Morphine Addiction & Treatment

Morphine is part of the opioid class of medications, and it is legally prescribed for the management of moderate to severe pain.1 Classified as a Schedule II narcotic, morphine is recognized as having a high potential for misuse and physiological dependence.2,3 In 2021, 420 thousand United States residents aged 12 or older misused morphine products.4

This page will explain morphine misuse, its adverse effects, signs of morphine addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. It will also explain morphine addiction treatment options.

What Is Morphine Misuse?

Morphine misuse broadly covers any use of morphine outside of its legally prescribed purposes. While morphine and other prescription opioids can be used short-term for moderate to severe pain relief, some people may misuse these drugs.1 Morphine misuse includes:1

  • Taking morphine at a different dose or via a different method than prescribed.
  • Taking another person’s morphine.
  • Taking morphine for the side effect of getting high.

When misused, morphine may be swallowed in the tablet or capsule form as it was manufactured. Others may crush the pill or open a capsule to obtain a powder that is then dissolved in water for injection or snorted through the nose.1

What Are the Adverse Effects of Morphine Misuse?

As with many prescriptions and other substances, using morphine always comes with a risk of side effects. Morphine misuse can increase the severity of side effects and the risk of harmful effects.1 Some adverse effects associated with morphine use may include:1,5

  • Drowsiness or confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sedation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Extreme changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Lethargy.
  • Dangerously slowed or stopped breathing (which can be fatal).
  • Overdose.

Morphine misuse can increase a person’s risk of developing:1

  • Tolerance: Higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug are needed to achieve the desired effects.
  • Physiological dependence: The person has adapted to the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms, which are physiological reactions when the drug is not present in their system.

Repeated morphine misuse can also lead to morphine addiction—the most severe form of a substance use disorder.1 Addiction is defined as the compulsive use of substances that continues despite negative consequences that result from their use.6

What Are the Signs of Morphine Addiction?

Addiction to morphine is formally diagnosed as opioid use disorder (OUD). Mental health professionals use 11 criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders – 5th edition (DSM-5), to evaluate each person.7 However, only some the following criteria must be present to diagnose an opioid use disorder:7

  • Taking an opioid in larger doses or for longer periods of time than originally intended.
  • Having a continuous desire to cut back or stop using opioids but being unable to.
  • Spending increasing amounts of time in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the opioid.
  • Experiencing cravings or strong urges to use opioids.
  • Failing to fulfill major responsibilities at work, home, or school due to recurrent opioid use.
  • Ongoing opioid use despite its use causing or worsening persistent social or relationship problems.
  • Giving up or reducing participation in previously important activities due to opioid use.
  • Recurrent opioid use in physically dangerous situations.
  • Continuing to use opioids despite knowing their role in causing or worsening known physical or psychological problems.
  • Developing a tolerance to opioid use.
  • Undergoing withdrawal syndrome when cutting back from opioids or taking opioids to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Though knowing the signs of morphine misuse and addiction can be useful to know when to get help, only a professional can give a diagnosis of opioid use disorder.

How Is Morphine Addiction Treated?

Standard treatment for morphine addiction and other opioid use disorders includes a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.1 Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are FDA-approved for OUD and have helped many people stabilize their lives after opioid addiction.1,8

  • Methadone works by activating the same receptors an opioid does but is given at specific doses. Its purpose is to reduce cravings and block the pleasurable effects of illicit opioid use.8
  • Buprenorphine works through the same mechanisms as other opioids, but only partially stimulates the same receptors. This can help reduce cravings and prevent the euphoric effects of illicit opioid use.8
  • Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids by preventing them from binding to their proper receptors. As a result, it does not allow people to experience euphoric effects from illicit opioid use and can reduce opioid cravings.8

Behavioral therapies are used alongside medication to help modify harmful thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to substance use. Different therapies may build skills to manage stress, address personal or family problems, or change negative thinking.1 Some examples include:8

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Family therapy.
  • Motivational interviewing.

Though a standard approach to opioid use disorder has been established, each person’s needs may vary. Most treatment centers create individualized plans according to a person’s needs because no single treatment is beneficial for everyone.8

For most people, detoxification and withdrawal syndrome from opioids are not life-threatening. However, the symptoms of withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable.9

A supervised medical detox can prevent unnecessary pain and help a person get through detox as comfortably as possible, allowing them to continue with long-term treatment.9

In addition to methadone and buprenorphine, two of the OUD treatment medications mentioned above that can be started during detox, other medicines may be used during the detoxification period to reduce or prevent withdrawal symptoms.9

What Is Morphine Withdrawal Like?

Withdrawal from morphine and other opioids involves a characteristic withdrawal syndrome that develops when a person stops taking or abruptly reduces their dose after prolonged opioid use.7

During this time, the body is forced to adjust to lower levels of morphine.9 The person can have severe symptoms of withdrawal that begin as soon as a few hours or days after they last took the drug.1

Symptoms and signs of morphine withdrawal may include:1,7,8

  • Pain in bones or muscles.
  • Severe cravings.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep difficulties.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Runny nose.
  • Yawning.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Fever.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can depend on the level of physiological dependence among other factors. While the acute stage of withdrawal can last a week or more, certain symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and dysphoria (general uneasiness) can persist for several weeks to months.7,8

Find Morphine Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one need help for morphine misuse or addiction, there is hope for healing. Treatment is available in a variety of facilities across the country, and many people have rediscovered stability with recovery. Sunrise House Treatment Center, an inpatient rehab in New Jersey, offers evidence-based treatment in a serene, supportive environment.

During morphine addiction treatment, a person may benefit from medically assisted detox, inpatient and residential treatment courses, or outpatient treatment. Sunrise House has multiple levels of addiction treatment and available services designed to help a person along the course of their journey to sustained remission from opioid use disorder.

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