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Morphine Addiction

Morphine addiction is a serious problem that can be difficult to overcome. Morphine is an opioid that works on your brain in the same way heroin does. It is highly addictive and can easily lead to physical dependence. However, there are treatment options that can help you or your loved one recover from an addiction to morphine. Learn more about treatments for morphine addiction and what you can expect from each type of treatment.

How Morphine Addiction Develops

Morphine is a narcotic pain medication that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It’s typically used in moderate to severe pain management. Morphine can be administered:

  • Orally
  • By injection
  • By inhaling it

Morphine treatments are common post-surgery and in hospice care to provide comfort for patients who are dying. While morphine is an effective acute and chronic pain reliever, it also has addictive potential. People who abuse morphine may become morphine tolerant. This means you need to take a larger dose of morphine to achieve the same rewarding effects.

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As opioid tolerance increases, you may also begin to experience morphine withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit the drug. These symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tremors

Morphine addiction can lead to serious health problems, like liver damage and respiratory failure.

Facts About Morphine

Morphine has been used in medicine since the 1800s. Some morphine statistics and facts:
  • Morphine is a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. This means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Morphine is derived from opium, which is extracted from the poppy plant.
  • In 2020,5 million people over age 12 abused illicit or prescription opioids like morphine.
  • Some data shows that of drug overdose death rates in 2020, 80,000 involved opioids like morphine.
  • Morphine works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces the perception of severe or chronic pain.
  • Morphine can produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria, which is why it’s often abused.
  • Repeated morphine abuse can lead to addiction and other serious health problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Morphine Addiction

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of morphine addiction:

  • Using morphine regularly, even when you don’t have a prescription
  • Feeling like you need morphine to function or feel normal
  • Taking more morphine than prescribed or using it for non-medical reasons
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking morphine
  • Developing morphine tolerance and dependence, meaning you need more to get the same effects
  • Neglecting responsibilities or activities important to you because of morphine use
  • Engaging in addictive behaviors like stealing to pay for or get more morphine
  • Continuing to use morphine despite negative consequences

The Effects of Morphine Addiction on Your Brain and Body

When taken as prescribed, morphine is relatively safe. But when used in large doses or without a prescription, it may lead to serious consequences. Morphine addiction can cause several physical and mental health problems.

Potential effects associated with morphine addiction include:

Gastrointestinal Problems

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps

Morphine can also cause other related digestive issues such as decreased appetite, bloating, and flatulence. The reason morphine causes so many gastrointestinal problems is because it slows down gastric motility. This is the movement of food through your digestive tract. It makes food remain in the stomach longer. The result is more time for morphine to absorb into your bloodstream. This increased absorption leads to more negative effects of morphine on your body’s systems, which often result in nausea and vomiting. In addition to slowing down gastric motility, morphine reduces gastric secretions. This worsens gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

Morphine can also affect peristalsis, the wave-like muscular movements that push food through your digestive system. A decrease in peristalsis can lead to bloating and indigestion. Food stays in one spot for too long instead of properly moving through your intestines. Additionally, when morphine passes through your intestines, it can increase water absorption, which can cause dehydration and worsen existing GI problems—or even create new ones.

Respiratory Problems

Morphine acts as a central nervous system depressant, slowing or blocking signals from your brain to other parts of your body. This can cause respiratory depression, meaning breathing is weakened and slowed. Morphine works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This decreases the perception of pain by altering how you process pain signals. Morphine also decreases how fast and deep you breathe. This can lead to:

  • Hypoventilation (decrease in air intake)
  • Hypercapnia (buildup of carbon dioxide)

Over time you can become tolerant of morphine’s effects. You’ll require a higher dose of morphine for pain relief. This increase in dosage could lead to further respiratory depression. This can cause difficulty breathing or even stop your breathing. Furthermore, when opioids like morphine are taken in combination with other substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, it increases the risk of severe respiratory problems. This is because these substances are also central nervous system depressants.

Cardiovascular Problems

Morphine can cause cardiovascular problems by affecting parts of the brain stem. This changes the way your body regulates blood pressure. As a result, morphine can cause:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart rate)

Both are serious cardiovascular conditions. They can lead to a stroke or other issues if left untreated.

Morphine can also cause:

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Atrial fibrillation (fast and irregular beating of the heart)

How morphine causes these cardiovascular complications is not fully understood. It is believed to be because of its ability to bind with certain opioid receptors in the brain stem. These receptors are known as mu-opioid receptors. When morphine binds with them, they activate neurons that then send signals to reduce blood pressure. Morphine can also affect certain hormones such as adrenaline, which may contribute to an increased heart rate.

Skin Problems

Due to its strength, morphine can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects, including skin problems. The most common skin issues associated with morphine are:

  • Itching and redness of the skin (also known as pruritus)
  • Rash formation
  • Irritation
  • Hives
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (a painful rash that spreads and blisters)

The primary reason morphine causes skin problems is that it affects the way your body interacts with histamine. Histamine plays an important role in controlling your body’s allergic response. Morphine inhibits the release of chemical signals tied to allergic responses. This can reduce itching and other allergy symptoms associated with skin conditions such as eczema. But this inhibition can also lead to an increase in inflammation or worse: a dangerous allergic reaction (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome).

Muscle Weakness

Muscle weakness can develop from taking morphine for extended periods of time. Morphine attaches to opioid receptors in the body, inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters like:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Acetylcholine

A lack of these neurotransmitters reduces motor control, leading to muscle weakness.

Morphine also slows down respiratory function and oxygen distribution throughout the body. This can cause:

  • Hypoxia (low oxygen levels) in the muscles and other areas of the body
  • Decrease in muscle contractions
  • Reduced muscle strength and movement

Mental Health Problems

When taken in high dosages, morphine can cause a variety of mental health problems, including, but not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

The main reason morphine can cause mental health issues is its effect on the neural biology of brain chemistry. Morphine binds to receptors in the brain region that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. When this happens, dopamine is released into the brain’s reward pathways. This initial burst of dopamine gives you a feeling of euphoria, but over time it can lead to an imbalance in neurotransmitters. It can cause levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter linked to mood regulation) to drop significantly. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Morphine can also disrupt sleep patterns. A lack of quality sleep has been shown to increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. Additionally, long-term use of morphine can lead to “morphine psychosis.” This is a serious mental health disorder with symptoms like:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations

Detoxing from Morphine

Discontinuing morphine without medical help is extremely difficult and often unsuccessful. The following symptoms of morphine detox require professional assistance:

  • Agitation – Feeling restless or uneasy, increased irritability and anxiety, fidgeting
  • Profuse sweating and hot flashes that accompany an increase in body temperature
  • Cardiovascular issues – Palpitations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, chest tightness, difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances – Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains – Pain throughout the body that is often described as an aching or burning sensation in the bones and joints. It can be accompanied by tremors or shaking of the extremities.
  • Sleep issues – Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep), vivid dreams/nightmares, daytime drowsiness, fatigue; may also cause disturbances in sleep patterns due to disrupted circadian rhythm caused by withdrawal symptoms
  • Mood changes and cognitive impairment – Depression, irritability, mental confusion/disorientation, difficulty focusing or concentrating on tasks; may also include panic attacks or feelings of hopelessness/suicidal ideation (at extreme levels of withdrawal symptoms)
  • Intense drug cravings cause restlessness and obsessive thoughts about obtaining more drugs to alleviate discomfort caused by morphine withdrawal symptoms. This may lead to dangerous levels of drug-seeking behaviors with a high risk of relapse.

These morphine withdrawal symptoms mean morphine withdrawal is much more successful when done under the care of medical professionals. This happens in a medical detox setting like the one at Vogue Recovery Center.

Morphine Addiction Treatment Timeline

There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for morphine addiction treatment. Here are some general recommendations:

Phase One

Initially, the goal of morphine addiction treatment is to help you overcome withdrawal and stabilize your condition. This may mean gradually reducing morphine dosage over time. The length of time it takes to detox from morphine can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Amount and duration of use
  • Your specific physiology
  • Other medications you’re taking

It can take anywhere from a few days up to several weeks for you to completely detox from morphine. However, this is just an estimate. Certain individuals may take longer or shorter periods of time.

The first few days usually involve more intense morphine withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

During this time, your body is adjusting to the absence of morphine. Withdrawal symptoms are generally most severe during this period and addressed by staff in medical detox.

Phase Two

Once withdrawal is complete, the focus of treatment shifts to helping you understand and address what led to drug addiction and abuse. This may include therapy and counseling. The standard length of time for drug rehab for addiction is typically 30 to 90 days. For those suffering from severe addiction, treatment may last much longer. The treatment timeline is always clinically driven, meaning addiction professionals at your rehab facility will help decide what’s right for your specific situation.

Phase Three

After you address the underlying causes of addiction, you will work on relapse prevention skills to help you stay sober in the long term. Aftercare for morphine addiction is an ongoing process. Attending 12-step meetings and/or other support groups, therapy, and other recovery activities for as long as necessary increases the probability of staying sober.

Aftercare may start with an initial period of intense involvement in recovery services. This will usually last from one to two years, depending on your progress in treatment and level of commitment. Your focus is on:

  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms
  • Building life skills
  • Improving relationships
  • Gaining insight into triggers

Aftercare for morphine addiction becomes a lifestyle with milestones that indicate progress along the way.

Addiction Programs for Morphine Treatment

Getting help for a morphine addiction is an important step in the recovery process. When you arrive at an addiction treatment center, you will have an assessment to determine the best course of action for recovery. The results from this assessment help health professionals decide what kind of resolution plan would be most effective for the morphine user. Once the assessment is complete, it’s time to begin the level of care that’s right for you.

One of the most common ways people fight back against morphine addiction is through residential rehab. It offers a safe space to focus on recovery without the distractions of everyday life. In this type of program, you live at a treatment facility and receive specialized therapy and counseling sessions to address your emotional, mental, and physical needs.

Partial hospitalization is another form of treatment for those struggling with a morphine addiction. A partial hospitalization program (PHP) provides the same level of care as an inpatient program but on a less intense scale. Partial hospitalization programs typically involve 8 to 14 hours of treatment per day, 5 days a week, and you don’t live at an addiction treatment center. Patients can expect to receive:

  • Medical services
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Education about addiction and relapse prevention
  • Life skills training
  • Support group meetings

Partial hospitalization is ideal for individuals who require more intensive treatment than outpatient care can provide but don’t need the 24-hour care that an inpatient program offers. By giving addicted individuals an opportunity to stay connected to their families and communities during recovery without sacrificing quality of care, partial hospitalization programs offer invaluable assistance.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) allow for greater flexibility for those in addiction recovery who need to continue their day-to-day activities. It involves regular meetings with a mental health professional, usually multiple times a week, as well as additional work outside of these appointments, such as individual therapy assignments or group sessions. During an IOP, you can expect to address issues related to your diagnosis and develop skills and strategies to help you manage symptoms and improve functioning in everyday life. Intensive outpatient treatment may also include medication management, psychoeducation, and other forms of evidence-based interventions.

Outpatient programs focus on providing morphine abusers with resources and support during their transition back into society. It’s less intense and time-consuming than inpatient rehab and includes attending meetings, receiving medication management, joining a 12-step program, or engaging in holistic activities such as art classes or yoga.

Addiction Therapies for Morphine Abuse Treatment

There are many addiction therapies for morphine abuse treatment. Some of the most common are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and 12-step facilitation therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy Helps you change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to your addiction and substance abuse. CBT teaches you how to cope with cravings and triggers, manage stress and emotions, and stay on track with treatment goals.
  • Motivational interviewing – Helps you identify your motivation to change your behavior and stick with treatment. It uses techniques to help you explore your reasons for wanting to change and set goals for treatment.
  • Individual and group therapy Addiction is a complex condition that requires both individual and group therapy. Group therapy provides support and accountability from other people facing similar challenges. It can be a powerful tool for exploring the root causes of your addiction, as well as the role that unhealthy patterns of behavior play in sustaining it. Individual therapy, on the other hand, offers a more intimate setting in which to work through the issues underlying addiction. This type of therapy can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms, gain insight into triggers, and learn how to avoid relapse.
  • Holistic approaches Addiction affects your mind and body. Traditional approaches to treatment often focus on one aspect of recovery, like detoxification or counseling. Holistic approaches take a more comprehensive approach, addressing your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Some popular holistic therapies include yoga, meditation, chiropractic services, physiotherapy, and more. These therapies can ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce stress, and promote feelings of well-being.
  • 12-step groups Mutual aid groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and alternative 12-step programs let you receive support from others in recovery. These groups can be especially helpful for relapse prevention.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Morphine addiction can be treated with medications as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medical professionals at an addiction treatment center prescribe medications like buprenorphine and naltrexone, which reduce cravings and help prevent withdrawal symptoms from becoming too severe. They also help stabilize moods and reduce the risk of relapse.

Worried About Your Morphine Use?

If you or someone you care about is abusing morphine, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Addiction treatment at Vogue Recovery Center is focused on helping you achieve sobriety and maintain long-term recovery. We provide a safe and supportive environment where you can work through the challenges of morphine addiction and develop the skills for successful recovery. Our program includes both individual and group therapy, as well as holistic approaches like yoga, art therapy, and mindfulness. We provide many complimentary alternative therapies, including, but not limited to, chiropractic services, auricular therapy, and physiotherapy. These approaches are particularly useful when morphine addiction developed due to legitimate physical pain.

Additionally, we place emphasis on the entire family system and offer support services to help loved ones heal from the negative impact of addiction. Our treatment for substance abuse is evidence-based and engaging. Vogue Recovery Center has treated thousands of people, and we’re proud to have helped our clients and their families to take back their lives from addiction and regain happiness.

If you or a loved one is struggling with morphine abuse, contact our treatment center for a free, confidential consultation.


Theresa Brown

Medically Reviewed by Theresa Brown, RN, MSN, CADAC-I

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