a lack of coping strategies – Life seems to be more stressful than ever, right? From work pressures and losing a loved one to financial difficulties, there are many stresses that could cause you to turn to drugs if you don’t have the right coping strategy.
- The economics of the place you live – poorer areas are more exposed to drug use and abuse. One study[ix] connected addiction to the family’s income, wealth, and the parental education therein.
Treatment Timeline for Narcotic Drug Addiction
The length of time it takes for you to recover from a narcotic drug addiction depends on your own age, weight, length of time that you used for, and metabolism, as well as the type of drug you took. Other factors are at play, but these are the main ones.
For a narcotic drug addiction, we would suggest a minimum of 7 days in detox. This allows the chemicals to leave your body. Opiates are detected in the urine up to 7 days after your last use[x], so this is a good guideline.
For the rehab portion of your treatment for narcotic drug addiction, you will need at least three weeks, although it can take up to 90 days until you feel well enough to face normal life again. At this stage, you should be given secondary treatment to help ease that transition along.
The Cost of Rehab
The typical charge for a private rehab facility in a residential program in the UK is roughly £1,000 per week. However, this can be higher or lower – it really does depend on where you go. You may even be entitled to help under the NHS, and so this is something that is definitely worth exploring, and there are always more affordable options, so don’t let the cost put you off.
Free Consultation for Narcotic Addiction
We offer free consultations to evaluate your narcotics addiction and guide you towards getting the right rehab help for you. Use our free consultation button at the top of the page to get started, and one of our expert addiction specialists will be in touch. There’s no obligation to take us up on the rehab if you don’t want to, but exploring your options is a wise move.
Where to get rehab help?
Taking the first step is the hardest one but once you have done this, you will have a professional by your side to guide you on your journey to recovery. We have years of experience in working with drug services across the United Kingdom, which means we can put together a plan that is tailored to you.
No matter whether you are ready to go to rehab or want to talk, we are here for you. Simply dial 0203 955 7700 or you can request a free call back via our website.