Morphine is a non-synthetic narcotic with a high potential for abuse, and is a principal component of opium. Morphine is one of the most effective drugs known for the relief of severe pain, and should only be prescribed to patients with around the clock pain that cannot be effectively treated with other analgesics.
As an opioid narcotic, morphine functions by altering how the central nervous system responds to pain signals. It also produces feelings of euphoria.
Due to its high potential for abuse, morphine must always be taken exactly as directed by your doctor. Taking a larger dose, taking morphine more frequently or for a longer period of time than prescribed, or taking it without a prescription, will lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Understanding Morphine Abuse
The Drug Enforcement Agency’s fact sheet on morphine explains that “traditionally, morphine was almost exclusively used by injection, but the variety of pharmaceutical forms… today… include: oral solutions, immediate and sustained-release tablets and capsules, suppositories, and injectable preparations. Those dependent on morphine prefer injection because the drug enters the blood stream more quickly.”
Although available through medical prescription, morphine is often sold and abused illicitly. Street names for the drug include Emsel, First Line, Dreamer, God’s Drug, Mister Blue, Morf, Hows, M.S., Morpho, and Unkie.
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, taking morphine and other opioids can actually increase your sensitivity to pain, leading to the problem of chronic pain and physical dependency, which is a precursor to addiction.
Like heroin and other opioid drugs, morphine attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain signals. Because opioid receptors are located in the brain’s reward center, they can also trigger the release of dopamine, commonly known as the “feel-good” chemical, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation. This highly-desirable feeling is another factor in the widespread abuse of morphine and other opioid drugs.
Signs and Symptoms of Morphine Abuse
Some signs and symptoms of morphine addiction may include:
- Running out of a prescription earlier than it is due
- Seeing multiple doctors/clinics for pain prescriptions
- Changes in mood
- Changes in appearance or hygiene
- Mental clouding
- Isolation from family and friends
- Changes in eating habits
- Nervousness and restlessness
- Lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed
There is the potential for numerous serious side effects when taking morphine. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- blue or purple color to the skin
- changes in heartbeat
- agitation, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), confusion
- shivering, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, loss of coordination
- nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, or dizziness
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- extreme drowsiness
- chest pain
- itching, hives, or rash
- swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, lips or throat
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Dangers of Morphine Abuse
Sustained use of morphine will create a tolerance for the drug, forcing addicts to increase their dosage to experience the same effects. Taking large amounts of morphine will increase the number and severity of side effects, and as well as the risk of serious medical consequences.
Opioid receptors are found in the same areas of the brain that control respiration. High doses of opioids can cause breathing to stop completely, leading to fatality. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s fact sheet on morphine lists the overdose effects of the drug as: cold, clammy skin, lowered blood pressure, sleepiness, slowed breathing, slow pulse rate, coma, and possible death.
Who Abuses Morphine?
A person of any age, gender, financial status, or ethnicity can become addicted to morphine. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, “regular use [of opioids]—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose. The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has led to increased use of heroin, which presents similar dangers.”
Some addicts take morphine to combat feelings of anxiety, to self-medicate depression, or to enjoy feelings of euphoria, but many users take the drug due to chronic pain and an unbearable physical dependency that makes them unable to quit the drug on their own.
When used legally, under a doctor’s instructions, morphine can be beneficial, improving a patient’s quality of life during illness, or recovery from surgery or injury. When pain goes untreated, patients suffer in all areas of life, running the risk of developing mood disorders and suicidal thoughts.
However, prescription opioids such as morphine are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, and patients must be careful to take the medication only as directed, and for the reasons prescribed. Overuse and abuse of the medication (such as taking it to relax instead of to treat pain) will lead to addiction, and serious mental and physical consequences.
Taking Morphine recreationally, especially in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, is extremely dangerous and is a clear sign of a substance abuse problem.
Am I Addicted to Morphine?
If you fear that you may be addicted to morphine, ask yourself the questions below:
- Do I abuse morphine every day?
- Do I abuse the drug in order to combat feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, depression, etc.?
- Have friends or family members mentioned more than once that they are worried about my drug use?
- Do I become hostile or angry when they do so?
- When I attempt to stop taking or wean myself off of the drug, do I experience withdrawal symptoms such as: an inability to feel pleasure, feeling irritable or anxious, difficulty maintaining proper body temperature, fever and chills, runny nose, watery eyes, restlessness, muscle aches, fatigue and/or difficulty sleeping, thoughts of suicide, intense cravings, rapid heart rate, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, changes in respiration or tremors?
- Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without morphine?
- Am I secretive about my drug use, and/or do I lie about when I use or how much I take?
- Do I need more and more morphine each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
- Have I experienced any major problems in the last year, such as a breakup, job loss, car accident, family problems, financial problems, or getting arrested as a result of my drug use?
- Despite these problems, do I feel unable to stop using morphine on my own?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to morphine and in need of professional help.
Morphine Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. The NIDA explains that “repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions.”
This is why addicts require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. The treatment specialists at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab are trained in how to manage substance abuse issues and lead addicts safely to recovery.
Detoxification is the first step to any recovery plan. A person needs clarity of mind and a body free from addictive substances before they can be effectively treated. Because withdrawal from morphine can be extremely unpleasant, detoxing in a rehab center under the care of medical professionals is ideal. A doctor will likely have you taper off of morphine gradually, and may prescribe medications to help ease the symptoms and more comfortably transition you into sobriety.
Whether addicts choose inpatient residential treatment, and/or outpatient treatment, all substance abuse recovery plans will include talk therapy.
Individual therapy allows patients to work intensively on issues specific only to them, while group therapy allows them to both support and experience support from other addicts who are struggling with similar challenges. Family therapy is a valuable tool to ensure individuals encounter the best possible environment at home, to prevent relapse.
Other treatment options include:
- 12-step meetings: Meetings based on the 12-step program that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous are an invaluable resource to support long term sobriety.
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions: most addicts suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues that underlie and fuel their substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders must be addressed as a part of recovery.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT teaches patients to retrain their brains with new methods of coping with stress and cravings, and avoiding trigger situations
- Nutrition, fitness and recreational therapy: a strong body is just as important as a strong mind when it comes to long-term recovery. The better a person feels, the more prepared they will be to handle life as it comes.