What are narcotics

NarcoticsThe narcotic drugs are a group of centrally active drugs and substances that are heavily regulated and controlled by the state due to their potential for dependence, abuse and side effects. Some agents are banned and may only be used for medical or scientific purposes with a special permit. Typical narcotics are opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, amphetamines, stimulants, certain medicinal drugs such as opium and coca leaves and various hallucinogens.

synonymous: BM, BtM


The narcotics are a group of centrally effective drugs and substances, which the state resp. are heavily regulated and controlled by drug and health authorities. This is primarily to prevent abuse and to protect the population from the undesirable effects and dependence.

Certain narcotics - for example many potent hallucinogens - are prohibited or may only be used for medical or scientific purposes with a special permit from the authorities. Some of the substances are also referred to as "psychotropic substances" in the Narcotics Act. In practice, however, this term is not used.

Typical dosage forms include tablets, capsules, drops, transdermal patches, and injection preparations.

As is well known, narcotics are also illegally produced, cultivated, distributed and traded.

Natural narcotics like opium, cannabis, and coca leaves have been used for thousands of years. The narcotics legislation is relatively young. The first regulations came into force at the beginning of the 20th century, and in Switzerland in the 1920s.

Structure and properties

Structurally, narcotics are very heterogeneous. However, different groups can be distinguished within this class (see below). Narcotics are often structurally related to the body's own substances such as neurotransmitters.


Narcotics have, among other things, analgesic, psychotropic, hallucinogenic, stimulating, euphoric, sedative, calming and sleep-inducing properties. Your drug targets are located in the central nervous system, i.e. in the brain and spinal cord. The body's own ligands, which interact with the same target structures, are known for many active substances.


Typical areas of application for narcotics are:


Narcotics have a high potential for abuse. Among other things, they can be used as intoxicants, as party drugs, as stimulants, hallucinogens, as smart drugs, for suicides and poisonous murders. Misuse is strongly discouraged due to its harmful properties. Getting rid of intoxicants is very difficult for most addicts.

Active ingredients (selection)

The following list shows a small selection of narcotics:


Benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs:


Amphetamines and other Stimulants:

Medicinal drugs:


Further examples:

From a purely scientific point of view, alcohol should also be a narcotic. It is psychoactive, makes you dependent and can trigger acute and chronic health disorders. However, he is not counted among them for cultural, political and economic reasons.


The contraindications depend on the individual substances. The complete precautionary measures can be found in the medicinal product information sheet.


The combination of several narcotics can be life-threatening. This applies in particular to centrally suppressing drugs. There are many known cases of celebrities who have died as a result of such drug and intoxicant cocktails. For example the actors Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman as well as the singer Whitney Houston and the singer Tom Petty.

unwanted effects

Narcotics can trigger psychological and physical dependence and lead to addiction. They often have a narrow therapeutic index and an overdose is life-threatening. Narcotics can cause various undesirable effects when administered for both short and long term. If they are stopped abruptly, withdrawal symptoms threaten.

Illegally manufactured substances can contain impurities, pathogens and the wrong ingredients and lead to poisoning and infection. This poses an additional risk.

see also


  • Medicinal product information (CH)
  • Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (Narcotics Act, BetmG)
  • Cicero T.J. No End in Sight: The Abuse of Prescription Narcotics. Cerebrum, 2015 Pubmed
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Ordinance on Narcotics Control (Narcotics Control Ordinance, BetmKV)

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on May 14, 2020.
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