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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE? Narcotics vs Opioids vs Benzodiazepines

What Are Narcotics?

The term narcotic has historically been used to refer to a number of mind-altering substances as well as to provide a broad legal designation for a range of illicit drugs; today, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) more specifically defines narcotic drugs as those that relieve pain and dull the senses, and the use of the word is most commonly associated with opioid drugs.

The naturally occurring opiates (plant alkaloids derived from the opium poppy) as well as synthetic (man-made) and semisynthetic opioids are considered to be narcotic drugs, which include both legally prescribed and illicit varieties. Opioids not only diminish the perception of pain signaling in the central nervous system but also produce rewarding, euphoric effects, making them targets for abuse and highly addictive.

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What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. Learn More >

Commonly Abused Narcotics & Opioids

Below is a brief list of some of the more widely-known narcotics and opioids drugs:

  • Opium

  • Heroin

  • Codeine

  • Oxycodone

  • Hydrocodone

  • Tramadol

  • Morphine

  • Hydromorphone

  • Fentanyl

  • Carfentanil

              Learn More >

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. The American Society of Addiction Medicine(ASAM) indicates that close to 3 million people battled opioid addiction (to either heroin or prescription painkillers) in 2015. More than 60 percent of the record-high overdose deaths in 2015 involved an opioid drug, and 91 people in the US die from an opioid overdose daily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. Also in 2015, roughly 300 million prescriptions were dispensed for narcotic pain medications around the world, and Americans consumed 80 percent of them.

Learn More About Opioid Overdoses & How to Stop Them >

What Are Benzos?

There are more than 15 different types of FDA-approved benzodiazepine medications. These drugs are referred to as benzos and are widely prescribed for a variety of medical and mental health concerns. PsychCentral reports that the benzodiazepine drug Xanax was the mostly widely prescribed psychiatric medication from 2005 to 2013. Benzos have hypnotic, muscle-relaxant, or anticonvulsant properties. They can provide anxiety relief.

They are therefore prescribed to treat the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Insomnia

  • Social anxiety

  • Panic disorder

  • Catatonia

  • Tremors

  • Alcohol withdrawal

  • Sedation prior to surgery

  • Acute agitation

  • Seizures

Benzos are not a long-term solution for most of these issues. They are intended to be used short-term for acute symptoms. Extended use can lead to tolerance and dependence.

Short-acting benzodiazepines include the following:

  • Triazolam (Halcion): A sedative hypnotic medication used for the treatment of insomnia

  • Midazolam (Versed): An anesthesia-adjunct medication used prior to surgery or medical procedures to relieve anxiety and produce sleepiness

  • Clorazepate (Tranxene): An anti-anxiety medication that treats anxiety, insomnia, and seizures

Intermediate-acting benzodiazepines take marginally longer to take effect and stay in the bloodstream for longer. They include the following:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): An anti-anxiety medication used for treating anxiety and panic disorders

  • Lorazepam (Ativan): An anti-anxiety medication used for the treatment of insomnia, generalized anxiety, or anxiety coupled with depression

  • Temazepam (Restoril): A sedative-hypnotic medication that treats insomnia

  • Oxazepam (Serax): An anti-anxiety medication used for the treatment of anxiety, anxiety coupled with depression, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms

  • Estazolam (ProSom): A sedative-hypnotic medication that treats insomnia

Long-acting benzodiazepines take longer to begin working and are effective for the longest period of time. They include medications such as the following:

  • Diazepam (Valium): An anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxant, and anticonvulsant medication that treats anxiety and muscle spasms and may be used during alcohol withdrawal

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium): An anti-anxiety medication used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and tremors

  • Flurazepam (Dalmane): A sedative-hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia

  • Quazepam (Doral): A sedative-hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia

  • Clonazepam (Rivotril, Klonopin): An anticonvulsant medication that treats anxiety, panic disorders, and epileptic seizures


All of these substances require a medical detox to safely reduce you body's physical dependency on the drug. At Scottsdale Detox, we offer treatments for all of these substances. If you think you might need a medical detox, please call us for a free consultation.



Struggling with addiction is hard enough, and trying to do it alone is practically impossible. Misuse of drugs or alcohol hides the underlying causes of your addiction and these will continue to disrupt your life until they are uncovered and addressed.

If you are reading this right now and need to change things in your life, please call us now. We understand how you feel and the struggle to pick up the phone. Our staff recognizes that people who try to quit by themselves oftentimes get frustrated and feel helpless when they can’t. You can, and we can help.


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