Morphine has been in use for decades as a painkiller. It originates from the opium poppy. In 1803, it was isolated from the plant, making it one of the world’s first plant-based medications. Since then, it has had a very colorful history. It has featured in the front lines of numerous wars and conflicts, including the American Civil War. Even in peacetime, it has been a way to ensure severe pain relief for chronic sufferers.
Yet this wonder drug has its own dark side. Morphine is highly addictive. Morphine addiction dependence symptoms vary from person to person. The human body tends to build up a morphine tolerance rapidly. The fact that tolerance develops quite easily makes it much harder to get off the substance when they no longer need it.
Keep reading to find out the signs of morphine addiction, the most effective forms of treatment, and much more!
Types of Morphine
- 1 Types of Morphine
- 2 Morphine Prescription in Modern Medicine
- 3 Common Signs of Morphine Use
- 4 Morphine Withdrawal
- 5 Managing Morphine Symptoms
- 6 Inpatient Programs and Therapy for Opiate Use Disorders
- 7 Medication-Assisted Treatment for Morphine
- 8 Outpatient Programs
- 9 Complete Recovery from Morphine Is Possible
Morphine can be taken either orally or through injection. Doctors usually prescribe dosage and delivery based on what works best for the patient in question. The CDC has issued a series of guidelines to help doctors calculate dosages. These guidelines were a direct result of the opioid abuse and drug addiction crisis. Doctors can use the same procedures for administering morphine. They allow the physician to prevent overdoses and lower the chances of drug abuse.
Doctors use oral morphine for both short and long-term pain relief. Chronic pain patients usually get long-term treatments. Doctors use a variety of criteria for calculating the dosage for patients. These include:
- Patient history with prescription drugs, opioids and painkillers
- The type and intensity of pain
- Additional health factors (if the person has high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)
- Other medication the person may be taking
- Additional circumstances
The doctor will then decide whether oral morphine would be a viable option.
Morphine delivered through a needle can be delivered in several ways:
- Beneath the skin (subcutaneously)
- Into a muscle (intramuscular)
Medical supervision is necessary for this type of administration. Injectable morphine may carry more significant risks, including a greater likelihood of morphine addiction and subsequent morphine abuse, than oral morphine. Discussing the option with a doctor is a good approach.
Morphine Prescription in Modern Medicine
The Journal of Pain Research states that between 10% and 60% of patients that undergo common surgeries suffer from chronic post-operation pain. Morphine serves to manage and control this pain. Not only is it used just for short-term pain control, but also over the long term as well.
Morphine’s side effects are taken into consideration before doctors prescribe it for pain management. Prescribing morphine for chronic pain is also an everyday use of the drug. The problems start from how the body interacts with morphine, specifically with how the central nervous system is affected by morphine. The main culprit in this instance is the human brain. The brain is core to the human body’s central nervous system and, in essence, morphine belongs to a group of drugs that are central nervous system depressants.
Common Signs of Morphine Use
Some common signs of morphine addiction or symptoms may come from the side effects of taking the drug as prescribed by a doctor. The side effects will differ from person to person, but make no mistake that it is incredibly easy for people to become morphine abusers. The intensity and duration of side effects will be based on the dosage and strength. Short-term side effects or warning signs may include:
- loss of appetite
- dilated pupils
- extreme drowsiness
- falling asleep randomly
- lower body temperature
- difficulty in urinating
- slow breathing
Long-term side effects also include:
- poor appetite
- severe constipation
- acid reflux
- chronic constipation
- stomach pain
- weight loss
- dry mouth
The truth is that morphine addiction and the signs of excessive use can look very much like those of other prescription opioids. Opioid addiction is a heinous illness. These addictive substances can leave people completely physically dependent on them.
If someone is using morphine for pain management, they tend to make it known. However, as that person crosses the line into dependency and being addicted to morphine, they become more secretive in their actions. They may not seek morphine from registered medical professionals. Instead, their actions may be more questionable.
The telltale signs of addiction issues and morphine use that suggest dependency are many. Finding pill bottles of morphine pills labeled as something else is a red flag. If someone is heavily dependent or addicted, the signs of morphine use that may give you a clue are:
- Being unable to control how much morphine they take or how often they take it.
- Taking a higher dose, or even just more morphine overall for longer than prescribed by a physician.
- Taking other drugs but morphine.
- Trying to stop taking the drug but then relapsing into using it.
- Spending money and time on morphine acquisition, sometimes to the detriment of their personal and professional lives.
- Craving the substance intensely
- They lose interest in other activities they were previously fond of. The presence of a mental illness; depression and anxiety, for example.
- Ignoring the adverse outcomes of using morphine and continuing to utilize the drug even though they no longer have a medical reason to do so
- Morphine leads the person to all sorts of financial and legal trouble
If someone has two or three of the criteria mentioned above, they may have a substance use disorder. The more of those criteria apply to a person, the more severe their addiction may be. These morphine dependence symptoms can have a negative impact on a person’s life.
Tolerance and Dependency
The longer a person uses morphine, the more tolerant their body gets to its effects. The person may need higher dosages just to manage their pain. However, tolerance to morphine doesn’t mean tolerance to all other opioids.
Doctors that have switched your medication from morphine to another opioid will have to calculate the difference in dose to avoid overdosing. Dependence starts to occur when the body can no longer function without morphine. It can be scary just how easy one can slip into a habit of abusing morphine.
The Effects of Morphine on the Body’s Systems
Immediately as morphine enters the bloodstream, the brain starts to respond. The chemical dopamine is produced in massive quantities. Dopamine is also known colloquially as the brain’s “feel-good” chemical. The dopamine interacts with specific sites in the brain, causing a feeling of contentment and euphoria. This “feel-good” chemical is how the brain trains itself to do tasks that it can be rewarded for. Morphine shortcuts this process.
As a person starts using morphine more regularly, they start seeing changes in their brain chemistry. The brain starts getting used to dopamine. As this tolerance builds up, the brain needs to produce more dopamine just to feel good again. When the person doesn’t have morphine to help them produce dopamine, they become depressed and lethargic.
At the start, morphine consumption might be low to get that immense feeling of euphoria. However, as people start to feel the falloff in effects, they start using more of the drug to get the same effects. The result is almost always dependency and addiction.
Dependence on a substance means that the body reaches a point where it needs the drug to function normally. Addiction is a brain disorder that alters behavior, ignoring the consequences of actions to obtain the substance the person is dependent on.
Dependence and addiction are separate things. Addiction is the overarching condition that dependence invariably leads to. That desperate need to retain the body’s baseline and get back the same effect initially experienced is universally human. Adults and young adults alike both struggle with it, but it can fairly be said that young adults are less equipped to understand what is happening to them, far less combat it.
When a person becomes addicted to morphine and tries to stop it, withdrawal symptoms start to appear. The person’s body has become so used to operating with morphine that the system begins to break down without it. It’s at this point that withdrawal starts to happen. Usually, between six and twelve hours after the person’s last dose, the withdrawal process begins in earnest, and morphine symptoms start showing up.
Doctors may immediately recognize these morphine withdrawal symptoms as a sign of the person going through withdrawal. The intensity and duration of withdrawal depend on a few factors. How long the person was on the drug and the level of dependency their body has on the substance are critical indicators.
When the body becomes dependent on morphine, a person cannot stop taking it entirely without warning. If they do, their body will have a hard time coping without it. The symptoms of withdrawal usually start after the first six hours of the person’s last dose. The early-stage withdrawal symptoms for one who has been habitually abusing morphine include:
- Runny nose
- Tearing up uncontrollably
Within the first 48 hours of withdrawal, these symptoms get more intense. They usually peak between 48 and 72 hours. During this peak period, the symptoms become more pronounced and expand to include:
- High blood pressure and heart rate
- Muscle and stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
Each person is different. One person’s morphine symptoms may be different from another individual’s. The overall duration and intensity rely on several factors. How long the person has been suffering from addiction is the most impactful. The person’s genetics and medical history may also help gauge how long and how intense their withdrawal will be.
Managing Morphine Symptoms
Morphine addiction withdrawal can be life-threatening. Most people don’t set out to become dependent on the substance. Yet, because of how easy the body builds tolerance, it can happen before they even realize it. Managing morphine symptoms and eventually stopping dependence on the substance requires some effort on behalf of the individual. There are various treatment options and methods that a person can use to manage withdrawal symptoms and stay off the substance.
Any quality rehab treatment center will offer detoxification services. Detoxing is simple in principle as far as treatment options go. Oftentimes, this is a medically supervised detox program. The goal of a detox is to get all of a particular drug out of a person’s system. It’s a necessary part of overcoming addiction and dependence. Indeed, it is the first part of the process. The timeline of morphine detox is as follows:
The first stage happens between twelve and twenty hours after the person’s most recent dose of the substance. Immediately, the body starts trying to adjust to a lack of morphine. At this point, physical pain begins. There’s no definite duration on how long this first stage lasts. It depends on the level of addiction and how long the person has been using the substance.
In stage two, the body starts eliminating the products that have accumulated through substance use. This stage proceeds quicker if the person hasn’t been using the substance for that long. The body is much more efficient in eliminating small volumes of harmful products. Individuals going through this stage may be encouraged to take vitamins to supplement their endorphin levels.
The peak of the effects of morphine withdrawal happens at this stage. The symptoms here are more emotional than physical. Even so, there may still be discomfort and pain. Many former morphine addicts or recoverees say that this stage is the hardest to overcome because of its impact on a person’s mind. The craving for the addictive effects of morphine becomes overwhelmingly strong at this point.
Treatment centers help individuals overcome their morphine addiction through monitored detox. Medical staff is on hand to deal with medical emergencies. They are also there to help a person get through the toughest of stages. Isolation in a rehab center also ensures that the person can’t give in to their urges when the feelings become too strong. The physical and emotional side of dependency is dealt with during detoxification.
Inpatient Programs and Therapy for Opiate Use Disorders
While the physical dependence on the drug might have subsided, most people still have the urge to go back. Addiction therapy in general is about far more than the physical side of things. Inpatient treatment centers offer help in managing these urges. In inpatient facilities, recoverees can spend time in a controlled environment designed to avoid relapse.
No abusable substances are allowed within the facility, reducing the temptation to take them. These facilities also offer counseling and therapy. Morphine addiction recovery should be seen as a journey that is different for everyone.
These sessions may be one-on-one at the start, but they may move into group therapy as the person becomes more comfortable. One of the therapy methods that have seen massive success with recoverees is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
In CBT, the individual focuses on their motivations and recognizes their harmful behaviors. This approach helps them to avoid being controlled by those urges in the future. CBT can even help someone avoid relapsing into substance use when they leave the inpatient facility.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Morphine
A staggering amount of people die from a morphine overdose. Why would this be brought up? The truth that has to be acknowledged is that as painful as morphine withdrawal symptoms are, they are not the true reason for morphine abuse.
Morphine abuse, abuse of any sort of drug really, many times happens as a result of another underlying condition. A good treatment center understands and implicitly knows this. The morphine abuse is indicative of another issue that requires treatment. This is what addiction treatment is really about.
Many people have underlying trauma and illnesses, like depression or PTSD that would have needed to be treated first. This is why good addiction treatment acknowledges this truth and utilizes medication-assisted treatment therapies to deduce all of the issues at play and how best to address them.
Some rehab centers also offer outpatient programs. They are usually group therapy sessions that focus on helping recoverees cope with their reintegration into society. Peer support and networking services are ways to avoid falling back into old habits. These programs enable recoverees to get and hold down a job and return to society as usual while still giving them the benefit of professional therapy.
Complete Recovery from Morphine Is Possible
Getting over morphine is possible, but it won’t happen overnight. Full recovery only occurs when the person is no longer influenced to seek out the drug. To get to this point, a recoveree will need a rehab center that caters to their needs. Ideally, it should be close enough so that friends and family can check in on them and see how much progress they’ve made.
Find Addiction Rehabs is dedicated to providing individuals with a selection of rehab centers based on their search criteria. Entering rehab is the most critical first step you can take. Reach out now to find out more about the treatment options available, and get the help you deserve, today!
Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!