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Morphine Addiction: Effects, Signs, & Treatment

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to morphine, learning more about the drug can help you make an informed decision about your health. This page will help you understand the effects and risks of morphine use, the signs of morphine addiction, and morphine abuse treatment. 

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is an opioid analgesic used for the short-term treatment of severe pain or for chronic pain management.1 Morphine is available in a variety of forms including oral immediate or extended-release prescription capsules or tablets.1 Injectable solutions are also administered for pain relief.1 Morphine is classified as a Schedule II narcotic, which means it has a high potential for dependence and misuse.1 Like various pharmaceuticals, morphine is made from imported opium plant (Papaver somniferum) materials or opium poppy straw.2

Although opioids like morphine are effective in managing and treating pain, long-term opioid use may require medical supervision and monitoring for dependence, misuse, or addiction.3 However, prescription opioids like morphine can be misused in several ways, including:4

  • Taking someone else’s medication.
  • Taking the medicine in a dosage other than prescribed.
  • Taking the medicine in a way other than prescribed (e.g., snorting).
  • Taking the narcotic for pleasurable effects rather than pain relief. 

In 2020, around 9.5 million people aged 12 and older reported having misused opioids like morphine in the past year.5 Misuse of morphine or other opioids can be dangerous and result in a life-threatening overdose, among other risks. Between 1999 and 2019, there were nearly 500,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States.6

Risks & Long-Term Effects of Morphine Misuse

Some of the potential side effects of morphine use may include:4, 7

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

Though morphine can help manage and treat pain, opioids are also associated with a euphoric rush, which can reinforce continued patterns of misuse and ultimately escalate the risks of pronounced physical dependence and addiction.

Beyond morphine dependence and morphine addiction, overdose is also a real danger.Dangerously slowed breathing, possible coma, and even death may result in instances of a morphine overdose.1

Though morphine can be a valuable medication 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.3 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.4

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 (CNS) 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 like morphine increases the risk of addiction, which may be diagnosed as an opioid use disorder (OUD).4 In 2020, OUD affected 2.7 million Americans aged 12 and older.2  OUD is characterized by a problematic pattern in opioid use which leads to mental and physical impairment or distress.9 It is a growing problem in the U.S. with the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Because opioids like morphine activate the regions of the brain associated with reward, the potential for morphine misuse and eventual morphine addiction are 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 become addicted to morphine, or has an opioid use disorder (OUD) involving morphine. As with all substance use disorders (SUD), the criteria used to make such a diagnosis include several characteristic symptoms, which may manifest as problematic behavioral, physical, and mental health changes. Though doctors and other healthcare professionals are in the best position to make a diagnosis, you may recognize some of the potential warning signs that someone is addicted to morphine including the following diagnostic criteria: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.

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.7

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person is physiologically dependent on morphine, they can experience withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly cut back or stop using the drug. Morphine withdrawal can be distressing and may necessitate professional treatment to help keep a person comfortable.

Symptoms of morphine withdrawal may include:7

  • Dysphoria.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Sweating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Yawning.
  • Fever.
  • Insomnia.

Morphine Addiction Treatment Options

Recovery from morphine addiction can be challenging. Attempts to quit “cold turkey” or without medical management or professional treatment could result in significant setbacks such as severe withdrawal, uncontrolled pain, and mental distress.11 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.11

Medically supervised detox can help during this difficult period of early recovery. During detox, patients are monitored by providers, and medications may be administered and adjusted to best manage withdrawal symptoms.12 While detox can help make morphine withdrawal safer and more comfortable, it does not address the behavioral, psychological, and social issues of addiction. Patients may benefit from following detox with more comprehensive treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab to help reduce the risk of relapse and promote lasting recovery.13 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.14 Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are some of the FDA-approved medications that may be used to treat morphine addiction.14
  • Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab for morphine addiction provides 24/7 intensive care and medical support. Patients live at the facility during treatment and participate in various therapeutic approaches. This can benefit patients with more severe addictions, co-occurring disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression), or those without stable housing.13
  • Outpatient rehab: Morphine outpatient programs allow patients to attend treatment at a facility during the day but return home in the evening. In some cases, they may be able to attend school or work. Outpatient treatment for morphine addiction may be ideal for patients with less severe addictions, a stable home environment, and reliable transportation to and from treatment.13
  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral treatments aid in identifying potential risk factors for relapse and developing individualized coping tools that can mitigate cravings and decrease stressors.15 Therapy may be conducted on an individual, family, or group basis.15
  • 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.15
  • Aftercare: Sometimes referred to as continuing care, aftercare refers to the ongoing efforts to promote recovery after a patient completes an initial treatment period, which can support their recovery goals and prevent relapse.16 Aftercare activities can include group and individual counseling, mutual help group meetings, medication, and living in a sober living home, among others.16

Finding a Morphine Rehab

If you or a loved one are struggling with morphine misuse or addiction, there are several ways to begin your recovery journey.

  • Talk to your doctor or a mental health practitioner. They can assess your needs and refer you to an addiction treatment provider.
  • Use an online resource. You can find treatment options in your area, including options for both insured and uninsured people.
  • Use our rehab directory, which allows you to search for rehabs and filter by location, levels of care, and insurance accepted.
  • Contact your insurance provider to learn more about in-network options. If you don’t have insurance, you can ask treatment facilities about grants, loans, and sliding scales.

If you or a loved one are struggling with morphine misuse or addiction, don’t wait to get help at a rehab for morphine. Contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) at to speak to a caring admissions navigator about your rehab options. Calling is confidential and free, and there is no obligation to enter treatment.

Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Morphine Addiction Rehab

American Addiction Centers (AAC) provides treatment for those struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD). To find out if your insurance covers OUD treatment, click here or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential.

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