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Morphine Withdrawal

Morphine has been used to treat pain for more than 200 years. The powerful opioid drug is commonly prescribed for more severe instances of pain, such as for post-surgery recovery, joint and bone pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used as a palliative treatment for people with terminal cancer. 

Although morphine is medically useful, it can also be highly addictive because of its strong pain-relieving and relaxing effects. As with other opioids, addiction to morphine can make it difficult to stop taking the drug and morphine withdrawal can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Learn more below about how to withdraw safely from morphine.  

What Are the Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Morphine withdrawal, like withdrawal from other opioids, causes uncomfortable, but not life-threatening, symptoms. Morphine withdrawal symptoms usually begin about six to 12 hours after last using the drug. Morphine withdrawal symptoms range in severity, including:

Early symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Increased tear production
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Late symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What Are the Stages of the Morphine Withdrawal Timeline?

Morphine withdrawal symptoms usually begin within six to 12 hours after last using. The worst of the symptoms occur at about 72 hours after the last time you take the drug. The first week of morphine withdrawal is typically the worst. However, symptoms can last up to about a month. They may even continue for a few months after you stop using.

During the first few hours of morphine withdrawal, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Muscle pain
  • Aching body
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

Over the next few days of the morphine withdrawal process, you may have more symptoms, including:

  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

Some symptoms may last for a month or longer. Some morphine withdrawal symptoms that may linger often include anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. 

Why Should I Detox?

Withdrawing from opioids like morphine can be difficult and uncomfortable. This is why it’s best to find a professional addiction treatment center to help you with detox rather than trying to quit morphine “cold turkey” on your own.

A professional, medically assisted detox program helps to ensure a successful recovery. You will be clinically monitored in a safe environment. This allows your body to safely eliminate the physical need for the drug by going through the difficult, and sometimes painful, detoxification process. 

In a medically assisted detox program, your medical team can administer detox medications such as naltrexone or buprenorphine to help relieve the cravings. The team will also ensure that your body has enough vitamins, fluids, and electrolytes. You will also receive professional mental and emotional support during this challenging time to help make the withdrawal process successful. 

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Each of the stages in the full continuum of treatment will help you to slowly transition back to your life outside the rehab facility while also helping you build the skills and resources you need to cope and avoid relapsing. This approach will provide you with the best chance of recovery. A program that follows a full continuum of treatment begins with the highest and most intense level of care during the detox phase. Then you will progress through less intense levels of treatment. Stages of morphine addiction treatment include:


During the detox stage of morphine withdrawal treatment, medical stabilization is the goal. This stage will last about three to seven days depending on the severity of your addiction. 

When you arrive, the medical team will give you a complete medical assessment to determine your level of addiction and any other medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam. It will also include urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. 

After a doctor reviews your results, more tests may need to be done. These other tests may include additional blood tests, such as a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.

Once the doctor has reviewed all of your test results, he or she will create a detox plan for you. Then you will begin the detox process under the care of your medical team, which consists of your doctor, nurses, and support staff. 

Medical detox may include a combination of detox drugs. These include methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine, and naltrexone. You will be under 24-hour clinical supervision during this critical time.

It’s normal to experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges during the detox period. Your treatment plan will include psychological and emotional care to support you as you begin addiction therapy.  

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After completing the detox phase, you will continue treatment in either a residential facility or a partial hospitalization program. Your doctor will determine which path is right for you. The physician’s decision will be based on the severity of your addiction plus whether or not you have any other addictions or co-occurring medical or psychological conditions.

You can focus exclusively on your psychological and emotional recovery during a residential treatment stay. You’ll live full-time at the residential treatment center. While you are in the inpatient program, you will participate in a supportive and rigorous treatment program at least five days a week. This structured program will address your emotional and mental health needs 24 hours a day, and help you begin the process of returning to your life outside the treatment center. These important life skills will help to prepare you for a successful long-term recovery.  

Partial Hospitalization

If you don’t remain in an inpatient program after detox, you will move to a partial hospitalization program. A partial hospitalization program (PHP) blends inpatient care and outpatient treatment. You’ll live at a transitional living facility while undergoing a structured treatment program five days a week for six hours each day. 

At this stage, you will participate in individual, group, and family therapy programs. These programs will continue to address and strengthen your emotional and mental health. Learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse will be your focus during PHP. The goal of the PHP stage is to help you to be better prepared for long-term recovery as you begin the process of returning to your life outside the treatment center.  

Intensive Outpatient

woman on the floor experiencing morphine withdrawal

Each of the full continuum of treatment stages will help you to slowly transition back to your life outside the rehab facility while also helping you build the skills and resources you need to cope and avoid relapsing. The final treatment stage is the intensive outpatient program (IOP). This stage allows you to either move back home or stay into a “sober home.” This is a facility that provides a more structured lifestyle for those in recovery from substance abuse. 

You won’t attend as many therapy sessions at this stage. You will still attend intensive therapy sessions and continue with medication management if you require it.

You also will continue to be accountable for your recovery during this stage of treatment, which may include periodic weekly drug testing.  


After you complete the treatment program, you will have the opportunity to join other treatment center graduates for weekly support groups and social events. These are great opportunities to meet other program alumni members and develop new friendships. This important social network can help support you and your goals for long-term success. Plus, you can enjoy getting to know new friends who understand the recovery journey.


Cherney, Kristeen (2016, November 14) Opiate Withdrawal: What It Is and How to Cope With It. Retrieved from

Kosten, T.R. & George, Tony P. (2002, July) The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice: Science & Practice Perspectives. Retrieved from

Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. (2018, November 13). Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic Staff (2018, January 10) Tapering off Opioids: When and How. Retrieved from

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