Morphine is a powerful and well-known opioid drug. It is used as a prescription pain reliever. Like other opiates, morphine is made from the opium poppy plant. Morphine is currently available in many forms, including: liquid, capsule, tablet, and injectable.
Morphine has been around for quite a long time. Its use can be traced back as far as the Civil War, when doctors used it to treat short-term pain. Today, morphine is used for the same medical reasons as in the past. In addition to being an effective pain reliever, doctors sometimes give morphine before surgery as a preventative measure, to make sure the patient stays sedated.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) currently lists morphine as a schedule II controlled substance. Only schedule I drugs, which are all illegal narcotics, are classified more strictly by the DEA. The DEA states that Schedule II drugs are very likely to be abused, and that use can potentially lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence”.
Despite having a medical purpose for the treatment of extreme short-term pain, morphine is a very dangerous drug and it should be treated with caution. Addiction to morphine can develop fast, and it will result in morphine withdrawal and usually require treatment to recover from. In addition, anyone with an opioid addiction might seek out and use morphine to satisfy their need for opioids.
Is Morphine Addictive?
Yes. As a powerful opioid pain reliever, anyone can abuse morphine and become addicted. Those who are already dependent upon opioids are at an even higher risk of abusing morphine. But what exactly are opioid drugs, and what makes them so addictive?
Opioid drugs interact with the body’s central nervous system. They attach to opioid receptors in the brain and elsewhere. Opioids block these receptors, which blocks some of the body’s pain signals. But the drugs also cause dopamine to be released into the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. When people feel the effects of dopamine, they want to do whatever it is that caused it to be released – again and again.
This is how people start abusing opioids. By flooding the brain with dopamine, opioids like morphine create a euphoric feeling of being ‘high’. Once this effect wears off, people find themselves almost immediately wanting more of the same experience. As people continue to abuse morphine or other opioids, their tolerance increases, requiring them to use more of the drugs in order to feel the same effects.
When tolerance increases and withdrawal symptoms begin to show up, if a person stops taking morphine and other opioids, that person is physically dependent upon the drug. If they have strong cravings and use the drug compulsively even though it is causing harm, they are addicted.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that around a quarter of people who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them. One out of every ten of the same people develops an opioid use disorder. Plus, people who abuse opioid medications do not stop with prescription drugs; over 80 percent of heroin users misuse opioid prescription drugs first.
What are the Effects of Morphine Abuse?
Morphine abuse and addiction have many effects on users. Like other drug addictions, addiction to morphine usually causes many physical and behavioral changes. A person who develops mental and physical dependence on morphine can completely change in just a few weeks.
Remember, morphine abuse happens whenever someone uses the drug in any way other than as prescribed by a doctor. When someone abuses morphine, they immediately put themselves at a higher risk for developing an addiction.
Short-Term Effects of Abusing Morphine
- Unexplained euphoria or feeling ‘high’
- Dilated pupils
- Nodding off
- Slurred speech
- Shallow breathing
- Inability to pay attention
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor decision-making
- Sudden mood swings
In addition to these short-term effects, people who abuse morphine continually and develop an addiction will show many physical and behavioral signs of their drug dependence. Behaviorally, morphine addiction can totally change a person’s personality and the way they act. Some of the behavioral signs of morphine addiction are:
- Spending more time alone
- Feeling tired or lethargic
- Lacking will power
- Huge and sudden mood swings ranging from depression to total euphoria
- Poor performance at work or in school
- Hanging around a new crowd of people
- Backing out of relationships with close friends and family members
- Not showing up for or forgetting responsibilities, such as picking kids up from school or meeting someone at a scheduled time
- Trying to acquire more morphine prescriptions from different doctors
- Stealing and/or lying, especially about morphine or other opioids
- Hiding or stashing morphine or paraphernalia
- Talking about stopping morphine use without actually doing it
Addiction to morphine affects each person differently, but most people who develop an addiction will show some of the behavioral signs above. In addition, morphine affects users physically in many ways in both the short and long-term.
Physical Effects of Morphine Abuse
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure
You can use this list of effects to help you determine whether someone close to you is hiding a morphine addiction. Most addicts do not display all of these signs. Instead, they will show a mix of signs that will change over time. Also keep in mind that addiction to morphine can result in opioid overdose. Overdose can be deadly. If someone shows signs such as blue lips or fingernails, or trouble breathing after taking morphine they could be overdosing. More than 130 people die every day in the United States alone from opioid overdose.
When someone is physically dependent on morphine, they will go through a period of withdrawal if they stop using it and other opioids, or if they reduce their regular dose by a lot.
Withdrawal lasts for a few days and includes many uncomfortable symptoms. The body goes through withdrawal as it learns to function normally again without morphine. The symptoms of morphine withdrawal are:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle aches
- Sweating profusely
- Enlarged pupils
- Yawning more than normal
- Tearing eyes
- Runny nose
- Goosebumps on the skin
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Feeling depressed and anxious
- Restless feelings and inability to sleep
Everyone who goes through morphine withdrawal experiences it differently. Symptoms of withdrawal tend to peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose of morphine. They subside in five to seven days. Users might try to avoid opioid withdrawal by taking other opioids or finding more morphine to use. Once a user is able to get past opioid withdrawal, they have overcome one of the major hurdles in the path to getting clean.
Treatment for Morphine Addiction
Treatment for an addiction to morphine is necessary if the person wishes to learn how to get clean and maintain their sobriety. While everyone’s path to sobriety will look different, treatment plans for morphine addiction usually share some aspects in common.
All treatment plans for morphine addiction begin with detox. A good way to think about detox is that it is how we break the user’s physical dependence on a drug. The user must go through withdrawal in order to do this. Once detox is over, the rest of the treatment can begin.
Treatment for morphine addiction will usually include a mix of medication and therapy techniques. There are many medications that can aid opioid addicts in their recovery. Therapies for substance abuse vary and include both group-based approaches and one-on-one sessions. Research has shown the link between substance abuse and mental health over and over again. This is why therapy is such an important part of the treatment process.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a morphine addiction, act now. Morphine addiction is responsible for many overdose deaths each year. Treatment could mean the difference between life and death.