Morphine is considered the gold standard of analgesic narcotic opioids and is a drug against which every other opioid is measured in strength and efficiency. Morphine is a derivative of the opium poppy plant, first introduced around 1804.
Morphine is a semi-synthetic opioid, and it is clinically indicated to treat moderate to severe pain in patients who may be opioid tolerant or opioid naive.
All formulations and strengths of morphine are listed by the DEA as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), indicating their high potential for abuse.
Effects of Morphine
As a semi-synthetic opioid, morphine is partially derived from opium and codeine and has the same actions in the brain as the fully synthetic opioids and heroin.
Morphine works like any other opioid painkiller by reducing the strength of pain signals in the brain. Even if someone takes morphine as directed, it may still cause some unpleasant effects. Since morphine is a narcotic painkiller, it is also highly addictive and presents a significant risk for abuse and dependence.
The effects of morphine can include the following:
- dry mouth
- mood changes
- constricted (pinpoint) pupils
- difficulty urinating
- stomach pains and cramps
Additional side effects which are more severe include:
- swelling of the eyes, mouth, lips, throat, or face
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- chest pain
- excessive drowsiness
- nausea and vomiting
- irregular heartbeat
Another effect of morphine is respiratory depression, which can become severe and lead to a fatal overdose. This effect is one of many characteristics of depressant drugs, and any combination of depressant drugs increases the risk of a fatal dose. Other dangerous depressant drugs include all opioid painkillers, heroin, benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan, alcohol, and sedatives and tranquilizers. Combining any of these drugs, or taking excessive amounts of any of these can increase the risk of fatal overdose due to respiratory depression.
Dangers of Morphine Abuse
Morphine abuse is common and has been since the development of the drug during the Civil War. Since morphine is one of the first synthesized opioids derived directly from the opium poppy plant, it is no wonder that it remains one of the most frequently prescribed opioids for pain ranging from mild to severe. Morphine is available in many strengths and lengths of action. The length of action for any opioid medication indicates the period during which analgesic properties are active.
Morphine comes in strengths ranging from 20mg to 200mg, immediate release and extended release.
With dozens of possible formulations and strengths of morphine prescribed to millions of Americans every year, diversion and abuse is an unfortunate inevitability.
How is Morphine Abused?
There are many ways a person can abuse morphine. When prescribed, morphine most often comes in a tablet or capsule. Despite growing efforts to develop tamper-proof versions of morphine tablets and capsules, the following are the most common ways in which individuals abuse morphine to seek its euphoric high:
- crushing and snorting tablets
- dissolving tablets in solution to inject the liquid intravenously
- simply swallowing excessive amounts of morphine capsules or tablets
- chewing multiple morphine tablets to get more immediate euphoric effects
Despite these efforts, there are a few reasons why many tamper-proof efforts are ineffective in curbing the opioid abuse epidemic.
- a common tamper-proof mechanism, the addition of naltrexone, is only active if the drug is injected, and remains dormant if chewed or swallowed
- other tamper-proof mechanisms, such as special coatings, can be defeated in ways other than crushing tablets
- most tamper-proof formulations are not available in generic forms of morphine, which are significantly cheaper, and far more frequently prescribed than brand name morphine
Individuals who are determined to abuse morphine find ways around the tamper-proof formulations of the drug. Further, generic forms of morphine cannot be held unavailable to individuals who choose to fill prescriptions for a lower cost.
How Does Morphine Abuse Lead to Addiction?
One of the most significant dangers of morphine abuse is the risk of addiction.
Addiction is a behavioral, mental health illness combined with a physical dependence on morphine. Someone can be physically dependent on morphine without being addicted to it, as this can occur in patients who take morphine as prescribed over an extended period. Although most medical professionals recommend against long-term morphine use, dependence can occur in as little as a few weeks.
The primary process that leads to dependence is a growing tolerance to morphine. As the drug is taken regularly over a while, the brain begins to adjust to normal function with the influence of morphine. In the case of someone who has a medical need for analgesic relief for several weeks, it is common that person may develop a physical dependence, and therefore experience some withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using the drug. Physical dependence does not mean a person will exhibit the characteristics of addiction which include:
- drug seeking behaviors
- efforts to seek euphoric effects rather than analgesic relief
- isolation from friends and family members
- use of other drugs or substances to achieve a high or euphoric feeling
It is rare that a person will be dependent on morphine without accompanying addictive behaviors, but it does happen, and many people can successfully wain off morphine without any complications.
Addiction and increasing tolerance are not the same, but drug-seeking behavior is a major part of addiction.
Addiction to morphine or any other opioid is a series of behavioral changes which are parts of a destructive cycle of drug abuse and a deteriorating quality of life.
This risk is most significant to those who walk the slippery slope of abusing morphine for any reason. Morphine abuse is any use of the drug that falls outside of the prescription guidelines. An example of this can be doubling the amount of a dose because a previous dose was missed, or taking morphine to relax under high stress or anxiety.
The non-medical use of morphine may not lead to addiction in everyone, but up to 80% of new heroin users transitioned to the drug from abusing opioids like morphine.
One of the main reasons many who abuse opioids like morphine, eventually transition to heroin is a fear of withdrawal symptoms without sufficient morphine to avoid them. Although morphine withdrawal is not life-threatening, it can be excruciating and uncomfortable, making it difficult to endure without medical assistance.
Morphine Withdrawal and Detox
Morphine withdrawal includes a series of symptoms which can range from mild to severe and last from five to fourteen days or longer. Withdrawal symptoms can begin between 4 and 8 hours after the last dosage of morphine, depending on the strength and frequency of morphine taken and its length of action. Other drugs or opioids can also affect the timing of the onset of withdrawal symptoms, which include the following:
- runny nose
- excessive yawning
- high fever
- high blood pressure
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle aches
- abdominal pains and cramping
- rapid heartbeat
After long-term abuse of morphine or other opioids, some symptoms may linger for several weeks or months after detox. Symptoms like insomnia and anhedonia (inability to feel happy) may persist, becoming less severe as time passes.
Many of the more severe symptoms of morphine withdrawal symptoms can be treated in an opioid medical detox, which is supervised by medical staff throughout the process. In a medical detox, a medications are on hand for staff to use to ease symptoms like:
- abdominal cramping
- muscle aches
- high blood pressure
Detox from morphine is only the beginning of recovery from dependence or addiction, but it is a necessary first step. There are other methods of getting through the primary step, although a medical opioid detox remains the most popular process. The other three methods are:
- quitting cold turkey with no medical assistance
- rapid opioid detox – an inpatient procedure that medically removes morphine and other opioids by using naloxone intravenously over a period of a few hours. This procedure is risky to the health of the patient and has been widely discouraged by addiction treatment professionals
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using buprenorphine or methadone in conjunction with recovery support for a minimum of one year
Recovery From Morphine Addiction
No matter how severe morphine addiction may be, redemption and recovery is possible with support and comprehensive treatment.
After detox, the hard work begins in addiction treatment. Some people question the effectiveness and necessity of an addiction treatment program, and there are certainly some programs that are less effective than others. However, the most effective rehab programs are those that focus on the individual, rather than the masses.
Addiction is a public health and social concern, but each addict has unique needs and issues. In addiction treatment, many say that addiction is not the problem, but a symptom of the problem. The idea behind this is that addiction cannot develop without the first instance of substance abuse, and there must be an underlying cause for wanting to escape reality with morphine’s euphoric effects.
One of the primary goals of an effective addiction treatment program is to discover and begin addressing the underlying causes and contributors to substance abuse and addiction.
Some examples of common underlying factors to substance abuse and addiction include:
- self-medicating mental health issues such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and personality disorders
- serious physical injury from things like a vehicle, mechanical, or workplace accidents
- physical, mental, emotional, or financial abuse from loved ones
- painful relationship woes
- unsafe childhood environmental factors like addicted or incarcerated parents, persistent homelessness, lack of basic educational needs, or insufficient nutritional supply
- unrealistically high expectations of success or financial gain
- overwhelming grief from the loss of loved one or broken relationships
- low self-esteem
- high-stress or highly competitive work or home environments
The reality is that any event or circumstance may be an overwhelming or traumatic experience for someone, and one event may affect one person very differently than another.
When someone begins to address the trauma that has contributed to their substance abuse, they learn how to cope with difficult times, stress, and feelings of hopelessness in a productive way, rather than turning to morphine and other drugs of abuse.
Addiction treatment programs that can help people to face their trauma and begin to work towards healing provide the greatest chance of sustained recovery.
Recover From Morphine Addiction at Vogue
At Vogue Recovery Centers, your comfort and sustained recovery is our goal, and we understand that you will not have the same needs as the next client. From the moment you begin your intake process, we work around the clock to understand your personal needs and develop a recovery plan that works for you.
Some of the amenities and supportive treatments you can expect from us include
- chef-prepared fresh and nutritional meals every day
- weekly outings
- personal massage
- individual counseling
- group therapy
- family counseling
- aftercare planning
At Vogue Recovery Centers, we provide a customized and luxurious recovery experience that is focused on you and your needs.
Detox is not enough and all addiction treatment programs are not created equally. Individualized treatment is designed to work for you and your unique needs and challenges. At Vogue, we believe the best addiction treatment for you is the program that works for you, and that is what we strive to provide for each of our clients.
If you or someone you love is ready for addiction treatment that works, call us now to speak with one of our experienced and compassionate counselors about how we can personalize treatment and support recovery that lasts.