First introduced by doctors in 1803, morphine is still prescribed for moderate to severe pain in situations like treatment after surgery or end-of-life care. In fact, in 2012 alone, there were around 259 million prescriptions for painkilling medications written by doctors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, just because it’s legally prescribed doesn't mean there isn't a risk of morphine abuse or morphine addiction. Because, indeed there certainly is and there are many signs of morphine abuse to look for.
What is Morphine?
Morphine is a non-synthetic narcotic with a high potential for addiction. It’s the prime component of opium. Many doctors use this narcotic because of how effective it is for relieving severe pain. It decreases pain by acting directly on the central nervous system.
You can take it by mouth as liquid, as slow-release capsules or tablets, or as quick-acting tablets. You can also have it injected. Injections of morphine are common in hospitals post-surgery. Morphine comes under various brand names, each of which your body may process differently. Once you start a specific brand, you normally take this same brand unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
Brand names for morphine in the US include:
- Kadian ER
- MS Contin
- Oramorph SR
Common street names for morphine are:
- Mister Blue
- God's Drug
- First Line
Accidental overdoses of morphine pop up frequently in the news and lawsuits pertaining to fatal overdoses are typically directed at clinics that prescribed it, or the pharmacies that made it.
What is Morphine Usually Prescribed for?
Doctors typically prescribe morphine following a surgery to get rid of severe pain. Morphine, along with other opioids, attach to opioid receptors, which are specific proteins in your brain, gastrointestinal tract and spinal cord. When these proteins attach themselves to specific opioid receptors in your spinal cord and brain, they can change the way you experience pain effectively.
Although it's primary purpose is for treating both chronic and acute severe pain, it’s sometimes used for pain caused by labor or myocardial infarction. Regular sustained-release, low dose morphine can reduce breathlessness safely and significantly for conditions like end-stage cardiorespiratory diseases or advanced cancer.
Key Statistics About the Abuse and Addiction to Morphine
Every day in the United States, nearly 1,000 people are treated for overdosing on opioid prescription painkillers. Each year, around 100,000 Americans will use an opioid drug, such as morphine, for the first time.
The rate of morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and other semisynthetic and natural opioid drug overdose deaths increased by 9 nine percent in 2014.
Emergency department visits due to pharmaceutical opioid abuse increased by 114 percent between 2004 and 2011. There were over 1.4 million emergency visits in 2011 because of pharmaceutical abuse or misuse, with around 420,000 of those visits from prescription opioids.
How Addictive is Morphine?
The Controlled Substances Act classifies morphine as a Schedule II drug because its chemical properties give it addictive potential.
Since it’s a strong opiate, morphine has a high addiction rate. It can become addictive very quickly, regardless of whether it is prescribed or intentionally abused. Morphine addiction happens quickly, typically because you may not realize you can become addicted or how rapidly it can happen. You might try morphine on a recreational basis and not be able to stop.
You can become a morphine addict after only a few uses. Side effects of morphine addiction can be excruciating. It can impair your ability to perform at your top physical and mental capacity. It does have pleasant effects, such as giving you a sense of euphoria and relieving your feelings of anxiety or fear. These side effects make this drug more alluring for some, which can lead to addiction quickly.
How Do People Become Addicted to Morphine?
You can quickly develop a tolerance to morphine, which makes it a big risk for addiction. This tolerance causes you to require more morphine in order to get the same pleasant affects you did at smaller doses.
As you begin taking higher doses regularly, it increases your chances of an overdose. Furthermore, the drug activates your brain's 'pleasure centers', which is why it’s so enjoyable. This can lead you to focus all your energy and effort on getting more of the drug.
You increase your risk of becoming addicted to the drug if you make the conscious decision to misuse it. Some ways morphine can be misused or abused are:
- Preventing controlled release by chewing it
- Snorting it by crushing it up into powdered form
- Crushing it up and dissolving it in water so you can inject it
- Taking higher doses of it than prescribed
- Taking the drug more frequently than prescribed
If you increase your doses beyond what is prescribed in order to feel the psychoactive effects of morphine, you’re abusing the drug and are increasing your risk of becoming addicted to it.
Other Factors that Lead to Morphine Addiction
The root causes of abusing morphine are related to psychological, biological and social/environmental factors.
Psychological factors associated with becoming addicted to this drug are feelings of depression, cases of abuse, underlying traumas and anxiety. You might use the drug to try and get away from pain, uncomfortable feelings and realities of living.
Biological factors associated with addiction to morphine are variances in body chemistry and brain mechanisms linked to drug abuse and genetic influences.
Social and environmental factors linked to morphine addiction include the acceptability and availability of it in the community, family substance use and peer group pressure. Some examples of other social and environmental factors linked to abusing morphine are poor housing, poverty and homelessness.
Addiction to morphine can also co-occur with other types of abuse such as alcohol, eating disorders and other substances. It’s not uncommon for people who are abusing this drug to be struggling with other types of addiction.
What Types of Co-Occurring Disorders Exist with Morphine
It’s important for you to know that there are several co-occurring disorders that may occur with a morphine addiction. These include:
Painful Physical Conditions
Pain and drug abuse co-occur a lot making each one harder to treat. When you have pain along with a co-occurring addictive disorder, particularly morphine or other opioids for pain control, evaluation and treatment could present a challenge to healthcare providers, as well as generate prolonged suffering and considerable frustration for you.
Just like morphine, alcohol acts on your nervous system as a depressant. When you combine the two, it can exacerbate your intoxication symptoms and cause you to experience a severe and quick overdose. Combining alcohol with this drug impairs your judgment and disrupts your thinking so you might not even realize how much you’re consuming, if you consumed too much, and if you should seek medical help.
Concurrent morphine and alcohol problems can also increase your risk of physical injury when you’re intoxicated. When you mix the two, it can result in lack of concentration, loss of coordination and confusion that can cause physical injury.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
Researchers estimate that APD affects up to 39 percent of individuals who are looking for treatment for their opioid addiction. Studies have shown that individuals with both opioid addiction and APD had more aggressive and violent behavioral history, criminal activity and were more likely to engage in activities that risked the transmission of HIV, as opposed to people with just the opioid addiction alone.
Many individuals with an opioid addiction also have co-occurring mental disorders. As it is often difficult to ascertain which came first, the addiction or the mental disorder, it is crucial that the two are treated together. Often, once the client has been detoxed from the drug abused, it becomes easier to understand the origins of the other mental health disorder.
Mental disorders that co-occur with opioid addiction include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Dysthymic disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social phobia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorders
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
- Cognitive Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Impulse Control Disorders: Pathological Gambling
- Sleep Disorders
When you have a dual diagnosis, you need treatment for both co-occurring conditions, and our professionals at 12 Keys Rehab in Florida are experts at helping people with co-occurring disorders.
What Does Morphine Do to the Brain?
When you use morphine, you get an intense relaxation feeling, a unique opiate high and a craving for the drug. This drug forces your brain to release its dopamine (neurotransmitter chemical that relieves pain). When you take too much of the drug, it overflows your body with dopamine, which causes you to feel high. Since it depresses your central nervous system, your breathing and heart rate slow. With repeated usage, your lungs and heart could completely stop.
What are the Signs of a Morphine Addiction?
You can experience specific physical signs of morphine addiction when you take too much. These include:
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Shallow breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Cardiac arrest
- Low blood pressure
- Circulatory collapse
- Clammy and cold skin
- Normal muscle tension loss
If one of your loved ones is abusing morphine, on top of the physical symptoms they may exhibit, you might also find pills, pill bottles or syringes lying around. Since this drug is also available in liquid form, you might also find little bottles of the liquid morphine sulfate.
If you or your loved one tries to stop using morphine once addicted, specific signs of withdrawal could include:
- Runny nose
- Tearing eyes
- Muscle aches
- Trouble sleeping
- Dilated pupils
- Stomach cramps
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
If you have been taking this drug for a short while, you might think these symptoms are just a sign of the flu, instead of realizing you’re displaying morphine addiction signs.
What are the Symptoms of a Morphine Addiction?
Morphine addiction symptoms can range from memory problems to vomiting and weight loss. You can also experience emotional symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, irritability and hallucinations. Being addicted to this drug can reduce your level of consciousness, which reduces your ability to be completely aware of everything going on around you.
Along with withdrawal symptoms that you might experience, there are other Opioid Use Disorder Diagnostic Criteria outlined by the American Psychiatric Association for morphine addiction, which include:
- Not being able to control your use of the drug
- Having a strong desire to take the drug
- After stopping the drug you enter a psychological withdrawal state
- Building up tolerance which makes you increase your doses
- Neglecting other interests because you’re consumed by the drug
- Continuing the drug even though you’re aware of its harmful mental and physical consequences
Effects of morphine abuse are similar to other drug abuse consequences with profound effects being broken relationships and lost happiness over time.
Statistics don't show the true impact that morphine abuse can have on you and your family. That is really only shown in your family and the lives that have been ruined by your addiction. Sadly, becoming a drug abuser can make you an expert at hiding the evidence of your addiction.
If you’re a loved one of an abuser, or are abusing morphine yourself, and you notice any of the following morphine abuse symptoms, it’s time to get help.
- Visiting more than one doctor to get as many morphine prescriptions as you can.
- Lying or hiding your abuse, or 'losing' your prescription.
- Loss of motivation.
- Worsening problems with reputation, money and relationships.
- Taking medications from other people.
- Ignoring important responsibilities.
- Spending a lot of time trying to get the drug.
- Displaying drug-seeking behaviors and withdrawal symptoms.
- Turning to a drug like heroin that is more easily available.
In addition, you might notice behavioral changes such as:
Sleep Habit Changes
As a person addicted to morphine, you may have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Alternatively, you might sleep too much, sleep late into the day or go to sleep later.
Change in Appetite
This can vary from person to person. You might eat a lot more or less than normal.
Change in Temperament
When high, you might be very loving and friendly. If you’re questioned about your mood, you might get very temperamental, defensive or impatient. You could also become antisocial and anxious.
Change in Interests
People change all the time without any particular reason. However, if you notice you or your loved one is losing interest in best friends or partners, a favorite sport, spending time with the family or afterschool activities, it could indicate a serious problem.
Change in How You Handle Responsibility
If you fail to show up to school or work, make flimsy excuses or break commitments due to drugs, this could also be an indication of a morphine addiction.
Paranoia, confusion or other psychological distress indications can mean there is a drug problem.
If you don't get professional help from a rehab center, such as 12 Keys Rehab, the withdrawal you experience will be unpleasant, strong, and potentially dangerous. Your recovery can come with long-lasting emotional and physical symptoms if you choose to forego rehab assistance. Withdrawal can begin in just a few hours after your last use of the drug.
How Does Morphine Impact a Pregnancy?
Morphine is classified as an FDA Pregnancy Category C drug, which means that an 'adverse' effect on the fetus has been shown through animal studies, and you cannot rule out harm to a woman's fetus. Therefore, if you’re pregnant, you should not be prescribed or take this medication unless your doctor feels the potential benefits will far outweigh the risks.
You should only use morphine when you clearly need it. It could increase birth defect risks if you use the drug during your first couple of months of pregnancy. If you use it for a long period and take high doses near your due date, it could harm your unborn infant. Neonatal withdrawal has been associated with chronic use of morphine in later stages of pregnancy. When the drug is used during labor, neonatal respiratory depression is a risk. If your doctor prescribes morphine for you during labor, they should have neonatal resuscitation equipment readily available.
During labor, opiates cross the placenta and can lead to certain side effects in your infant including:
- Respiratory depression
- Depression of the central nervous system
- Altered neurological behavior
- Impaired early breastfeeding
- Reduced body temperature regulation ability
Because of these side effects, medication might have to be given to your infant in order to counteract the opiate effects. One particular medication that might be given to your baby to reverse opiate-related respiratory depression is naloxone. This intravenous drug will have immediate effects that may last for a couple hours.
To reduce the risk of harmful birth defects, take the smallest dose possible for only a short amount of time. If you notice any symptoms in your baby, like irritability, shallow or slow breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, persistent or abnormal crying, tell your doctor immediately.
Does a Morphine Addiction Cause any Permanent Damage
The main risk associated with morphine use on a long-term basis is the risk of addiction. Addiction to morphine can lead to a number of detrimental effects, including loss of employment, loss of relationships, financial problems, ignorance of health issues, developing of hepatitis or HIV because of use of dirty needles and overdose.
How Long Does it Take to Withdraw from Morphine?
Usually it takes around 48 to 98 hours for the major morphine symptoms of withdrawal to peak. After around 12 days, the physical symptoms start to subside. However, it’s a different story for the psychological dependence. Long after your physical need for the drug has passed, you’re likely to keep thinking and talking about using it. You may feel overwhelmed with your daily activities, since you now have to deal with them without being under the influence of the drug.
The psychological withdrawal of this addiction can be a painful and long process. You can suffer from various psychological disorders such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Amnesia (forgetfulness)
After morphine withdrawal, there is a high probability of relapse when your behavioral motivators and the physical environment that contributed to your addiction haven't been altered. In fact, morphine abusers (along with heroin abusers) have among the highest relapse rates of all drug abusers, with some medical experts estimating rates ranging up to 98 percent.
What are the Stages of Morphine Withdrawal?
There are five stages of morphine withdrawal that typically last around 72 hours to 3 days. These include:
Stage 1: You have anxiety and cravings that begin around 6 to 12 hours after your last dose.
Stage 2: You feel spaced out and dysphoric. You have manageable physical symptoms like sweating, runny nose, crying and yawning. This stage starts around 18 hours.
Stage 3: Your physical symptoms get worse. You begin to experience cramps and muscle twitches and your entire body aches. You can have hot and cold flashes and may lose your appetite. This begins around 24 hours.
Stage 4: Now you’ll begin to experience intense physical pain, particularly cramps and muscle pain. Your biological functions are usually affected, from your bowel movements to your breathing. This begins after 48 hours and can get worse.
Stage 5: You continue to experience pain and may vomit, even if you haven't eaten anything. You most likely have frequent diarrhea and may ejaculate involuntarily or sweat uncontrollably. You don't have much control over your body and you feel depressed. This stage lasts for around three days.
Even though the effects of morphine addiction and withdrawal are not life threatening, you can still have fatal complications. Therefore, it’s crucial that you have a professional around to not only help with any potential pulmonary or coronary complications, but also for supervision, since the pain might be so intense you could be inclined to alleviate it by resorting back to the drug.
Complications of Morphine Withdrawal
There are morphine abuse effects and complications of withdrawing from the drug. One of the most dangerous is aspiration – when you vomit and breathe in your stomach contents. This can result in a lung infection. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause body mineral (electrolyte) and chemical disturbances and dehydration.
Going back to using the drug is the biggest complication. There have been many overdose deaths in people who already went through detox. Once you have gone through withdrawal, your tolerance is reduced, and it’s easy to overdose on a smaller dose than what you’re used to.
How Can I Help My Loved One Recover from Morphine Addiction?
If you have a loved one who is dealing with morphine addiction, you have to stay compassionate and optimistic while they work through their recovery. You have to understand that the process they’re going through right now is by no means easy, may include a few failed attempts, and cannot be done without professional help.
It’s imperative that you get your loved one into a professional rehab like 12 Keys Rehab to get the help he or she needs to deal with the complications of morphine abuse.
How Do You Safely Detox from Morphine?
To safely detox from morphine, you need professional help. Do not attempt detoxing at home with or without someone. Your first 72 hours of detox will be the most difficult. After around 48 hours you will begin your next stage which includes the vomiting, pain, lack of control of bodily functions and uncontrollable kicking. You will be convinced you’re dying. You won't be able to sleep and might lose noticeable weight. You will be overwhelmed with thoughts of taking more drugs just to stop the horrible pain of withdrawal. You’re simply not in the right mind to deal with this and will need a doctor's help in order to make the process easier and safer.
Rehab is one of the safest and most effective ways to recover from your addiction. When you come to 12 Keys Rehab, you’re constantly supervised during your detox period to help you fight against cravings and other symptoms of withdrawal. After you have completed your detox stage of recovery, you will begin your comprehensive recovery program that will address your emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
Preventing Morphine Addiction
To prevent morphine addiction, you either don't take it, or if you absolutely need it, only take it as prescribed by your doctor. If you have a child or loved one, there are some ways to help prevent them from becoming addicted to this and any other drug. You can:
- Talk to them about the risks of abusing morphine.
- Make sure your children know that prescription drugs are just as addictive, if not more so, than illicit drugs.
- Keep track of your prescriptions and lock them up.
- Know where your children spend their time.
If you’re abusing morphine or your doctor has prescribed it, it's essential that you pay attention to how much you’re using and take note of any changes in your behavioral or mental health.
What is the Outlook for Morphine Addiction Recovery?
The outlook for morphine addiction recovery is good if you get the right kind of treatment. What statistics don't show is how good it feels once you kick the habit and gain back control. At 12 Keys Rehab, we provide users with the tools they need to get sober and stay committed to a healthy life while loving their sobriety. Our treatment programs offer different types of holistic healing approaches for the mind, body and spirit. Moreover, if you’re struggling with a dual-diagnosis or pain, we have special treatment for that as well.
How is a Morphine Addiction Treated at 12 Keys Rehab?
There are three main phases of morphine addiction treatment we employ here at 12 Keys Rehab, including:
The first step of your recovery is to manage your withdrawal through detox in a safe environment. Our caring staff is with you throughout detox to help make the experience as painless as possible.
Once you complete detox, you begin a treatment program that lays out the foundation for your lifelong sobriety. This includes getting to the root cause of your addiction; whether it’s an underlying condition, self-medication, coping with the effects of a genetic predisposition to addiction, or a past emotional trauma. We help you learn different ways to manage these issues over time.
Once you complete treatment, you will still need aftercare support to continue on your sobriety journey. This will help you deal with the stress that can occur when you’re trying to maintain a sober life.
At 12 Keys Rehab, you have qualified and experienced staff members at your side 24/7 to help you manage and break your morphine addiction. We only enroll a small number of clients at a time, which helps us customize a treatment plan specifically for you. Our holistic approach to treating more than just the addiction helps you realize a life-lasting sobriety. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.
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