Morphine Addiction

Morphine is one of the most powerful opioid drugs legally available, and doctors have been using it to treat moderate to severe pain for more than 200 years. Morphine is mainly prescribed for post-surgery pain and severe bone and joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and as a form of palliative care for patients with terminal cancer.

While morphine is undoubtedly medically useful when it comes to effective pain treatment, it also carries a high potential for abuse and addiction and, with the exception of a doctor’s prescription, has been banned in the United States since the early 1900s.

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Despite these laws and general in-hospital restrictions, morphine is still frequently misused and abused and is so strong that even people who use it as prescribed can end up dependent on morphine if they are not extremely careful.

The main focus of the recent opioid epidemic has been illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl, and when prescription painkillers are brought up, it is typically Vicodin or Oxycontin. But morphine carries just as many dangers as these other opioids and can prove to be just as lethal to those who become addicted to it.

Struggling with an addiction to morphine? Let us help! Request a call today from an addiction specialist!

Struggling with an addiction to morphine? Let us help! Request a call today from an addiction specialist!

How Does Morphine Work?

Morphine works in the same way as other opioids, entering the brain and mimicking naturally created opioids to bind with the brain’s opioid receptors. The opioids your body naturally produces are chemicals used to control pain signals within the central nervous system as well as regulate feelings of stress. The opioid receptors are what control the level of opioids produced.


So when morphine binds with these receptors, it stimulates them into overproduction, releasing a flood of opioids with the effect of greatly increased feelings of relaxation and strong blocks around the spinal cord and brainstem that keep pain signals from being able to reach the brain. Morphine also significantly raises levels of a brain chemical in the limbic system called dopamine, which controls emotion, mood, and how we process motivation and reward.

The increase in dopamine is what creates the euphoric high that occurs when someone takes a large enough dose of morphine. It is also what can kick-start the cycle of addiction, as the brain learns to associate morphine use with the reward of extra dopamine.

Many people will start misusing morphine more for pain relief than recreation, but become addicted because of the effects on the dopamine in their brain. As they grow increasingly tolerant to morphine’s effects, they will have to take more and more of it, increasing the risk of overdose.

What Are the Signs of Morphine Addiction?

The signs of morphine abuse or addiction can sometimes be difficult to spot, especially if they do have a prescription for it and have been regularly using it for that purpose. However, there are still noticeable signs that someone has been abusing morphine outside of their prescribed dose and may potentially be addicted, including:

  • Being constantly drowsy
  • Having dilated pupils
  • Strange or noticeably different sleep patterns
  • Slurred speech

Long-term side effects of morphine abuse that are more likely to indicate that abuse has escalated to addiction include:

  • Depression or emotional detachment
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Repeated bouts of severe constipation
  • Frequently sick due to a weakened immune system
  • Restlessness

As someone becomes addicted to morphine, or really any drugs or alcohol, their normal behaviors will begin to change as getting the using morphine becomes the top priority in their lives, edging out responsibilities, relationships, and hobbies and previous interests. The behaviors associated with this will begin to stack up until their morphine addiction has become apparent.

Some of these behavioral signs include:

  • Using larger doses of morphine than prescribed
  • Forging prescriptions or “doctor-shopping”
  • Using morphine without a prescription
  • Attempting to rationalize or justify morphine use
  • Difficulty in functioning or performing daily tasks
  • Being secretive or hiding morphine use from others
  • Missing money or valuable to pay for morphine
  • Increased tolerance to the effects of morphine
  • Decline in performance at work or school
  • Being unable to stop using morphine

If you see these signs of morphine addiction in someone you care about or recognize them in your own behavior, you should seek out professional addiction treatment as soon as possible.

How Dangerous is Morphine?

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about morphine is how fast users can build up a tolerance to it, even when taking it as directed.

Despite the potency of the drug, people will quickly become tolerant to its effects and start taking more at once to compensate, also leading to extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms within this same short period of misuse or abuse.

The rapid window for dependence and tolerance leads to an increased risk of overdose as people significantly increase their dosage to ward off withdrawal symptoms and get the same high or pain killing effects as before. People will also mix morphine with alcohol, as well as other depressant drugs like benzodiazepines, and sedatives, which are incredibly dangerous.

It is very easy to overdose on morphine, and because it is so powerful in how it depresses the nervous system that when someone does overdose, it can often prove fatal due to a person’s breathing becoming irregular and slowed to the point of asphyxiation. Asphyxia is when someone has become so deprived of oxygen that they can suffocate to death.

Visible symptoms of morphine overdose include:

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  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Heavy, limp limbs
  • Blue-tinted skin around lips and fingertips
  • Coma

If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, emergency medical services should be contacted immediately to avoid death and as much permanent brain or organ damage as possible. Typically, morphine overdoses are treated the same way as other opioid overdoses, by administering the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Finally, while this may make it seem like if you are addicted to morphine that you should cease taking it immediately, it opens you up to potentially-lethal risks equivalent to overdosing. Suddenly stopping all morphine use can cause severe and possibly fatal withdrawal symptoms like a stroke or heart attack.

This is why it is so important to detox in the safe, controlled environment of a professional medical detox treatment center, where a doctor can put you on a tapering schedule to slowly reduce your morphine use without triggering these dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Involved in Morphine Addiction Treatment?

As previously mentioned, morphine addiction treatment should start with a medical detox to flush the morphine from your system in a way that is both safe and effective to achieve sobriety and physical and mental stability.

Once detox has been completed, and you are no longer in any danger from withdrawal symptoms, the next step in morphine addiction treatment is to move to ongoing care in an addiction rehabilitation treatment program. Detox makes you sober, but only addiction recovery treatment can help you stay that way.

A recovery program does this through the use of a treatment plan of different therapies and modalities that can be customized to fit your needs, including addiction education classes, individual or group therapy, 12-step therapy, and more.

These treatments with help give you the tools you need to understand and address the issues behind your addiction as well as the addictive behaviors that fueled it. A recovery program will also teach you how to manage your addiction to maintain sobriety.

Morphine Abuse Statistics

  • More than 10 percent of the U.S. population have used morphine during their lifetime.
  • In 2015, the International Narcotics Board reported that the U.S. had one of the highest levels of morphine consumption in the world, second only to Canada.
  • More than 60 percent of people struggling with morphine addiction reported as getting the drug through either family or friends.  

Break Free from Morphine Addiction Today

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to morphine, it can feel like you’re trapped with no way out and no one to turn to. But help is available at Pathway to Hope. Our experienced and caring staff will do everything they can to help get you or your loved on the road to recovery and a drug-free future.

Call 844-311-5781 for 24/7 access to free and confidential help from our specialists, who can help answer any questions or concerns you might have, verify your insurance, and find the treatment program that’s right for you or your loved one. So don’t wait any longer, call 844-311-5781 now or contact us online for more information.