Morphine Addiction
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Morphine Addiction & Withdrawal Effects

Morphine is one of the most abused drug substances in the world.

According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS), morphine’s high rate of abuse potential is closely associated with the chronically high frequency of its administration.

Morphine and its opiate counterparts have highly addictive properties that, without careful medical supervision, can lead to tolerance, dependence, addiction, and even death. 

What is Morphine? 

Morphine is a pain-relieving medication that falls under the opioid class of drugs. This classification includes illegal forms of opioids such as heroin, synthetic forms like fentanyl, and pain relievers available by legal medical prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

In its proper medical application, a doctor will prescribe morphine to treat moderate-to-severe pain. A patient may receive morphine in the form of a pill or swallowable liquid. It may also be applied intravenously, but this usually occurs in a hospital setting. 

What is Morphine Used For? 

In its proper medical application, a doctor will prescribe morphine to treat moderate-to-severe pain.

Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is credited with the origin of morphine’s name due to the “dream-like state” that users report experiencing.

Morphine relieves pain by causing a flood of dopamine in the brain’s reward center. This dopamine release causes a euphoric high, which encourages morphine addiction. People who exceed their prescription limits or use morphine for non-medical purposes are more likely to become addicted to an illegal opiate like heroin.

Whether because the prescription runs out, they’ve built a tolerance to the current dosage, or are already showing signs of addiction, morphine abusers often turn to street heroin sellers to get an immediate or stronger high. 

Addiction–also known as “substance use disorder” (SUD)–is classified as a chronic recurrent disease of the central nervous system (CNS) which leads to personality disorders, co-morbidities and premature death.

SUD develops as a result of long-term administration of substances with abuse potential and includes physical addiction and/or psychological dependence. Psychological dependence is compulsive drug use to improve the perception of well-being whereas physical addiction means the cells can’t function without the drug they have become accustomed to.

While most people take morphine to experience the “desirable” side effects (pain relief, euphoria, etc.), it is all too easy to overdose by accident. If you see a loved one or anyone near you exhibiting any of the following signs of overdose, call 911:

  • Extremely pale skin that feels clammy to the touch
  • Body goes limp
  • Fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color
  • Vomiting or gurgling noises
  • Unable to respond or wake up
  • Slowing or stopping of breathing/heartbeat 

Signs of a morphine overdose: Extremely pale skin that feels clammy to the touch Body goes limp Fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color Vomiting or gurgling noises Unable to respond or wake up Slowing or stopping of breathing/heartbeat

How Long Does Morphine Last? 

The average morphine half life is about 2-3 hours. It takes several half-lives for the drug to be completely eliminated from the body, so 12 hours is a usual amount of time for morphine to be out of the blood.

Someone taking morphine will usually feel its effects within 30-60 minutes after oral ingestion. It generally wears off by about 4-6 hours after dose. Some extended-release formulas may not wear off until closer to 8-12 hours later. 

What Are the Symptoms of Morphine Withdrawal? 

It is extremely important to communicate frequently and clearly with your doctor about how you’re feeling while taking morphine. If you do need to stop taking it, do not do so abruptly. In order to reduce or avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, your doctor can help you slowly reduce dosage over time in a process called “tapering.”

Morphine withdrawal symptoms can begin within the first 24 hours after the last dose. Withdrawal occurs when the body establishes a dependence on the drug, but this usually doesn’t develop until after several weeks of use. 

Initial symptoms after you stop using the drug might include:

  • muscle aches
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • lacrimation (eyes tearing up)
  • runny nose
  • excessive sweating
  • inability to sleep
  • yawning very often

Later symptoms–which can be more intense–begin after the first 24 hours and may be: 

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramping
  • goose bumps on the skin
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high blood pressure

Morphine withdrawal symptoms can begin within the first 24 hours after the last dose was taken.

Morphine withdrawal symptoms, though they can be unpleasant and painful, usually begin to improve within 72 hours. Within a week you should notice a significant decrease in the acute effects. Still, rapid (or “cold turkey”) detox is not recommended. 

Morphine Addiction Recovery Treatment

While rest, plenty of fluids, & acetaminophen or aspirin can help address mild withdrawal,  more intense withdrawal symptoms may require hospitalization and other medications. 

Overcoming long-term addiction requires a little more care. The main treatment for prescription opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines counseling and community support with medicines to moderate the withdrawal process.

If you or a loved one is suffering from morphine addiction, give us a call to see how we can empower you to help stop drug use and learn to thrive without opiates.