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Drug that produces analgesia (seeanalgesic), narcosis (stupor or sleep), and drug addiction. In most people narcotics also produce euphoria. Those that occur naturally in the opium poppy, notably morphine, have been used since ancient Greek times. The main therapeutic use of narcotics is for pain relief. Most countries limit the production, sale, and use of narcotics because of their addictive properties and detrimental effects and the incidence of drug abuse. With the development in the 19th century of the hypodermic needle and of heroin, five to 10 times as potent as morphine, the use and abuse of narcotics increased dramatically. A narcotic overdose can cause central nervous system depression, respiratory failure, and death.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on narcotic, visit Britannica.com.