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Opiods or narcotics are powerful pain relievers. They mimic the properties of endorphins, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that gives a ‘feel good’ effect. These drugs elevate mood and produce a tranquil and relaxed state. Tolerance and dependence develop quickly if used regularly. If the drugs are not available, then a person will develop symptoms of withdrawal. Drugs in this group include:

  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

These drugs can be taken through the oral route, inhaling of smoke, also known as “chasing the dragon” or by injecting directly into the blood stream.

Signs and symptoms

Effects and signs of abuse include; pain relief, euphoria, sedation and drowsiness, nausea, constipation, confusion, slow breathing and depression. When a person stops using the drugs suddenly, the signs of withdrawal including ‘goose flesh’, sweating, muscle and joint pain, running nose, chills and shivering, abdominal pain and diarrhea may occur. While narcotics are not dangerous, taking it in overdose or enjecting it in large amounts directly into your body can kill.


There are many consequences of taking opiods and narcotics. These include:

  • Infection – Complications can arise from the sharing of needles. You can get infection for example HIV or AIDs, hepatitis, myocarditis (infection of the heart), brain abscess and many others.
  • Death from overdose.
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental disorders
  • Social consequences such as loss of job, involvement in criminal activities including prostitution, family break-up, domestic violence and many more.
  • Sexual problems such as decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
  • In pregnant women, it can cause premature delivery, low birth weight, withdrawal symptoms in the infant and infant death.


There are many treatment options available if you want to stop your addiction. Counseling for individual or family, is available at any branch of the National Drug Agencies or support groups run by former drug addicts. Those who are addicted to narcotics and opiods are required to undergo detoxification program to help them overcome the withdrawal symptoms while cleansing the body of drugs. There are detoxification centers around the country, which are run by government agencies, NGOs, charitable or religious organizations and private centers. Any medical and psychiatric complications must also be treated appropriately.


Refer to drug abuse issues


  • There are long term residential programs provided by the Government agencies (Pusat Serenti), charitable and religious organizations (e.g. Calvary Charismatic Centre), NGO (run by PENGASIH) and private agencies. All these places offer long term programs lasting from 12 to 24 months in a therapeutic community (TC) setting. The programs are highly structured, regimented and confrontational and are designed to increase awareness of the social and psychological effects of drug abuse.  
  • Replacement therapies are also available at certain Government hospitals (Methadone Replacement Therapy). Certain private centers offer Sulboxone Replacement Therapy. Replacement therapy can be done on an outpatient basis.

Support groups

Agency Anti Dadah Kebangsaan


Alcohol Anonymous

Calvary Spiritual Centre

Last Reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Suraya binti Yusoff
Penyemak : Prof Madya Dr. Ramli bin Musa