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What Is Morphine?
Morphine is an opioid that belongs to the drug class narcotic analgesics, typically used to relieve moderate to severe or chronic pain.
Morphine is available in more short-acting formulations for as-needed pain relief and an extended-release form for around-the-clock treatment for pain, especially for large procedures like surgery. Morphine keeps pain signals from traveling through the central nervous system (CNS) to the brain.
However, over time, morphine can also bind to your brain’s opioid receptors, which can cause physical and psychological dependence. Morphine can also trigger the release of dopamine (your brain’s “feel-good” chemical), which can make it tempting to abuse.
As a Schedule II narcotic, morphine must be prescribed by a physician.
Morphine is often prescribed following surgery or injury. It is also used for health conditions such as cancer or end-of-life palliative care.
Common morphine brand names include:
Morphine Abuse and Addiction
Morphine addiction is part of the larger opioid crisis we’re currently facing in the United States. It is not uncommon for those who become addicted to morphine to move on to other opioids and even other substance abuse.
While morphine can provide much-needed pain relief, it doesn’t take long for your body to grow accustomed to these feelings of euphoria. What often starts as an aid after surgery or an injury can quickly become a drug addiction.
Signs of Morphine Addiction
A person can develop a dependence on morphine very quickly, so it’s important to know what signs to look for in a loved one or yourself.
The sooner you catch these signs, the faster you can get help and avoid a long road of recovering from opioid abuse or substance use disorder.
Signs of morphine addiction might include:
- Ignoring important social activities
- Requiring a higher dose of morphine to achieve the same effect
- Irritation and aggression
- Dramatic weight loss
- Extreme drowsiness
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug
- Neglecting duties due to drug use
Side Effects of Morphine Use
Morphine users often report a decrease in pain, a decrease in hunger, and inhibition of the cough reflex. However, morphine can also have far more serious effects, especially when used long-term.
Short-term effects of morphine can include:
- Feelings of extreme happiness or sadness
- Sleep problems
- Nausea and vomiting
Long-term effects of morphine can include:
- Physical dependence
- Psychological dependence
- Urination problems
- Worsened mental health
- Partial or complete loss of vision in one eye
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Heart attack
- Serotonin syndrome (leading to agitation, hallucinations, fever, fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, and diarrhea)
- Low cortisol levels (resulting in nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, worsening tiredness, or weakness)
Taking too much morphine or mixing morphine with other substances (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other opiates) can cause an overdose and lead to accidental death.
To prevent overdosing on morphine, take it only as directed by your doctor, and never use morphine without a prescription.
Signs of a morphine overdose include:
- Cold and clammy skin
- Pinned pupils
- Lowered blood pressure
- Blue tint to the skin around mouth and/or fingers
- Slowed breathing and heart rate (i.e., respiratory depression)
- Choking or rattling sounds when breathing
- Unresponsiveness, unable to be awakened
What to Do for a Morphine Overdose
- If you think someone is experiencing a morphine overdose, call 911 immediately.
- Give the victim naloxone (NARCAN) to pause the effects of the overdose. Keep the person calm if they become conscious.
- If they begin vomiting while unconscious, turn the victim onto their side and make sure their mouth/airway remains clear.
- It’s best if you can stay with the victim until help arrives.
Morphine Addiction Treatment Options
Morphine addiction can be devastating—both to the abuser and those around them. Luckily, morphine treatment is incredibly accessible and offers many different options for the addicted individual to choose from.
Detoxing off morphine is not easy, but a medical detox can make the process much easier on the individual.
During medical detox, you will receive special guidance and care from medical staff. At an inpatient detox facility, they will monitor your vitals during the process. For outpatient detox, you will receive specialized guidance, but the detox process can happen at home.
A medical detox can help mitigate the worst of the morphine withdrawal symptoms. Some of these withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, so ideally, you should wean yourself off the drug under the care of a physician.
Symptoms of morphine withdrawal may include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Treatment for morphine addiction often includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Your doctor may prescribe medication to help lessen withdrawal symptoms during the detox process.
They may also switch you to a safer opioid alternative to have you taper your opioid usage (rather than quitting cold turkey) under their direct guidance,
Most MAT is designed to lessen cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and even help prevent relapse.
The most common medications used for MAT with morphine addiction include:
Morphine Rehab Programs
After medical detox, many people commonly enter some kind of opioid addiction rehab program when dealing with morphine addiction.
Most opioid rehab centers will offer different behavioral health support (like group and individual therapy sessions) to address underlying issues that might have contributed to developing a morphine addiction.
Psychiatry can also help patients improve their overall mental well-being, which can help them avoid relapse.
A healthcare provider or addiction counselor can work with you to determine the best rehab program.
- Inpatient Rehab: Inpatient rehab programs provide a residential facility for 30 to 90 days on average. People recovering from a severe morphine addiction or who may have additional health issues (such as mental illness, other substance abuse, etc.) are the ideal participants for an inpatient rehab program.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): A PHP is similar to inpatient rehab and offers much of the same structure and support (including medical care, if needed). However, it does NOT require a patient to stay overnight.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): An IOP is a great rehab solution for a morphine-addicted person with a minor addiction or for someone who has already completed a PHP or residential program.
Morphine Addiction Statistics
As a prescription opioid, morphine use and addiction data are typically included with overall prescription opioid use statistics.
More than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to American patients in 2017—with wide variation across states. During this same year, the United States officially recognized opioid addiction as a public health crisis and declared it a national epidemic.
In 2019, an average of 38 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, totaling more than 14,000 deaths.
In 2021 alone, more than 80,000 died from a drug overdose; almost 88% of those overdoses involved a synthetic opioid.
Get Help for Morphine Addiction
If you have become addicted to morphine, help is available. The SAMHSA online treatment locator provides confidential, 24-hour treatment information and referrals. You can also call them at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).
Whether you need morphine addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, it is NEVER too late to get help.
If you’re serious about beating your addiction to morphine, learn more about top treatment and therapy options.
Frequently Asked Questions About Morphine Addiction
How does a person become addicted to morphine?
Morphine interacts with the brain in a way that can lead to physical dependence (i.e., the user needs higher amounts to achieve the same effects). Even using morphine as prescribed by your doctor can lead to dependence and addiction.
However, addiction is much more likely to happen to a person who misuses morphine, such as taking more than prescribed or using morphine without a prescription at all.
What are common street name for morphine?
Common slang or street names for illicit morphine include:
- First Line
- God’s Drug
- Mister Blue
Will other drugs interact with morphine?
Morphine can interact with many drugs, including other opioids, benzos (like Valium, Klonopin, or Xanax), sleep medicine, muscle relaxers, and drugs that affect serotonin-like antidepressants, stimulants, and medication for migraines and Parkinson’s disease.
Is it okay to drink while taking morphine?
No. It is incredibly dangerous to mix morphine or any other opioid with alcohol. Both substances lower your heart rate and blood pressure and can potentially lead to death.
What can happen to a person who is addicted to morphine?
Morphine addiction increases a person’s risk for potentially deadly overdose, but it can also cause a variety of short- and long-term side effects.
Some of the more serious morphine addiction side effects include:
- Mood swings
- Intestinal problems
- Chronic fatigue
- Anxiety and panic attacks