Signs and Symptoms Fact Sheets

Opiates (Narcotics) Fact Sheet

Opiates (also called narcotics) are drugs that alleviate pain, depress body functions and reactions,and when taken in large doses, causes a strong euphoric feeling.


Generic/Chemical Names: Natural and Natural Derivatives include: opium; morphine; codeine; and heroin (semi-synthetic).

Synthetics include: meperidine (Demerol); oxymorphine (Numorphan); and oxycodone (Percodan).

Common Street Names: Big M; micro; dots; horse; "H"; junk; smack; scag; Miss Emma; dope; China white.

Distinguishing Characteristics: Because of the variety of compounds and forms, opiates are more difficult to clearly describe in terms of form, color, odor, and other physical characteristics. Opium and its derivatives can range from dark brown chunks to white crystals or powders. Depending on the method of intake, they may be in powder, pill or liquid form.

Paraphernalia: Needles; syringe caps; eyedroppers; bent spoons; bottle caps; and rubber tubing (used in the preparation for injection of the drug).

Method of Intake: Opiates may be taken in pill form, smoked, or injected, depending upon the type of narcotic used.

Duration of Single Dose Effect: 3 to 6 hours.

Detection Time: Usually up to 2 days.

Dependency Level: Both physical and psychological dependence on opiates are known to be high. Dependence on codeine is moderate.

Signs and Symptoms of Use

Evidence of Presence of Drug: In addition to paraphernalia enumerated above, the following items may be present: foil, glassine envelopes, or paper "bundles" (packets for holding drugs); balloons or prophylactics used to hold heroin; bloody tissues used to wipe the injection site; and a pile of burned matches used to heat the drug prior to injection.

Physical Symptoms: Constricted pupils; sweating; nausea and vomiting; diarrhea; needle marks or "tracks", wearing long sleeves to cover tracks; loss of appetite; slurred speech; slowed reflexes; depressed breathing and heartbeat; and drowsiness and fatigue.

Behavioral Symptoms: Mood swings; impaired coordination; depression and apathy; stupor; and euphoria.

Health Effects

IV needle users have a high risk of contracting hepatitis and AIDS due to the sharing of needles.

Narcotics increase pain tolerance. As a result, people could more severely injure themselves or fail to seek medical attention after an accident due to the lack of pain sensitivity.

Narcotics' effects are multiplied when used in combination with other depressant drugs and alcohol, causing increased risk of an overdose.

Effects on Mental Performance

In addition the high physical and psychological dependence level of opiates compounds the impaired functioning.

Effects on Driver Performance

The apathy caused by opiates can translate into an "I don't really care" attitude towards performance. The physical effects as well as the depression, fatigue, and slowed reflexes impede the reaction time of the driver, raising the potential for accidents. Although opiates have a legitimate medical use in alleviating pain, workplace use may cause impairment of physical and mental functions.

Social Issues

There are over 500,000 heroin addicts in the US, most of whom are IV drug users.

An even greater number of medicinal narcotic-dependence persons obtain their narcotics through prescriptions.

Because of tolerance, there is an ever-increasing need for more narcotic to produce the same effect.

Strong mental and physical dependency occurs.

The combination of tolerance and dependency creates an increasing financial burden for the user. Costs of heroin can reach hundreds of dollars a day.

Workplace Issues

Unwanted side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, mental clouding, and drowsiness place the legitimate user and abuser at higher risk for an accident.

Narcotics have a legitimate medical use in alleviating pain. Workplace use may cause impairment of physical and mental functions.

Phencyclidine (PCP) Fact Sheet

Phencyclidine (PCP) was originally developed as an anesthetic, but the adverse side effects prevented its use except as a large animal tranquilizer. PCP acts as both a depressant and a hallucinogen,and sometimes as a stimulant. It is abused primarily for its variety of mood-altering effects. Low does produce sedation and euphoric mood changes. The mood can change rapidly from sedation to excitation and agitation. Larger doses may produce a coma-like condition with muscle rigidity and a blank stare with the eyelids half closed. Sudden noises or physical shocks may cause "freak out" in which the person has abnormal strength, extremely violent behavior, and an inability to speak or comprehend communication.


Generic/Chemical Names: Phencyclidine

Common Street Names: Angel dust; peace pills; hog; killer weed;mint; monkey; dust; supergrass; Tran Q; weed.

Distinguishing Characteristics: PCP is commonly sold as a creamy, granular powder. It is either brown or white and often packaged in one-inch square aluminum foil or folded paper packets. Occasionally, it is sold in capsule, tablet, or liquid form. It is sometimes combined with procaine, a local anesthetic, and sold as imitation cocaine.

Paraphernalia: Foil or paper packets; stamps; (off which PCP is licked); needles, syringes, and tourniquets (for injection); leafy herbs (for smoking).

Method of Intake: In pill, capsule, or tablet for, PCP may be ingested. It is commonly injected as "angel dust". It may be smoked or snorted when applied to leafy materials or combined with marijuana or tobacco.

Duration of Single Dose Effect: Days

Detection Time: Up to 8 days.

Dependency Level: Psychological dependence on PCP is known to be high. Physical dependence is unknown.

Signs and Symptoms of Use

Evidence of Presence of PCP: Packets; stamps; injection paraphernalia; herbs.

Physical Symptoms: Dilated or floating pupils; blurred vision; nystagmus (jerky eye movement); drooling; muscle rigidity; profuse sweating; decreased sensitivity to pain; dizziness; drowsiness; impaired physical coordination (e.g. drunken-like walk, staggering); severe disorientation; rapid heartbeat.

Behavioral Symptoms: Anxiety; panic/fear/terror; aggressive/violent behavior; distorted perception; severe confusion and agitation; disorganization; mood swings; poor perception of time and distance; poor judgement; auditory hallucinations.

Health Effects

The potential for accidents and overdose emergencies is high due to the extreme mental effects combined with the anesthetic effect on the body.

PCP is potentiated by other depressant drugs, including alcohol, increasing the likelihood of an overdose reaction.

Misdiagnosing the hallucinations as LSD induced, and then treating with Thorazine, can cause a fatal reaction.

Use can cause irreversible memory loss, personality changes, and other disorders.

There are four phases to PCP abuse. The first phase is acute toxicity. It can last up to three days and can include combativeness, catatonia, convulsions, and coma. Distortions of size, shape, and distance perception are common. The second phase, which does not always follow the first, is toxic psychosis. Users may experience visual and auditory delusions, paranoia, and agitation. The third phase, is a drug-induced schizophrenia that may last a month or longer. The fourth phase is PCP-induced depression. Suicidal tendencies and mental dysfunction can last for months.

Effects on Mental Performance

Effects on Driver Performance

The distortions in perception, and potential visual and auditory make driver performance unpredictable and dangerous. PCP use can cause drowsiness, convulsions, paranoia, agitation, or coma, all obviously dangerous to driving.

Overdose Effects

Workplace Issues

PCP abuse is less common today than in recent years. It is also not generally used in a workplace setting because of the severe disorientation that occurs.


Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, "Guidelines for Implementing the FHWA Anti-Drug Program," Publication No. FHWA-MC-91-014, March 1992.

Click here to return to
Employee and Public Services Homepage.
Send mail to 2001, Department of the Interior, National Business Center, EPS.
Page design by Kim Green, Webmaster.