A narcotic is a natural or synthetic drug related to morphine, according to "Core Concepts in Pharmacology" by Norman Holland and Michael Adams. Narcotics are sometimes prescribed by physicians for pain, although the term narcotic is also loosely used to describe illegal substances. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) divides narcotics into scheduled categories (I through IV) based on the potential for abuse and medical uses.
An opioid is a natural or synthetic morphine-like product extracted from the poppy plant, according to Holland and Adams. This type of narcotic can be found in schedule II and III of the DEA's classifications. Opioids can stop the awareness of pain, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This class of drug has an increased potential for abuse because it can be obtained legally, says Holland and Adams. Pain medications are the highest abused type of prescription medication, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Opioid drugs include propoxyphene, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, methadone, hydromorphone, morphine, fentanyl, buprenorphine butorphanol, heroin and meperidine.
Cannabinoids narcotics, such as marijuana and hashish, are schedule I drugs, according to the DEA, and come from hemp plants named Cannabis sativa. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported a marijuana use statistic of 15.2 million people aged 12 or older in 2008. The active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabinoids works on the pleasure center in the brain as well as the part that controls memory, coordination and perception.
Hallucinogens, also called psychedelics, can produce a dream-like state of consciousness, says Holland and Adams. These drugs have no medicinal use and are purely for recreational use, which is why they are on the DEA's schedule I list, under the highest abuse potential. Hallucinogens effects vary based on the user's mood, each disclosing different symptoms with each use, says Holland and Adams. Users often times report delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Hallucinogens are known to cause adverse effects, such as flashbacks, long after the drug wears off, according to Holland and Adams.
Stimulants are known to increase activity in the central nervous system by affecting neurons in the brain, says Holland and Adams. High doses of stimulants used short-term give the user the effects of exhilaration and euphoria. Long-term use of these medications can cause restlessness, anxiety and rage. Stimulants also elevate blood pressure and breathing rate.
Drugs in this category range from legal to illegal substances, which is why stimulant drugs range from class III to I, according to the DEA. Prescription stimulants, such as dextroamphetamines, amphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Dexadrine) can be obtained legally. Illicit substances include Ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine, also referred to as crank. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that less than 1 percent of Americans in 2008 abused stimulants.