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A term that refers to a category of perception-altering or sensory-dulling drugs that have been created either through synthesis or extraction from substances of vegetable origin. In the United States, narcotics are regulated as Schedule I, II, III, and V controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. As listed under 21 U.S.C. § 802.17, narcotic drugs include:

“(A) Opium, opiates, derivatives of opium and opiates, including their isomers, esters, ethers, salts, and salts of isomers, esters, and ethers, whenever the existence of such isomers, esters, ethers, and salts is possible within the specific chemical designation. Such term does not include the isoquinoline alkaloids of opium.

(B) Poppy straw and concentrate of poppy straw.

(C) Coca leaves, except coca leaves and extracts of coca leaves from which cocaine, ecgonine, and derivatives of ecgonine or their salts have been removed.

(D) Cocaine, its salts, optical and geometric isomers, and salts of isomers.

(E) Ecgonine, its derivatives, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers.

(F) Any compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of any of the substances referred to in subparagraphs (A) through (E).”

Dealing in any of these narcotics is a felony (subject to a prison term) under both state and federal laws, although mere use may be a misdemeanor. Possession of these substances without a physician or dentist’s authorization for personal medicinal use is illegal. In California, for example, Health and Safety Code 11350 states that unlawful possession of any controlled substance, including narcotics, can result in penalties of up to one year in jail.

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]