Scientists Say: Narcotic

This word usually refers to a drug that can be used to stop pain and make someone sleepy

a photo looking down at a prescription bottle labeled Oxycodone opened to spill pills on an orange table

Oxycodone is a type of narcotic. It reduces pain, makes people sleepy and also can make them feel good.

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Narcotic (noun, “Nar-COT-ick”)

In medicine, the word narcotic refers to a drug that reduces pain, makes someone sleepy and gives them a feeling of euphoria. Narcotics include drugs such as codeine or heroin. They are also called opioids. While these drugs work well and are very important for medical care, they can also be addictive

Other drugs such as alcohol can sometimes be called narcotics as well. They also make people sleepy, reduce pain and make people feel good. The word “narcotic” comes from the Greek word “narkō-,” which means “to numb.”

Some people might use the word narcotic differently. In the United States, for example, drugs such as cocaine used to be called narcotics. That’s because the word “narcotic” once meant any drug that was forbidden. But cocaine doesn’t make you sleepy — in fact, it does the reverse. Now, the law classifies these drugs differently. But people still might say “narcotic” to mean any drug that is illegal.

In a sentence

People who are addicted to narcotics can be saved from an overdose by a drug called Narcan.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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