Morphine is a prescription opioid painkiller naturally derived from the opium plant. It was being used for pain relief long before many of the synthetic opioids known today were invented.
It is commonly used in hospitals for individuals who have undergone physical trauma like a major car accident or fall. Doctors may also use it to ease pain in cancer patients and during end-of-life care.
Morphine should only be used as directed under the supervision of a doctor. However, many people abuse this drug by taking it outside of prescription limitations, which leads many people to become addicted to it.
Signs Of Morphine Addiction
As an opioid, morphine alters the way the brain perceives pain, replacing discomfort with a sense of euphoria. Along with this, a person may experience sedation, impaired mental functioning and an inability to pay attention. The more they abuse morphine, the more likely they are to exhibit these signs.
Signs that someone has become addicted to morphine may include:
- seeing several different doctors in a short time (doctor shopping)
- stealing and/or selling anything they can to pay for drugs
- disappearing for hours or days (secretive behavior)
- hiding from family so they don’t find out about drug use
- significant weight loss/irregular eating patterns
- needing morphine to get through the day
- withdrawal symptoms
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How Is It Abused?
Morphine comes as a pill, liquid, and injection. Some people abuse it orally, while others crush the pill and snort it. The blood vessels in the nose take it straight to the bloodstream where it has a more immediate and intense effect.
The same effect may result from injecting morphine. When used as prescribed, morphine injection is thought to be safe, but injecting higher amounts and doing so more frequently can damage the veins and raise the risk of overdose.
Signs Of A Morphine Overdose
Morphine suppresses a person’s central nervous system, affecting vital functions like breathing, heart rate, and temperature control. Taking too much at once or taking it too often can be life-threatening. If a loved one seems to be abusing morphine, knowing the signs of overdose may help save their life.
Signs of a morphine overdose include:
- intense drowsiness
- pinpoint pupils
- limp muscles
- slow heart rate
- cold, clammy skin
- very slow breathing
- a bluish tint to lips or fingernails (indicate a lack of oxygen)
Mixing morphine with other opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines increases the risk of overdose. All of these substances are central nervous system depressants, so combining them amplifies their effects, and can lead to unconsciousness, coma, or death.
Dangers Of Abuse
More than 130 people die each day from opioid overdoses. An estimated 21 to 29 percent of people who are prescribed opioid drugs like morphine for chronic pain end up abusing them. Young people (under 29) are the most likely to be impacted.
Legal prescription use of morphine can become a gateway into the illegal use of morphine or other opiates. An estimated four to six percent of those who begin using opiates prescribed by their doctor will switch to heroin as a cheaper and easier-to-obtain alternative.
Heroin is stronger than morphine and is not regulated like prescription morphine is. It may contain dangerous fillers, including other drugs like fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and is largely responsible for the recent rise in opioid overdose deaths across the country.
Morphine Tolerance, Dependence And Withdrawal
An individual can develop a tolerance to morphine within a few days, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They will need a higher dose to feel the same effects, but this is a slippery slope that can lead to addiction.
Tolerance can also quickly turn into physical dependence, a condition in which the body craves morphine and needs it for normal functioning.
If someone is physically dependent on morphine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop using it. In severe cases, a person may have withdrawals between doses.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms include:
- constipation or diarrhea
- nausea and vomiting
- chills and/or fever
- muscle pain
- rapid heartbeat
Withdrawal symptoms often cause a person to resume taking morphine even if they are trying to stop or to take more of it if the symptoms occur between doses. Both cases can lead to or worsen addiction.
Medically Supervised Detox
Because it is difficult to detox from morphine alone and can be very dangerous, Vertava Health of Ohio offers a medically supervised detox program.
This inpatient program is staffed with medical professionals who monitor a person’s vital signs as they go through the withdrawal process. They may taper the dose of morphine to lessen the severity of symptoms and may also administer other medications to ease discomfort.
Morphine Addiction Treatment Options
Even after detox, opioids like morphine can cause a person to have continued cravings. Some individuals benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which uses a less potent drug-like Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) to limit cravings and reduce residual withdrawal symptoms.
Medication is not a stand-alone solution to opioid addiction. At Vertava Health of Ohio, it is part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment program that helps individuals manage cravings, identify triggers, pinpoint harmful habits, and begin rebuilding their life.
The following are some of our evidence-based and experiential treatment methods:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) identifies harmful thinking patterns and teaches a person to think in a more problem-solving way. CBT can help those suffering from morphine addiction to overcome unhealthy behaviors.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) encourages people to explore and learn to cope with painful emotions, particularly those that are causing strife in their relationships with family and friends. Through DBT, a person can strengthen self-love and acceptance.
- Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based treatment that involves tracking and moving the eyes as a person recounts their trauma. This can help a person uncover unresolved issues that are influencing their thoughts, reactions, and behaviors, and reduce the power trauma has over them.
- Dual-Diagnosis Treatment addresses co-occurring mental disorders along with addiction to ensure that these issues do not lead to relapse after treatment.
Through our holistic inpatient rehab program, we strive to give each individual their best chance at lifelong recovery.