From the Greek narke, meaning “numbness” or “stupor,” narcotics are technically any class of drugs that induce sleep. But that narrow definition does not align with either the medical meaning of the word or the meaning ascribed to it in the law regulating narcotics. In medical parlance, “narcotics” generally refers to the opioid analgesics—a class of natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic painkillers derived from or structurally similar to opium. True opiates are derived from opium—a resinous, milky fluid produced by the opium poppy (Papaver ...

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