● The word ‘Narcotics’ has been derived from Greek word’ Narkotikos ‘meaning a state of lethargy, sluggishness or sleep. A drug which has a deteriorative effect on the human mind or body is called a narcotic or a narcotic drug.

● In other words, Narcotics are drugs that are medicinally to relieve pain. It is usually all painkillers.


● Narcotics have high abuse potential.

● Different types of drugs have different types of initial effects. For example- opiates sedate, stimulants stimulate and hallucinogens hallucinate. These drugs have different effects on the body and the mind of the abuser.

● In law, Narcotics are those drugs whose production, sale and purchase are prohibited, controlled or regulated by the government through the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Initial unpleasant effects –

  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce tension
  • Relieve fatigue
  • Reduce sleep

Types of Narcotics

1. Natural Narcotics:-

Natural narcotics are naturally occurring drugs and that are obtained directly from plants, These are-


Opium is the dried juice of unripe white poppy heads from the plant Papaver somniferum. It is plastic when fresh but on complete drying it becomes hard and brittle. It is dark brown in colour in the dried state. Opium is a mixture of about 35 alkaloids but most important one is morphine. Its derivative heroin is used only illegally as a narcotic drug as its used in banned throughout the world. It may be used as medicine, painkiller and as a narcotic. It is mostly used for suicidal and homicidal purpose. Opium are taken by various method such as orally, by injection and through smoking.



Heroin is mostly used for the greatest number of deaths. Conversion of morphine to heroin needs more elaborate chemical operation. Morphine is refluxed with acetic anhydride for about 5 hours to get Diacetyl morphine i.e, heroin is formed. It is usually brown in colour but it varies from white to black colour. Heroin is not marketed in its pure form, It is always diluted or cut. The usual street samples contain 1to 5 % heroin.



Morphine is the most important constituent of opium and is responsible for most of the qualities as sedative, pain killer and narcotic. Morphine is extracted from opium. It is used in the form of its salt usually as morphine sulphate. It is an alkaloid. It is usually taken by injection and sometime orally by mouth. Medicinal dose for morphine is about 10-15 mg. It shows psychological effect such as soporific effect, nacrosis and coma. Morphine is eliminated through urine. It is very strong addictive drugs.


Cocaine, alkaloid obtained from the leaves of coca commercially. It is white crystalline slightly Volatile alkaloid. It is a drug choice for local anesthesia. Cocaine is taken by mouth in capsules, mixed with food and with drink, by inhaling, by application on the gums, by placing it under the tongue or by injection. The effect of cocaine on an individual is immediate and the experience is of euphoria of intense pleasure. The drugs are claimed to be stimulate CNS, mental and physical process and the person is hyperactive. Cocaine addiction is characterized by intense desire to take the drug, psychological dependence and health failure, less sleep, loss of appetite. Cocaine suffers extensive change in the body. It is identified from urine where unchanged cocaine is excreted from 1 to 2 % during the first 24 hours. The maximum amount being excreted in the first 6 hours.

2. Synthetic Narcotics:-

Synthetic narcotics are those drugs that are modified form of natural narcotic. These drugs are entirely laboratory products. These drugs possess either better pain killing property or are long acting drugs. These are- Methadone, Demerol, Percodan, Darvon etc

Classification of Narcotic Drugs

Photo of the coca plant.

Narcotics drugs can be divided into three main categories-

Sedatives– Sedative drugs have depressants effects upon the body and make it in sensitive to pain, worry or emotion. They relieve the drug user from their evil effects.

Examples are- Opium, Morphine, Methadone etc.

Stimulates– Drug used to increase alertness, relieve fatigue, feel stronger and more decisive, used for euphoric effects or to counteract the “down” felling of tranquilizers or alcohol.

Examples are- Cocaine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Phenmetrazine, Methylphenidate etc

Hallucinogens– Drugs that produce behavioral changes that are often multiple and dramatic. “Designer Drugs”, made to imitate certain illegal drugs, are often many times stronger than drugs they imitate.

Examples are- PCP (phencyclidine: angel dust, loveboat), LSD ( Lysergic acid diethylamide: green/red dragon), mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, designer drugs (ecstasy-PCE).

Drug Dependence which has following elements-

Tolerance– A form of physical dependence, occurs when the body becomes accustomed to a drug and requires ever-increasing amounts of it to achieve the same pharmacological effects.

Habituation– A form of psychological dependence is characterized by the continued desire for a drug, even after physical dependence is gone.

Addiction– A severe craving for the substance and interferes with a person’s ability to function normally. It may also involve physical dependence.


Narcotics can be administered by any of the following methods-

  • Orally
  • Injection
  • Inhalation
  • Smoked
  • Swallowed
  • Sniffed


  • Abscesses at injection sites
  • Excitement
  • Drowsiness
  • slowed pulse
  • Constricted pupils
  • Respiratory depression
  • Nausea, vomiting and Constipation
  • Needle marks on extremities
  • Euphoria, lethargy and Lack of motivation
  • Slow heart beat

Overdose Symptoms

  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed pulse, clammy skin
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • possible death

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • The addict becomes nervous and the restlessness when the effect of the drug wears off.
  • Sweating
  • Nose and eyes start running
  • Twitching of skin
  • Dilation of pupils and recurring goose flesh
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and sleep
  • Respiration, blood pressure and body temperature also changes.

Withdrawal syndrome can be roughly put into following steps-

Stage I (8-24 hours)

This is mostly governed by fear psychosis of the non- availability of the drug. The next 8 hours is restlessness time:

  • Body perspires
  • Nose and eyes rns
  • Yawing, sneezing or other cold symptoms appear.

In the next 8 hours the addict suffers-

  • Loss of appetite
  • Body shivering
  • Cold turkey flesh

Stage II (24-48 hours)

This stage heralds real troubles: insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and depression. It continues for a day.

Stage III ( 48-72 hours)

Stage II symptoms intensify and reach the peak. Cramps and twitching increases manifold.

Stage IV

After 3 days the symptoms start subsiding but nervousness and insomnia continue for the months. Weight loss, personality loss and physical dependence is finished and psychological dependence continues.


The basic approaches to drug abuse treatment are:

Detoxification: It supervised withdrawal from drug dependence, either with or without medication, in a hospital or as an outpatient.

Drug-free Program: It emphasizes various forms of counseling as the main treatment.

Dose maintenance through substitution: It provides a suitable substitute drug to a drug dependent person in a daily basis to help them lead productive lives while still in treatment.

Toxicological Materials

  • Vomitus
  • Blood, urine
  • Stomach contents
  • Intestines, liver, kidney, brain

Forensic Examination or Test for Detection

Colour Test-

For Opium & it’s derivatives

Huseman Test- To the dry residue are added a few drops of conc. Sulphuric acid and heated ob boiling water bath for 30 mins. After cooling nitric acid is added to it and then red colour appears which indicates opium.

Marquis Test– Add 2 ml of conc. Sulphuric acid with 2 drops of formalin then it gives purple red to violet colour which indicates opium and heroin.

Oliver’s Tests- The residue is taken in a few drop of dil. acetic acid. Then 2 drops of hydrogen peroxide are added and is made alkaline by adding a few drops of ammonium hydroxide. The resulting solution is agitated with a clean copper foil and appears wine red colour.

Merconic Acid Test- Neutral solution of ferric chloride gives blood red colour which persists even after addition of dilute hydrochloric acid and mercuric chloride solution.

Porphyroxin Test- On heating the residue with dilute hydrochloric acid then it gives pink colour.

Meck’s Reagent- Add 1% selenious acid solution in concentrated sulphuric acid then the reagent gives brown to green colour.

For Marijuana

Duquenois-Levine Test A mixture of 2% vanillin and 1% acetaldehyde in ethyl alcohol and then add conc. Hydrochloric acis as well as chloroform to it. After that a purple color shown which indicated marijuana.

For Hallucinogen

Van Erk Reagent Test 1% solution of p- dimethylaminobenzaldehyde added in 10% conc. Hydrochloric acid and ethyl alcohol. The reagent turns ble- prple which indicated LSD.

For Cocaine

Scott Test- A 2% cobalt thiocyanate is dissolved in water and glycerine then add conc. Hydrochloric acid and chloroform to it. A powder containe cocaine turns blue in colour.

Other Test

  1. Micro crystalline Test
  2. Thin Layer Chromatography
  3. UV and IR spectrophetometry
  4. High Performance Liquid Chromatography
  5. Gas Chromatography – Mass spectrometry
  6. NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance)


  1. Dr. K.S. Narayan Reddy. The essential of forensic medicine and toxicology.34th edition.
  2. VV Pillay.Modern medical toxicology.4th edition.
  3. Richard Saferstein. Criminalistics-An introduction to forensic science. 11th Edition.
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