Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Font Size

Painkillers, Narcotic Abuse, and Addiction

What Is Narcotic Abuse?

One of the most frequent reasons people go to the doctor is for pain relief. There are a number of different drugs that can ease pain.

Opioids -- also called opiates or narcotics -- are pain relievers made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Morphine and codeine are the two natural products of opium. Synthetic modifications or imitations of morphine produce the other opioids:

Fentanyl (Duragesic)                  

Heroin (street drug)

Hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Vicodin)

Hydrocodone (Zohydro ER, Hysingla ER) 

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)


Oxycodone (OxyContin)

Oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet)

Oxycodone with aspirin (Percodan)


When people use narcotics only to control pain, they are unlikely to become addicted to the drugs. However, opioids provide an intoxicating high when injected or taken orally in high doses. Opioids are also powerful anxiety relievers. For these reasons, narcotic abuse is one of the most common forms of drug abuse in the U.S.

Terms like opioid abuse, drug abuse, drug dependence, and drug addiction are often used interchangeably, but experts define them as follows:

  • Drug abuse, including opioid abuse, is the deliberate use of a medicine beyond a doctor's prescription. In the case of opiates, the intention is generally to get high or to relieve anxiety.
  • Dependence occurs when the body develops tolerance to the drug, meaning higher doses are needed for the same effect. In addition, stopping the drug produces drug withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drug addiction occurs when the person has drug dependence, but also displays psychological effects. These include compulsive behavior to get the drug; craving for the drug; and continued use despite negative consequences, like legal problems or losing a job.

Symptoms of Narcotic Abuse

Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include:

Symptoms of Opioid Drug Withdrawal

If a person uses opioids for a long time, they develop physical dependence and tolerance. Usually, opioid abusers will then take more of the drug, to continue to get high. If a person stops using opioids after they become physically dependent on the drug, they will experience drug withdrawal symptoms.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

child ignored by parents
prescription pain pills
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Teen girl huddled outside house
Man with glass of scotch
overturned shot glass
assortment of medication
Depressed and hurting