Morphine Addiction: Everything You Need to Know

Morphine is a synthetic opioid prescribed for pain relief. But it’s also a highly addictive (and deadly) drug.

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The media talks a lot about the opioid epidemic. Segments about heroin addiction and fentanyl overdoses are commonplace on the morning news.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough coverage on morphine addiction. Like other forms of opioid abuse, this is a dangerous and potentially fatal disease. Unfortunately, this painkiller is a highly addictive drug.

If you think that you or a loved one is addicted to morphine, read this article. We’ll discuss the risks and side effects of this drug. We’ll also show you how to find help and overcome your habit.

What is Morphine?

Morphine is a prescription painkiller, typically given to patients after surgery. It’s also given to end-of-life patients and to people who suffer from terminal illnesses like cancer.

As an opiate, this drug helps to regulate the patient’s pain by blocking the opioid receptors in their brain. This effect helps to limit the amount of discomfort they feel during recovery.

Here’s a short video about how opioids affect the brain:

The drug has a long and complex history. It was developed in 1804 by doctors who wanted to create a stronger form of opium. Their goal was to make a drug that could be taken in smaller doses than opium while providing the same powerful effects.

Obviously, their efforts were successful. Doctors have administered the drug for more than 200 years. The drug’s effects are very strong.

Since then, however, it’s been proven that opioids like morphine are highly addictive. During the Civil War alone, more than 400,000 soldiers were hooked on the drug. Today, experts estimate that more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids like this one.

This drug is manufactured and marketed by a few different companies. It is found in pharmacies under the following brand names:

  • Avinza
  • Morphabond
  • Oramorph
  • Roxanol
  • Embeda
  • Kadian
  • MS Contin

This drug is often used for recreational purposes. On the street, users and dealers call it a few different names, such as:

  • Auntie Em
  • Blue
  • Dance Fever
  • Dreamer
  • Drone
  • Emma
  • Goodfella
  • Monkey
  • Morph
  • Murder Eight
  • TNT
  • White Stuff

How is Morphine Used (And What Does it Look Like)?

This drug comes in many different forms including:

Dosages range from 15mg to 200mg. Pills come in a range of different colors, sizes, and shapes, depending on the brand.

They’re offered in both immediate-release and extended-release versions. Immediate-release pills take effect immediately, while extended-release capsules take effect over several hours.

For pictures of morphine pills, check out the image gallery on GoodRx.com.

Liquid morphine comes in a small bottle with a tiny dropper, similar to eye drops. Each bottle contains a concentrated amount of the drug.

This version is intended to be taken in doses ranging from 1mg to 100mg. It’s usually given to dying patients and those who can’t move their mouth.

Oral solutions are also popular with opioid addicts, as they take effect very quickly.

Morphine injections (or drips) are usually administered before surgery to numb the patient’s body. They’re also given to patients who suffer from severe pain and need recurring doses.

This form allows the drug to enter directly into the person’s bloodstream. Out of all the forms, it works the fastest. And, it stays in the user’s system for much longer.

It’s rare to find this form of morphine on the street, as hospitals regulate it pretty tightly. However, some addicts make their own liquid morphine by boiling down pills and injecting them with a needle.

Morphine sulfate suppositories are given to patients who can’t swallow pills and don’t require an IV drip. These capsules are slightly larger than pills and feature rounded ends for easier insertion.

They come individually wrapped in sealed plastic. Typically, the wrapper features an inscription with the product name and dosage amount. The suppository itself is unlabeled.

using morphine

How Addictive is Morphine?

Like all opioids, morphine carries a high risk of abuse. That’s why the Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes it as a Schedule II substance.

It’s no surprise that the drug is so addictive. After all, it numbs the user’s pain and puts them in a euphoric state. If someone gets used to this feeling, they can easily become dependent on it.

Opioid addiction is a very complex disease. It affects the brain in profound ways. After taking the drug just a few times, the user can start to experience cravings. If they feed these cravings, they develop a tolerance for the drug and require more to feel the same effect.

No one ever plans to become an addict, but it can happen to anyone. Even if a person starts taking drugs for medical reasons, they can still develop a dangerous habit.

Here’s a great video that explains how people become addicted to morphine and other opioids:

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Why Do People Get Addicted?

Once someone starts to abuse morphine, it slowly changes their brain chemistry. Their body starts to think that they need the drug to survive.

Morphine also produces massive amounts of dopamine in their brain. This is the neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure. Under normal circumstances, the brain only allows small amounts of dopamine in. But opioids generate unnaturally large quantities of it. This is why people can get “high” off these drugs.

Ultimately, drug addiction is no one’s fault. It’s not the addict’s fault. It’s not their doctor’s fault. And it’s certainly not their parents’ fault.

However, it’s the user’s responsibility to get themselves into treatment. And it’s their family’s responsibility to try and help them get there whenever possible.

Anyone can become an addict, but everyone is capable of getting clean.

A drug habit occurs when several factors come into play at the same time. Often, morphine addicts started with a drug prescription. But, anyone who takes the drug can easily slide into a morphine abuse habit.

Here are just a few of the causes and risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of addiction:

Drug addiction is a hereditary disease. Experts show that the children of addicts are 4 times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem themselves.

But, just because addictive tendencies run in their genes doesn’t mean they’re cursed. They simply have to watch their behavior and make sure not to abuse their morphine prescription.

People are far more likely to develop a drug habit if they spend time around people who abuse drugs. Our friends, families, co-workers, and classmates play an integral role in how we think about drug abuse.

If a child grows up around drug addicts and alcoholics, for example, that behavior becomes normal in their mind. It’s not a stretch for them to also take up a drug abuse habit.

This is why many addicts have to cut themselves off from drug-using friends and family to get clean.

There’s a strong connection between addiction and stress. Oftentimes, people turn to drugs to help them relax. That’s why drug abuse is so common among lawyers, executives and other professionals with high-stress jobs.

In order to overcome a stress-driven drug habit, the user has to learn how to deal with stress in a healthier way.

Worried that you or a loved one might be a morphine addict?

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The Side Effects of Morphine Addiction

All opioids carry certain risks and side effects. Morphine is known to cause drowsiness, headaches, constipation, and mental fog, even when taken responsibly. According to a study published in Cell, a medical journal, the drug even causes itchiness in some users.

But these are only the short-term side effects.

If a person abuses it for several months (or years), the drug can have long-lasting effects on their mind and body.

Here are just a few of the long-term side effects of morphine addiction:

Remember, this painkiller is a powerful opioid. All opioids are capable of causing overdoses. When someone overdoses on morphine, their lungs and heart slow down to an unsafe speed. Their body may not be able to pump blood fast enough or take in enough air to keep them awake.

If they take way too much, their lungs and heart may stop completely. This can result in a coma or death.

Even if a user doesn’t overdose on morphine, the drug can still have a severe impact on their heart health. It increases the risk of heart disease and can lead to an irregular heartbeat. 

Opioids slow down the Central Nervous System (CNS), which regulates the body’s circulatory system, respiratory system, and a number of other functions. If the CNS slows down too much, the systems it regulates slow down as well.

If a user constantly takes opiates, they essentially re-train their heart to beat at a slower speed. Drug abuse can have lifelong effects on the organ.

The digestive system is also regulated by the CNS. When someone has opioids in their system, they digest food at a slower rate. This is why morphine causes constipation.

When taken for a long time, painkillers can have a permanent effect on the digestive system. Some former opioid addicts suffer from extreme constipation for years after they get sober.

Long-term opioid users are shown to experience hormonal problems. Testosterone levels drop in both men and women. This affects the body in many ways - including a decrease in their sex drive. It can also affect their hair growth and muscle strength.

Opioids are linked to bone loss, a condition that wears away at the fabric of the bones. This weakens the bones, making them more susceptible to breakage and fractures.

Over time, it can also lead to osteoporosis. This condition greatly increases the risk of fractures and can make it difficult for someone to walk without help.

One of the great ironies of opioids is that they can actually make users feel more pain. At first, this wouldn’t seem to make sense. After all, these drugs are painkillers.

But, a condition known as "opioid hyperalgesia" makes the user’s body more sensitive. When someone suffers from this condition, their bones, muscles, and organs are more receptive to pain.

Typically, this condition only occurs in long-term addicts. A person who struggles with morphine abuse for many years is more at risk than a new user.

And here’s the problem: if someone is in the habit of self-medicating with morphine, it’ll be the first thing they look to when they feel pain. In this way, opioid hyperalgesia can actually prolong their addiction, making it harder for them to quit.

Morphine can have a profound effect on an addict’s mental health. Some former addicts struggle with depression and anxiety for years after they quit using.

Here’s why:

Mental health problems occur due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Anxiety and depression arise when a person’s brain receives too much or too little dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals help to regulate a person’s mood.

But, opioids send a huge rush of dopamine and serotonin to the brain. When a user gets a rush of dopamine in their head, they feel very good for a while. But when they quit, their dopamine levels plummet. This can result in depression, anxiety, and a range of other issues.

These problems are fixable. Many recovered addicts are able to overcome mental health problems by taking medication, exercising, and eating healthy diets.

Can Morphine Kill You?

Yes. Morphine poisoning is a potentially fatal condition. If a user takes too much of any opioid, it can bring their heart and lungs to a screeching halt. This occurs because opioids slow down the Central Nervous System, which regulates most of the body’s functions. As a result, the heart, brain, and other organs also slow down.

Without proper treatment, an overdose shut down the body entirely. This can put a person into a coma or even cause death.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 47,000 Americans overdosed on opioids in 2017 alone.

How to Identify an Opioid Overdose

If you or a family member take opiates, it’s important to be able to identify an overdose. Recognizing when someone has taken too much could mean the difference between life and death.

Here are a few signs that someone overdosed on morphine:

  • Their pupils get very small.
  • Their face muscles droop.
  • Their lips and fingernails turn blue or purple.
  • They speak with slurred speech or are unable to speak at all.
  • They are unable to take deep breaths.
  • They vomit after taking morphine.
  • They go in and out of sleep (“nodding off”).
  • Their body goes limp.

When a person shows one or more of these symptoms after taking opioids, call 911 immediately.

Morphine Drug Interactions to Avoid

As a powerful opioid, morphine is dangerous on its own. However, it’s even more hazardous when used in combination with other substances. Mixing it with other painkillers, for example, greatly increases the risk of overdose.

Here are a few interactions that should be avoided at all cost:

Alcohol should never mix with prescription medications. But, it’s particularly dangerous to mix booze and opioids.

Both are strong depressants. As pointed out above, this means that they both slow down the Central Nervous System. The CNS is responsible for carrying signals between the brain and the rest of the body. When the CNS slows down, these signals don’t reach the body as fast as they should. This is why intoxicated people talk, think, and move slower than normal.

When someone mixes opioids with alcohol, the two drugs enhance each other’s effects. The user’s CNS slows down even more than it would if they were under the influence of one of the substances. Their lungs and heart slow down to a very unsafe level, which can result in an overdose.

These two drugs are very similar. In fact, heroin was developed to mimic morphine's effects. At the time, its creators thought that they’d made a less addictive alternative.

Obviously, heroin is not less addictive than its predecessor. But, it does carry similar effects. Both drugs are fast-acting opioids that depress the CNS and slow down all bodily functions. When used in conjunction, they can easily cause an overdose.

It’s important to remember that street drugs are unregulated. There’s no way to know how pure or powerful they are. When someone buys morphine or heroin from a street dealer, they don’t actually know what they’re getting. So, it’s hard for users to know how much they’ve taken. This increases the likelihood that the user will take more than their system can handle (and overdose).

Fentanyl is perhaps the most powerful painkiller ever to hit the market. According to the DEA, this drug is 80-100x stronger than morphine and heroin.

Experts estimate that nearly half of all opioid-related overdoses in the last decade involved fentanyl.

Like heroin and alcohol, this drug is a depressant. It has extraordinarily strong pain-killing capabilities, which is why it’s mainly prescribed to patients with terminal illnesses.

Because it’s so powerful, fentanyl should never mix with morphine. In combination, the two drugs can cause a rapid overdose.

Cocaine is a stimulant, not a depressant. In other words, this drug speeds up the Central Nervous System instead of slowing it down.

So, mixing opioids and cocaine (“speedballing”) essentially pulls the CNS in two separate directions. Whereas morphine relaxes the heart and lungs, cocaine makes them work faster. If the user takes too high of a dose, this push-and-pull can overexert the organs. Eventually the user may find themselves unable to breath.

Some people mistakenly believe that the two drugs cancel each other out, but that’s not the case. Instead, using them both is far more dangerous than using either by itself. The comedians Chris Farley, Mitch Hedberg, and John Belushi each died from taking speedballs.

Crystal meth is another drug with stimulant properties. Mixing it with morphine produces similar effects to cocaine. This cocktail can strain the heart, lungs, and brain, by forcing them to do too many things at once. If someone overdoses on this mixture, they’re likely to have trouble breathing, and they may enter into a severe state of confusion.

Also, it’s important to note that the prescription drug Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine. Therefore, users should not mix Adderall and morphine. This is another form of speedball that can have similarly dangerous effects.

The Morphine to Heroin Pipeline: A Dangerous Path

Many heroin addicts start out by taking prescription drugs. Oftentimes, they received their prescription from a doctor and used it responsibly for a while. But, even a responsible user can slip into a drug abuse habit if they’re not careful.

Sometimes, it starts by taking more than the recommended dose. Other times, they use it longer than they’re supposed to. Or, they may mix it with or drugs like alcohol.

Whatever the case, morphine abuse can lead to a tolerance for the drug. People who misuse their prescription are likely to become dependent on it. Once they’ve developed a substance dependency, they need their drug of choice in their system to function properly.

Now, here’s the problem:

Morphine is expensive. Other prescription opioids are also pricey. So, there usually comes a time when the addict can no longer afford to buy it. In those cases, addicts often turn to the street to get their fix.

Heroin is less expensive than prescription opioids. And it’s easier to obtain on the black market. So, many morphine addicts eventually resort to using heroin to get high.

Data published on DrugAbuse.gov shows us that 75% of living heroin addicts started with prescription drugs.

Related: New Drug That is 10,000x More Potent Than Morphine is Showing Up in Washington State

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Legal Risks

Morphine addiction comes with many physical side effects. It can also have a big impact on a user’s mental health. But, this is also a Schedule II substance, which means that it can lead to trouble with the law.

Are you taking morphine recreationally? Here are some of the legal risks you could face:

Offenders with one prior conviction (or no prior convictions) face up to 2 years in prison, with a minimum punishment of 15 days.

Offenders with two or more prior convictions face up to 3 years, with a minimum punishment of 90 days.

Most possession charges are also accompanied by a fine. The exact amount varies from state to state.

If someone is caught selling or planning to sell illegal substances, they’re charged with drug trafficking. This is a serious crime.

The mandatory sentencing guidelines are as follows:

First-time offenders face up to 40 years in prison, with a minimum punishment of 5 years. The exact charge depends on the amount of morphine they’re caught with.

Repeat offenders may be sentenced to life in prison, depending on how much they have in their possession upon arrest.

If a trafficker’s behavior results in someone else’s death or injury, the dealer can get a life sentence.

It’s important to note that “trafficker” is a very loose term, too. The individual doesn’t have to run a large drug operation to be charged with drug trafficking. The authorities just need to prove that the individual had the intention to sell, trade, or give someone else drugs. So, even someone who is sharing morphine with their friends can face serious legal consequences.

Are You Addicted to Morphine? Here are the Signs

Worried that your prescription drug habit is getting out of hand? Concerned that your child might be a drug addict?

Here are the signs to look out for:

Prescription drugs are meant to be taken in specific quantities. That’s why the orange bottle has a label on the side of it that says, “10 mg Twice Daily,” or “50 mg Once Daily”. Taking too much morphine is dangerous.

But, addicts require more than the recommended dosage. If they simply take the amount their doctor told them to take, they won’t feel the same effect.

If you (or a family member) are increasing your dose and taking more over time, it’s a problem.

There’s no reason to smoke or snort morphine. There’s no reason to inject it unless a doctor has recommended that. These behaviors are dangerous.

A lot of recreational users crush up painkillers to snort them. Some people also boil their drugs down into a liquid to smoke them. Eventually, some addicts resort to injecting their drugs. This method puts the substance directly in their bloodstream.

Using alternative means to consume the drug is a surefire sign of addiction.

Certain drugs should never mix. Morphine and alcohol, for example, can have severely negative effects on the body. They’re both depressants, so mixing them slows the Central Nervous System down to an unsafe level. This cocktail can lead to an overdose.

Mixing this drug with fentanyl or heroin is dangerous too, for the very same reason.

But, many recreational users mix multiple drugs to feel heightened effects. No responsible user should ever do so. Certain interactions can be deadly. If someone consistently mixes drugs, it’s a sign of a substance use disorder.

Opioid addiction comes with a lot of shame. This is probably because there’s a stigma that surrounds addiction. Even if someone enjoys the feeling of being high on morphine, they’re probably embarrassed about it.

If you lie about your drug use, ask yourself why. Is it because you know that you have a problem? If so, it could be a sign you need drug rehab.

And if you know that a family member uses morphine but they refuse to admit it, ask them about it. If they lie, they could have a real issue.

Addicts often put themselves in harm’s way to get high. They may drive under the influence, for example. Or, they might put themselves into unsafe situations to obtain it.

When someone is addicted to morphine or another opioid, the high is the only thing that matters to them. They aren’t concerned about their safety. So if you or a loved one are constantly risking your safety to get the drug, it’s time to get help.

Drug addicts tend to have unstable behavior. They might be very happy while they’re under the influence, and very irritable when they come down.

If you take morphine, pay close attention to your behavior. Do you get depressed or anxious when you run out of drugs? If so, your habit may be cause for concern.

Oftentimes, opioid addicts withdraw from their social lives. They might spend all of their time alone, or only hang out with other people who take drugs. Sometimes, they do this out of shame. Other times, they simply enjoy drugs more than they enjoy being around people.

Of course, this is not always the case. Many people abuse drugs to cope with social anxiety and prefer getting high around others. But, withdrawing from social life can be a sign that someone has a substance abuse habit.

Drugs have a way of taking over the addict’s entire life. No other activities can supply the brain with the same rush of dopamine that opioids provide. When someone is fully addicted to morphine, it becomes the most important thing to them.

Unfortunately, maintaining their habit usually means neglecting the other aspects of their life. They focus less on school and work. They tend to privilege the drug over their own family, too.

Oftentimes, this means that their performance as a student, employee, and family member usually suffers.

For more information, check out this article:

7 Signs Someone Close to You is Abusing Pills

Morphine Addiction Recovery: How to Find Help

Addiction is a curable disease. Overcoming a drug habit takes a lot of work, but it’s possible for addicts to get clean. If you or someone you care about is addicted to opioids, it’s important not to lose hope.

There are many treatment options out there. Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous help addicts in their battle against addiction. Al-Anon helps their families cope with the pain of loving an addict. There are also therapists who specialize in treating patients with substance abuse disorders.

But, the best way to get help for opioid addiction is to attend detox and rehab. These resources guide the addict through the recovery process and help them get their lives back on track.

Ready to start your recovery journey?

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Detoxing from Morphine: The First Step Toward Getting Sober

Detox is the process of flushing all drugs out of the body. If you want to get sober, you have to cleanse your system first.

This process happens naturally when an addict stops using drugs. Shortly after they take their last dose, their body starts to expel the drug through their urine and sweat.

It’s not always comfortable. One of the side effects of detox is drug withdrawal. Morphine withdrawal symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and insomnia.

Opiate withdrawals are notoriously unpleasant. However, addicts can avoid some of these symptoms by checking into a medical detox program. In an addiction treatment facility, addicts go through withdrawal under the supervision of doctors. The doctors ease their withdrawal symptoms and monitor their progress to ensure that the patient is as safe and comfortable as possible.

Find out how our Drug & Alcohol Detox Program can help you get clean!

It’s very difficult to quit opioids cold turkey. While some people do it, most have a very tough time.

It’s important to understand that withdrawals can be very nasty. Oftentimes, they’re quite painful. In a morphine detox program, addicts have access to doctors who help them through the process. The doctor may taper the addict off morphine slowly, to minimize their pain.

At home, on the other hand, addicts are on their own. It’s up to them to make it through the process without relapsing. This is hard for a lot of people. Oftentimes, addicts who try to quit cold turkey end up relapsing as soon as their withdrawal symptoms kick in.

Morphine Rehab: Getting Back to a Healthy Lifestyle

After detox, most addicts attend a drug rehab program. These programs help people transition into a sober lifestyle.

In rehab, addicts spend time learning about themselves. They go through therapy, counseling, and group support sessions with other recovering addicts. These resources teach them about how addiction works, why they have addictive tendencies, and how they can avoid relapsing in the future.

Every rehab program is different. Northpoint Recovery offers a highly-personalized program. Every patient is treated as an individual. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to substance abuse. Our staff develops a customized recovery plan for each person that addresses all of their needs.

For example, some morphine addicts require treatment for a co-occurring disorder. Others have to overcome trauma in order to get clean. We understand that everyone is different, which is why we work so hard to provide one-on-one care.

Ready to turn your life around? Click here to learn about the Drug Rehab Program at Northpoint Recovery.

Start Your Sobriety Journey at Northpoint Recovery

No one should have to battle morphine addiction alone. We want to hold your hand as you take the first step toward a better life.

Call us today for more information. Whether you’re calling on behalf of yourself, a child, or another family member, we are happy to help you.

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