What Is Morphine? Addiction and Treatment

Last Updated: May 12, 2021

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Morphine drug is a powerful painkiller used as a last line of treatment when other painkillers fail. It is used to alleviate pain in circumstances involving acute and chronic pain, for example, post-operative pain, chronic debilitating pain like in cancer and other terminal diseases. When taken, the drug acts upon the CNS to reduce the sensation of pain. While so effective, the drug is only considered the last treatment line because of its addictive properties. Once a person gets hooked on the drug, they will require morphine addiction treatment. Fortunately, some facilities and programs offer morphine addiction care to help turn a person’s life around.

Morphine Definition and Its Effects

Morphine is a powerful pain medication that is given to those with severe pain. It is heavily regulated and should be given under a doctor’s supervision. It is often given to patients during or after surgery or those with chronic or life-threatening illnesses when patients are being kept comfortable, for example, in cases of terminal cancer.

 

Woman with cancer getting morphine for pain.

The half-life of morphine is around 3 hours, which means it exits the body relatively quickly. According to Morphine definition, it is highly addictive, and tolerance develops quickly, often before patients even realize they are addicted.

The Brand Names Of the Medication Include:

  • MS Contin
  • AVINza
  • Oramorph SR
  • Roxanol
  • Morphabond
  • Kadian

Morphine drug class is the same class as heroin, which is an illicit highly addictive drug. These drugs are opiates and they are depressants. That means they have a depressive effect on the central nervous system, causing everything to slow down. This can lead to slowed or irregular heart rates, as well as low blood pressure. Slower than usual respiration is also a risk, and in some cases, breathing may slow so much the person dies.

When Given In a Typical Dose, It May Cause:

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Pain relief

These painkilling effects are beneficial to those suffering from chronic or severe pain, and it has its place in a hospital environment for these purposes. When abused, however, opiate addiction often comes quickly and steadily and often promptly leads to overdose.

Is Morphine Addictive?

Yes, it is among the most addictive opiates that can lead to severe addiction and withdrawal symptoms. The drug is life-threatening. Morphine schedule is II, which is the same as other opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc. Morphine schedule is something that warns about the dangers of the medication. Although it has approved medicinal use, it can be dangerous if misused.

Young woman suffering from Morphine addiction.

One of the dangers of morphine addiction is overdosing on morphine. Other health risks are related to the mental well-being of the user. Also, drug abuse leads to many negative social outcomes, such as crime and unemployment.

Morphine addiction is one of the most challenging habits to break due to its powerful effect on the brain. Analogous to heroin addiction, it can start with a dose as low as 1 mg per day. When taken continuously, the body soon develops a tolerance, and the person may be tempted to bump it up. If the person does, a substance abuse habit will rapidly grow, leading to addiction.

Morphine Statistics

Statistics from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that narcotic painkillers are among the US most popular prescription drugs. The use of these drugs has quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Doctors write about 300 million prescriptions for painkillers annually. The opioids found in these painkillers make them exceptionally addictive because they enhance the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain called endorphins to suppress pain, reduce anxiety, and at very significant levels induce euphoria. According to the CDC, these painkillers now contribute to almost 3 out of 4 prescription drug overdose and about 15,500 deaths annually. Approximately 10 percent of all Americans have abused a drug like Morphine.

Morphine and Alcohol

Mixing any two substances can cause harmful interactions, overdose, and death. However, the risk is higher for drug interactions with Morphine than most other medications. It can be attributed to several factors. First of all, the exact overdose dosage of the opiate is not precise as it varies depending on the formula taken and physical variables in the user, such as weight and health.

Young women drinking Morphine and wine.

Second, many substances function like Morphine, meaning they depress the central nervous system; combined, they can reduce its function to the point that death occurs. Morphine and alcohol interaction has the potential to cause negative short-term and long-term effects. Mixing of two substances can lead to painful Morphine withdrawal.

Short-Term Effects

Short-term side effects appear suddenly when these two substances are mixed. They can be resolved when the substances are eliminated from the system or when a major medical event occurs, such as an overdose or even death. While overdose and death are a greater risk when taking morphine sulfate, they are always a risk when mixing any type of the drug with alcohol.

Some Common Short-Term Side Effects Of Mixing Include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Long-Term Effects

While the short-term effects are alarming on their own, users should also consider the long-term effects, as these are what they will live with should polysubstance abuse continue. Unlike most of the short-term effects listed above, save for death from overdose, long-term effects of such an interaction are not easy to resolve using treatment.

Some Common Long-Term Side Effects Include:

  • Development of paranoia and panic disorders
  • Liver disease and failure
  • Kidney disease and failure
  • Permanent memory problems
  • Lingering physical weakness
  • Brain damage

Signs Of Morphine Addiction

Morphine is a powerful narcotic that comes from the opium poppy. All opiates are habit-forming, and among them all, Morphine causes one of the most severe addictions. One should be familiar with the common signs and symptoms of the dependency because the drug can be life-threatening.

Man addicted to morphine.

Morphine addiction leads to many physiological and psychological changes. Also, as it causes euphoria and relaxation, the proper functioning of the opioid receptors in the brain changes. One is no longer able to experience joy and pleasure without the drug. That leads to depression, apathy, and suicidal thoughts.

Signs and Symptoms of Morphine Abuse Include:

  • Noticeable excitement or euphoria
  • Sedation/ sleepiness
  • Inability to focus and confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Shallow or depressed breathing
  • Doctor shopping
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Social challenges like isolation
  • Sudden financial challenge
  • Noticeable withdrawal symptoms
  • Drug-seeking behavior

Thinking also changes due to morphine addiction.

A Person Can Experience:

  • Confusion
  • Hectic thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Unclear speech

Tolerance to the medication often happens swiftly, with many users not realizing they are addicted until it’s already happened. Tolerance means that the drug no longer has the same effects it did initially, and more of it is needed to achieve the same result. Morphine addiction leads to severe withdrawal symptoms that often demotivate the user in their journey towards sobriety.

Spotting Morphine Addiction In A Loved One

On top of all the physiological and psychological signs of morphine addiction, many behavioral changes can help one spot dependence in loved ones.

If Someone:

  • Neglects their appearance
  • Has poor hygiene
  • Reveals marks of injecting the drug
  • Piles suspicious bottles
  • Goes doctor shopping
  • Surrounds themselves with a new set of friends
  • Experiences legal and financial problems
  • Seems detached from reality
  • Fails to quit and experiences withdrawal symptoms
  • Continues taking the drug despite health risks and social consequences
  • Gets involved in illegal intake of the drug and crime to get a hold of it
  • Is in denial or feels guilt due to drug abuse

Then they might be struggling with morphine addiction. Cravings can make a person hectic, confused, and aggressive. Crime and prostitution are also among the common consequences as the addict often becomes desperate to obtain the drug.

People speaking about their morphine addiction.

If suspecting that someone may be abusing opioids, speak to them openly and with concern. Don’t make accusations, but express the worry for their safety and health. Those prescribed with any opiates should only use the drugs as directed by their doctors.

The Dangers Of Morphine Addiction

When we spot morphine addiction, we shouldn’t ignore it because it can lead to fatal outcomes. Even when prescribed by a health professional, it is highly addictive.

Unfortunately, many teens also abuse opioid analgesics because they believe that prescription drugs are harmless. Data shows that in 2014 more than 4.3 million people in the U.S. used painkillers without any medical implications. There are many risks when it comes to drug abuse, and one of them is overdosing.

Some Of the Signs Of Intoxication Are:

  • Cold skin
  • Weakness
  • Stupor
  • Confusion
  • Slowed breathing
  • Fainting

These effects can lead to coma and death. In the case of an overdose, call 911!

Another risk is related to injecting Morphine drug: HIV, vein thrombosis, and infections can also put one’s life at risk. About 10% of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the U.S. are attributed to intravenous drug use and sharing contaminated needles.

Other dangers are related to the long-term effects of the drug, which can also be lethal: sleep disorders, problems with the gastrointestinal tract, and blood pressure.

Cravings can make the person paranoid, confused and disorganized. Apart from that, many social consequences, such as social withdrawal, ruined families, and unemployment, show how dangerous morphine addiction is.

Morphine Addiction Treatment

Finding treatment for morphine addiction begins with recognizing and acknowledging the problem. If a person sees signs and symptoms pointing to drug abuse in their life, this can provide the first step towards finding treatment for addiction. Recognition, in many cases, comes from a loved one as most addicts may not have the will and ability to take this step. However, taking this step is still possible for a person hooked on the drug, especially if they develop a desire to turn their life around and start living a drug-free life.

Treatment involves a combination of behavioral, psychological, and medical approaches. Behaviorally, a person develops strong compulsive drug-seeking behavior that requires behavioral counseling. Psychologically, they form a powerful dependence that requires psychological reprogramming. Physically, painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms need medication to help the person kick the habit successfully.

Why Immediate Treatment is Necessary

With a morphine addiction, there is usually no time to spare in getting treatment as getting immediate help provides the best possibility for a successful recovery. As the drug has powerful addictive properties, the problem tends to escalate quickly, in most cases morphing into multidrug abuse coupled with criminal and other risky behaviors. If a person suspects they or a loved one is addicted to Morphine, they must not wait. They must move quickly to find help to prevent the situation from getting worse. Left untreated, the habit can easily lead to opioid overdose and death.

Addiction Rehab

Withdrawal symptoms from coming off Morphine are often intense and potentially deadly. It is highly recommended that addicts who are attempting to get clean only undergo detoxification when directly supervised by a medical professional. It is best achieved in an inpatient rehabilitation facility, which generally has addiction experts, both medical and psychological, available to oversee the entire process.

Support group for Morphine addiction.

Morphine addiction rehab provides a safe, immediate, systematic, and sustained intervention to break the habit. By providing this in a clinical setting, the chances of successfully beating the habit go up. However, rehabilitation starts with taking a bold first step to initiate the treatment and set the ball rolling. While a person may think they are still in control, the following are reasons why getting into rehab immediately is a matter of life and death.

Why Rehab is the Only Way:

  • Immediate Intervention. Opioid addictions are powerful, debilitating, and destructive in nature. While this is true of most other habits, with this drug, the risk of a Morphine overdose and accidental death is high. Getting immediate help can help prevent such an escalation from happening. When a person enters rehab, access to drugs is immediately cut off. This provides the reassurance that the condition will not only not get worse but that accidental overdose cannot happen. This makes immediate admission to rehab a possibly life-saving intervention.
  • Medical Support. While in rehab, lack of access to the drug will bring on painful and challenging withdrawal symptoms. Attempting to get off the medication alone can be dangerous, so doing so while under medical supervision is the safest way to do it. While in rehab, the person may be given some medication to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. The person will also be monitored for any other life-threatening side effects of quitting the drug.
  • Sustained Multi-pronged Approach. Successfully beating the habit requires a combination of different strategies. These include behavioral, psychological, and physical measures. While in rehab, these interventions will be organized and run by medical professionals with years of experience treating substance abuse. As a resident of such a facility, a person will have a higher chance of recovery than one trying to kick the habit by themselves. As most morphine addiction treatment programs last for a minimum of 90 days, rehabs provide a sustained intervention, which can permanently reform a person’s life.
  • Support Network. The rehab process seldom ends at the 90-day mark. Lots of work must still go into the recovery process, which can take years. By going into a rehab program, a person has access to a nationwide support network of medical professionals, ex-addicts, and other support network members. By getting plugged into this network immediately after completing rehab, a person can ensure gains achieved while in a facility are not lost. They can also find positive ways to adjust to life after drug abuse through post-rehab programs underpinned by these networks.

Both inpatient and outpatient rehabs offer treatment for morphine addiction. The medical side of recovery should be accompanied by therapy and counseling, which are crucial to explore the triggers and pains behind substance abuse and all comorbid disorders that might exist.

Finally, one should consider support groups and involvement in social activities in the aftercare process.

Addiction Recovery

Morphine addiction can be hard to overcome, but one shouldn’t give up. The first step towards sobriety is to understand that even when prescribed by a professional, morphine is addictive. If someone is struggling with admitting that, interventions might be needed.

Detox is the next step in recovery. Tapering down is better than going cold turkey. A study conducted by the Georgetown University Medical Center shows that a sudden cessation may lead to a decline in the mental functioning of the addicted users.

Substitution medications like Methadone can be used. Methadone is approved for opioid abuse treatment  and will be helpful in treating morphine dependence as well. Find a Methadone clinic nearby and start the recovery.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Morphine an opiate?

Yes, it belongs to a class of opioids known as opiates. Opiates are used to describe opioid drugs that are derived from natural sources. They occur naturally in certain plants and animals, including humans. The major source of Morphine is the poppy straw of the opium poppy. The raw product is then further refined into the pharmacological product used by the medical community.

Is Morphine an opioid?

No, it is not an opioid. As it is a naturally occuring substance, it is classified as an opiate.

Is Morphine a narcotic?

It is referred to as an opiate narcotic painkiller. The definition of the word “narcotic” remains somewhat vague and is subject to much interpretation and controversy. It is usually used to refer to most psychoactive substances and drugs which induce sleep. However, it is universally accepted that opioids and opiates are classified as narcotic substances.

When was Morphine invented?

The molecule occurs naturally in various plants and animals, but the primary source is the poppy straw of the opium poppy. It was first isolated between 1803-1805 by a German pharmacist named Friedrich Sertürner. He experimented widely on the raw substrate and after several years was able to produce a stable, effective, and relatively safe form of the drug.

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Published on: October 28th, 2015

Updated on: May 12th, 2021

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.