Morphine Risks, Effects, and Addiction Treatment
In This Article
Dealing with chronic diseases often requires medications like morphine to manage symptoms. However, any medication taken too long may lead to potential risks such as drug dependence.
Morphine is no exception. While it can relieve both short-term and long-term moderate to severe pain, morphine misuse can lead to addiction and other adverse reactions.
This blog post dives into morphine and covers the drug's physical and psychological side effects. It also outlines measures for successful morphine addiction recovery.
Is Morphine Addictive?
Yes, morphine is an addictive and habit-forming drug.
Opioids alter the brain's pain perception, eliminating discomfort and causing euphoric and soothing effects. These sensations can lead to opioid addiction because users want to experience these frequently.
Over time, the body builds up morphine tolerance and reduces the effects of the drug. This leads to dependency and risk of polydrug use.
Drug dependence and withdrawal of the drug can occur whether you use morphine by prescription or recreationally. Dependency develops faster when you abuse it with larger-than-recommended doses.
What Are The Symptoms of Morphine Addiction?
The most common signs of morphine addiction are:
- Going to the doctor to get multiple prescriptions
- Lying about medical conditions to obtain the drug from several doctors
- Taking larger doses than prescribed by their doctor
- Taking morphine in between prescription refills or taking it for longer than recommended
- Using illegal means to obtain the drug
- Selling or stealing things to buy morphine
- Disappearing or hiding from family and friends to hide their addiction
- Irregular eating and sleeping patterns
- Significant weight loss
- Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when access to morphine is denied
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Increased risk-taking and dangerous behavior
- Mood swings and depression
- Constant craving for more morphine
- Financial problems due to spending money on the drug
- Social isolation and lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy
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How Do You Stop Using Morphine Safely?
You should only use morphine under a licensed physician’s guidance. They can prescribe and adjust your dosage according to age, weight, condition, and medical history.
Never decrease or increase the dose without consulting your doctor. Otherwise, you may experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms.
Your attending physician can recommend strategies for safely tapering off morphine use if necessary.
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What Are The Signs of Morphine Withdrawal?
Morphine is a physically addictive drug. That means a person will experience withdrawal if and when they stop using it.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms occur within the first few days of the last dose. These symptoms include:
- Muscle twitches
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty sleeping
- Bone pain
- Heavy sweating
- Runny nose and teary eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Gastrointestinal discomfort and stomach cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Fast pulse rate
- Fast breathing rate
- Severe dehydration
People with pre-existing heart conditions or anxiety disorders might also require medical emergencies during withdrawal.
How Do You Treat Morphine Addiction?
Opioid addiction from morphine use is a severe condition that requires medical attention. People dealing with this should seek out professional help as soon as possible.
The effective treatments for morphine addiction involve a comprehensive approach that includes:
- Counseling: Identifies the underlying causes of addiction to develop strategies for overcoming them
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Combines supervised detoxification with medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms and discourage drug use
- Behavioral Therapy: Changes a user’s behavior and attitudes associated with drug use, helping them adopt healthier habits
- Supportive services: Attending self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) helps users cope with their addiction and lead to successful recovery
Generally, morphine addiction treatment tends to be a long-term commitment for a successful recovery. Some in-patient or residential programs can last up to six months. On the other hand, outpatient therapy can continue for a year.
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What is Morphine?
- Extended-release (long-acting) tablet
- Extended-release (long-acting) capsule
- Liquid solution
The extended-release capsule and tablet manage severe pain requiring long-term, continuous opioid treatment.
Taking morphine is a practical solution when other pain medications are intolerable or ineffective. However, it should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision to adjust your dosage and length of the prescription as needed.
How Does Morphine Work?
Morphine, like other opiate drugs, targets the central nervous system (CNS) by acting on specific receptors. By disrupting the communication of distress signals between the brain and the body, it alleviates pain. Simultaneously, morphine reduces symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.
Precautions to Remember When Using Morphine
There are several precautions or contradictions to remember before using the drug to ensure its safe usage. You should avoid using morphine if you:
- Are younger than 18 years old
- Are allergic to morphine
- Have severe breathing problems, asthma, or sleep apnea
- Have been diagnosed with a brain tumor
- Have liver or kidney disease
- Have pancreatitis
- Have a head injury or seizures
- Have an alcohol or drug addiction
- Have a mental health disorder like depression or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Have a blockage in the intestines or stomach
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have used monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) in the past two weeks (tranylcypromine, selegiline, rasagiline, phenelzine, methylene blue injection, linezolid, and isocarboxazid)
Besides taking note of the restrictions above, you should also avoid mixing morphine with certain substances and drugs.
What Substances Interact With Morphine?
Some medications can harm your body when mixed with other substances. Morphine can interact adversely with drugs, such as opioid analgesics and opioid antagonists.
The combination of morphine and the following substances can trigger a severe interaction:
- Sodium oxybate
- Drugs that cause respiratory depression
Risks of Mixing Morphine with Other Substances
Mixing morphine and alcohol can trigger severe drug interactions, posing serious health risks. Combining morphine with other opioids and CNS depressants also heightens these risks:
- Impaired breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Intense sedation
Remember to inform your doctor about all your medicines before using this drug.
What Are the Side Effects of Morphine?
Mild side effects from opiate drugs, such as morphine, are usually not a cause for concern. These include:
- Stomach pain and cramps
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Small (pinpoint) pupils
- Difficulty urinating or pain when urinating
Severe Morphine Side Effects
The more severe side effects of morphine use require immediate medical attention. These include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Purplish or blue skin hue
- Increased heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Loss of coordination
- Hoarse voice
- Drug Interactions
- Sweating or shivering
- Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or reduced appetite
- Decreased libido
- Skin reactions, including hives, rash, or itching
- Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, mouth, or throat
People using morphine as instructed by their physician can still experience the side effects mentioned above. However, they may also occur because of intentionally abusing morphine. This can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Can You Overdose on Morphine?
Yes, you can overdose on morphine. Those with a prescription often receive a rescue medication (known as Naloxone) that reverses the potentially fatal effects of an overdose. Naloxone blocks the effects and relieves the dangerous symptoms overconsumption triggers.
What Are The Symptoms of Morphine Overdose?
Most addiction cases begin innocently before they end up as full-blown addictions. Look out for these symptoms if you suspect someone of overdosing on morphine:
- Slow, irregular, or shallow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Limp muscles
- Cold, clammy skin
- Contracted pupils
- Reduced heart rate
- Blurred vision
These symptoms can progress quickly and cause serious health complications. In some cases, a morphine overdose can even be fatal.
If you or someone you know experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
How Do Users Misuse Morphine?
Users misuse the drug through oral ingestion, injection, or snorting the tablet’s contents. When snorted, blood vessels in the nose take the medication straight to the bloodstream. This produces a more intense and immediate effect.
Morphine misuse also occurs when you use the drug:
- Without a prescription
- To get high
- With alcohol or other drugs intended to enhance the effect
People who take morphine legally usually switch to heroin once they start misusing it. This is because heroin is a cheaper alternative and easier to obtain without a prescription.
What Does A Morphine High Look Like?
The effects of morphine typically include profound relaxation or satisfaction. Users also report a noticeable reduction in chronic pain.
The duration of the associated euphoria can be between 1.5 and 7 hours. This varies based on the administered dosage and the user’s sensitivity to pharmacological substances.
Morphine as a Controlled Substance
Morphine is a Schedule II substance which is a classification for drugs with a high potential for abuse. Morphine use can lead to dependence, even when you use it according to medical instructions.
Due to these risks, the government tightly controls morphine prescriptions. Medical practitioners must also obtain a license to dispense it legally.
People needing intense pain relief—especially those with cancer—must undergo a thorough assessment before legally obtaining morphine.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) After Morphine Use
Unfortunately, some withdrawal symptoms will linger, but new symptoms associated with PAWS could develop. These include:
- Sleep problems
- Low energy and fatigue
- Feeling emotionally numb
What Factors Affect Morphine Withdrawal Intensity?
Some variables that impact how strongly a user feels withdrawal symptoms include:
- Drug amount and method of use
- Duration of drug abuse
- Consumption and mix of other drugs
- Previous unpleasant experiences with withdrawal
- Existing medical or mental health issues
Morphine is a powerful drug that treats chronic pain but is highly addictive. Users exhibit signs of addiction, such as increased drug cravings and an inability to maintain social responsibilities.
People who develop morphine-induced opioid addiction will experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. The most effective treatments involve a comprehensive approach that includes a mix of counseling, medication, and therapy.
If you or someone you know suffers from morphine addiction, seek medical help immediately to start recovering.
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- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Morphine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Listos et al. “The Mechanisms Involved in Morphine Addiction: An Overview.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2019.
- Murphy et al. “Morphine.” StatPearls Publishing, 2023.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Morphine (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
- “Controlled Substance Schedules.” U.S. Department of Justice | Drug Enforcement Administration.