A lethal dose of morphine may be as low as 120 mg for morphine tablets and 25 mg for intravenous solutions.
At this dosage, morphine toxicity can cause respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and other life-threatening side effects. An average recommended morphine dose is 15 to 30 mg for tablets and 0.2 mg/kg for solutions.
Healthcare professionals prescribe millions of opioids per year, despite mounting evidence that opioids may only be effective for short-term chronic and severe pain relief.
Morphine Overdose & Death Rates
Little data is publicly available for specific opioids and overdose rates. While government bodies and health organizations publish overall opioid overdose statistics, data on opioid formulations such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine is less common.
A study of over 2 million North Carolina residents reported 478 opioid overdose deaths after a one-year follow-up, which is about a 0.022% fatal overdose rate. People who took both opioids and benzodiazepines over this time period had overdose death rates that were ten times higher.
Morphine overdose and death rates may be similar to other opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone.
Morphine Overdose Symptoms
An opioid overdose can cause severe central nervous system (CNS) depression, compromising vital functions in the body. Symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- respiratory depression (difficulty breathing)
- severe drowsiness
- slow heart rate
- low blood pressure
- clammy skin
- pinpoint pupils
Without proper treatment, a morphine overdose can be fatal. Administering naloxone may reverse overdose symptoms, and can be performed by people without medical training. Upon arrival, medical professionals can attempt to restore breathing and reverse overdose symptoms.
Factors That Make A Morphine Dose Lethal
Apart from the dosage, the type of morphine taken is a significant factor in a person’s drug overdose risk. Immediate-release morphine formulations may have different overdose rates than extended-release morphine.
Intravenous morphine solutions tend to have higher concentrations of morphine than pills. A lower amount of morphine solution may cause an overdose compared to morphine tablets.
A patient’s medical history can also affect their sensitivity to morphine. Patients who have chronic liver disease or take certain medications may have a higher risk of overdose than others.
Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder
Fatal overdoses on opioids have increased in the United States over the past 20 years. Traditional opiates such as morphine sulfate and oxycodone, as well as new synthetic opioids like fentanyl, can be a health risk for people who take them for pain relief.
Opioids can be habit-forming. If you or a loved one are struggling to stop taking opioids, dedicated addiction treatment programs may be able to help.
Contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center for opioid use treatment options that fit the needs of you or your loved one.
- Food and Drug Administration — MS Contin (morphine sulfate controlled-release) Tablets
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Overdose Death Rates
- Frontiers in Pain Research — Opioids and Chronic Pain: An Analytic Review of the Clinical Evidence
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Morphine: MedlinePlus Drug Information
- National Library of Medicine: PubMed — Cohort Study of the Impact of High-Dose Opioid Analgesics on Overdose Mortality