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Signs of Morphine Use, Misuse, and Addiction

If you or a loved one are struggling with a potential morphine addiction and want help, you may want to start by gathering more information about morphine. Morphine is an opioid analgesic that is used for pain management.1 Historically, morphine was administered via injection, but today, several pharmaceutical formulations may be taken orally.1

Morphine is classified as a Schedule II narcotic, which means it has a high potential for dependence and abuse.1, Around 9.5 million people over the age of 12 report having misused opioids in 2020.2 Misuse of morphine or other opioids can be dangerous. There were close to 500,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2019.3 The good news is that treatment for morphine and opioid use disorder (OUD) is available.


Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Morphine Addiction Rehab

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What Is Morphine?

Morphine is often referred to as the standard or archetypal opioid painkiller. Pharmaceutical morphine is manufactured from its opiate precursor after extraction from the opium poppy plant.1 Various pharmaceuticals, like morphine, are made from imported opium plant (Papaver somniferum) materials or opium poppy straw.4 Morphine can be used to treat relatively severe pain, both in the short-term or as chronic pain management.5

Although very effective in treating and managing pain, long-term opioid use may require medical supervision and monitoring for signs of morphine dependence, morphine misuse, or addiction.5 Morphine is marketed in a variety of forms including oral immediate or extended-release prescription tablets or capsules.1 Injectable solutions are also administered for pain relief.1

Prescription opioids such as morphine can be safe when taken as prescribed.6 However, prescription opioids can be misused by taking someone else’s medication, taking the medicine in a way or amount not prescribed, or taking the narcotic for pleasurable effects rather than pain relief.6 This may be done through oral ingestion, or crushing pills or capsules and either snorting or dissolving the pill powder into water and then injecting it into a vein.6

Though opioids like morphine can be used to therapeutically alter pain signaling, they are also associated with a rewarding, euphoric rush, which can reinforce continued patterns of misuse and ultimately escalate the risks of pronounced physical dependence and addiction.6 Beyond morphine dependence and morphine addiction, overdose is also a real danger.1 Dangerously slowed breathing, possible coma, and even death may result in instances of a morphine overdose.1


Effects & Risks of Morphine Use

Though morphine is a valuable tool for managing different types of pain, its use also carries an inherent risk of physiological dependence development, the potential for nonmedical misuse, and warrants close monitoring by a prescribing doctor.5 Opioids are associated with several side effects as well, the character and severity of which may vary depending on the dose, form, and frequency of use. Additionally, opioid misuse can increase the risk of experiencing some of these side effects.6

Some of the potentially adverse side effects of morphine or other opioid use may include:6,7

  • Excessive drowsiness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Impaired attention and memory.
  • Confusion.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Skin itching.
  • Respiratory depression (i.e., slow or shallow breathing).

As with all prescription drugs, morphine has both benefits and risks. Along with its therapeutic uses, morphine carries a risk of dependence, addiction, and overdose.8 These risks may be accentuated in instances of misuse. Concurrent use of opioids like morphine with alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other central nervous system depressants can further compound the dangers.8 Combining these substances can make over-sedation, depressed respiration, coma, or death more likely.8


Is Morphine Addictive?

Repeated misuse of opioids increases the risk of addiction—which may be diagnosed as an opioid use disorder (OUD).6 Opioid use disorder (OUD) affected 2.7 million Americans 12 or older in 2020.2  OUD is characterized by a problematic pattern in opioid use which leads to clinically mental and physical impairment or distress.9

Because opioids like morphine active the regions of the brain associated with reward, the potential for morphine misuse, and eventual morphine addiction is high.10 Utilizing prescription opioids only as suggested and with close medical supervision is safest and is the best way to minimize the risks of significant physical dependence, morphine addiction, and addiction related health consequences.10


Signs of Morphine Addiction

You may be wondering how to know if you or a loved one have developed a morphine addiction, or an opioid use disorder involving morphine. As with all SUDs, the criteria used to make such a diagnosis include several characteristic symptoms—which may manifest as problematic physical, mental, and behavioral changes. Though doctors and other healthcare professionals are in the best position to recognize the signs of a morphine addiction, you may recognize some of the following diagnostic criteria as warning signs that someone may be struggling with an opioid use disorder:7

  • Taking more morphine than was originally intended.
  • Cravings to use morphine.
  • Attempts to stop using, or cut back on using, are unsuccessful.
  • Using a good deal of time and resources to get morphine, use it, and recover from using the drug.
  • Not being able to complete expected duties at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use morphine despite the consequences of its use.
  • Giving up interests or hobbies that were once enjoyed due to morphine use.
  • Using morphine in high-risk situations, such as driving or swimming.
  • Continuing to use morphine, even knowing that it worsens a medical or psychological problem.
  • Developing a tolerance to morphine and taking more of it to get the same effects as before.
  • Showing signs of withdrawal when morphine is withheld, including nausea, diarrhea, sweating, or body aches.

Getting Help for a Morphine Addiction

Recovery from morphine addiction can be challenging. Attempts to quit cold turkey or otherwise without medical management or professional treatment could result in significant setbacks such as severe withdrawal, uncontrolled pain, and mental distress.13 In 2019, the FDA warned that the uncontrolled withdrawal symptoms associated with rapid discontinuation of opioid medications could lead people to seek out illicit sources of alternative opioid drugs to treat withdrawal pain.13

Opioid withdrawal can be physically and emotionally taxing and unnecessarily difficult when not managed appropriately.14 Withdrawal symptoms in association with relatively short-acting opioids such as morphine can begin within hours to a day after last use, then peak in severity and begin to resolve over the course of several more days to weeks.14

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal may include:14

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Perspiration.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hot and cold flushes.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Watery discharges from the eyes and nose.

A medically supervised detox can help greatly during this difficult period of early recovery. Patients are seen by providers several times per day, and medications may be administered and adjusted to best manage withdrawal symptoms.14

A medically supervised detox program can make morphine withdrawal more safe and comfortable, but often there will be associated psychological, social, and behavioral issues that benefit from more comprehensive assessment and treatment to help reduce the risk of relapse and promote lasting recovery.15, paragraph 2 Treatment programs can vary, but, beyond initial detox support, many morphine addiction treatment programs may provide the below options.

  • Medications for addiction treatment (MAT): Medication is utilized to support safe detoxification and is combined with behavioral treatments during rehab and recovery to increase the probability of long-term success with a lower risk of relapse.16 Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are some of the FDA-approved medications that may be used to treat morphine addiction.16
  • Inpatient treatment: Full-time hospital or inpatient care may be appropriate treatment settings depending on individual needs, but both aim to help the person in recovery with social development, community building, health habits, and the development of new behavior patterns.15
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment may be most ideal for people with strong social support who may have a job or school responsibilities. It includes the programs typically offered in inpatient treatment while allowing the patient to live at home.15
  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral treatments aid in identifying potential risk factors for relapse and developing individualized coping tools that can mitigate cravings and decrease stressors.17 Therapy may be conducted on an individual, family, or group basis.17
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders: Substance abuse treatment programs may also treat coexisting medical or mental health problems to promote comprehensive health and long-term recovery.18

Sources

  1. Department of Justice. (2020). Drug fact sheet: morphine.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Understanding the epidemic: drug abuse.
  4. Department of Justice. (2020). Drug fact sheet: opium.
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2022). PubChem: morphine.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Prescription opioids DrugFacts.
  7. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  8. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016). FDA warns about serious risks and death when combining opioid pain or cough medicines with benzodiazepines; requires its strongest warning.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Assessing and addressing opioid use disorder (OUD).
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). What classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused?
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022). Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?
  12. NYS Department of Health. (2017). Opioids: recognizing the signs.
  13. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). FDA identifies harm reported from sudden discontinuation of opioid pain medicines and requires label changes to guide prescribers on gradual, individualized tapering.
  14. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical guidelines for withdrawal management and treatment of drug dependence in closed settings.
  15. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: types of treatment programs.
  16. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  17. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). How can prescription drug addiction be treated?

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