Narcotic Addiction

Narcotics were originally extracted as opium from poppies. Narcotics swing into action by attaching themselves to opiate (a type of chemical) receptors in the brain. Heroin, which is a first cousin of morphine, is the most addictive of this class of drugs. Even though some people get away with using heroin occasionally, for many others the addictive power is profound. Gene Hackman gave a terrifyingly accurate portrayal of heroin addiction and withdrawal in the movie The French Connection. Heroin is a central nervous system depressant and leads to lethargy, poor attention, and secondary memory loss.

Watch Out for Prescription Narcotics

Prescription narcotics like oxycodone (Percodan or Percocet) and codeine (Tylenol 3; remember Jack Kaufman's case in chapter 7) can produce a decline in many cognitive skills. The effects of these substances tend to be subtle, which is why most people who take them do not recognize their impact on memory. If you are taking one of these medications regularly and have begun to experience memory loss, check with your doctor for possible nonnarcotic options.

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