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Article Summary

A Guide To Morphine Addiction

Morphine is closely related to ocyContin, Percocet, Dilaudid, Methadone and other opiate painkillers also used in treating moderate to severe pain. Morphine can be highly addictive. Whether you use it according to your doctor's recommendations or abuse it, this drug can quickly lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Since it is an opiate, your body will quickly become used to the presence of this drug. The NPF (National Pain Foundation) found that the average person will become used to these types of substances within the first fortnight of use. At this point, your cravings can cause you to continue using morphine.

Read on to learn more about this substance:

Understanding Morphine

As a classic opiate painkiller, morphine is the standard against which most of the other opiates are typically measured. While these other opiates are the drug of choice for many addicts, morphine (in liquid or pill form) is also sought after to satisfy cravings.

This powerful narcotic opioid substance is derived from the opium (poppy) plant. According to GINAD (the Global Information Network about Drugs), morphine is one of the most potent opiates in existence.

However, since it is effective as a painkiller, it is widely manufactured and sold in injectable, suppository, capsule, tablet, and liquid forms. Still, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has classified it as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. This means that it has one of the highest regulations for a medically used drug - an indication of its extreme diversion, abuse, and addictive potential.

That said, the drug is also sold under a variety of brand names, including but not limited to:

  • Avinza
  • Kadian
  • MS Contin
  • Oramorph

Morphine is also referred to by the following street names:

  • Auntie Em
  • Blue
  • Dreamer
  • Emma
  • Emsel
  • First Line
  • God's Drug
  • Goodfella
  • Mister Blue
  • Monkey
  • Morf
  • Morpho
  • Murder 8
  • S.
  • Tango and Cash
  • TNT
  • Unkie
  • White Stuff

In some cases, addicts might use morphine in place of heroin. According to NSDUH (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), over 4 million people in the US abused prescription painkillers in 2014. In the same year, more than 2 million people met the medical diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorders involving medications like morphine.

Morphine Uses

Since it is a narcotic painkiller, morphine is typically used in the management of moderate to severe pain. The drug will alter your body's perception of pain. It does this by binding itself to the brain's opiate receptors.

However, the medication also works in the central nervous system and the brain by causing feelings of intense euphoria along with mood changes, lightheadedness, and even dizziness.

In the process, it alters how your body perceives pain. This is why doctors will often prescribe morphine as a last resort against the pain that they view to be unmanageable or extreme.

The drug is administered in the form of pills or as an injection. Since morphine is so addictive, you need to be careful about using it. Repeated use, to this end, might cause you to become physically and psychologically dependent on it.

Morphine Effects

In the short term, morphine has the effect of reducing pain in the body whether such pain is caused by broken bones or arthritis. You should only use it according to your doctor's prescription because abusing this drug might lead to adverse effects.

Prolonged use and abuse, for instance, causes various negative effects apart from addiction. For instance, morphine might damage your veins at the point of administration. Alternatively, it will cause such mood disorders as depression.

Other long term effects of using and abusing morphine might include:

1. Health Effects
  • Alternating periods of unconsciousness and alertness
  • Blue tinge to the skin
  • Circulation problems
  • Circulatory inflammation
  • Collapsed veins
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Increased risk of such blood-borne diseases as HIV and hepatitis B among intravenous users
  • Inhibited cough reflex that might cause choking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures
  • Sleep apnea
  • Weakened immune system
2. Social and Mental Effects
  • Changing acquaintances and friends
  • Harming yourself or faking injuries to get a doctor to prescribe morphine
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Needle marks
  • Poor hygiene
  • Spending excess time and money to procure the drug
  • Stealing to support the habit
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

If you start experiencing any of the effects above due to your morphine use, seek medical attention immediately.

Morphine Side Effects

The short term effects of using morphine vary based on the way the drug is administered and how much you take. However, most side effects are likely to occur within 15 to 60 minutes and might last for 4 to 6 hours.

That said, abusing morphine causes the following side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Cyanosis (blue tint to fingernails and lips)
  • Death and coma in case you overdose on the substance
  • Difficulty breathing (or complete inability to breathe)
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Itchy skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Poor circulation
  • Vomiting
  • Weak pulse
  • Weakness

Morphine Addictive Qualities

Morphine is one of the most addictive of substances. Its potential for addiction is based on its chemical composition and properties, which make it a heavily regulated Schedule II controlled substance.

In fact, this drug has a similar potential for abuse as other opioid and opiate substances, including oxycodone, methadone, and opium. Since it causes strong effects on the brain and the central nervous system, you might end up abusing it frequently in a bid to get high. This is one of the reasons why most addicts get it either through a doctor's prescription or in the black market.

More specifically, using this drug can create intense euphoric feelings and reduced tension. When you use in the long term, your body will develop tolerance to the substance and may compel you to continue abusing it.

Similarly, you may develop reinforcing brain patterns, which can cause you to start obsessing over the drug and the effects it creates. In turn, this may compel you to seek it out almost compulsively.

Like any other prescription opiate, morphine eventually leads to abuse, tolerance, and dependence. This is even if you started taking the drug for legitimate medical reasons and according to a doctor's prescription.

However, when you misuse morphine by taking it in excess doses, or if you combine it with alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs, you could suffer serious health consequences. Such abuse could also prove to be fatal and deadly.

Physical dependence will occur when you get to a point where your body cannot function normally if you haven't taken morphine. In this case, your body will start changing its definition of pain.

Psychological dependency, on the other hand, will cause you to start thinking that you need a dose of the drug to function properly, even when your body does not need any extra morphine. Such dependency might cause panic symptoms if you do not get a dose. At this point, you will be addicted to the drug.

Morphine Overdose

Ignoring any of the severe signs and symptoms of a morphine overdose could threaten your life or that of the person overdosing on the drug. These symptoms include:

  • Absence of muscle tone
  • Appearing conscious but being unable to speak
  • Blue/purple hue on the lips and fingertips
  • Blurry vision
  • Clammy or cold feel to the skin
  • Coma
  • Complaining of extreme itching
  • Constricted or pinpoint pupils
  • Having a pale complexion
  • Incessant scratching
  • Limp muscles
  • Limpness
  • Looking gray (people with darker complexions) or blue (those with paler or fairer complexions)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Markedly slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory issues leading to incessant gurgling or choking
  • Sedation, or extreme lethargy resembling the comatose or unconscious state
  • Severe constipation
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Severely irregular or slowed breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slurred speech
  • Small/constricted pupils
  • Vomiting

In case of an overdose, you should seek medical assistance immediately. In these situations, you should:

  • Not give the person anything that would make them vomit
  • Perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in case the patient stops breathing

Morphine Withdrawal

Withdrawing from opioids like morphine is somewhat similar to having the bad flu. These symptoms might be quite severe, often it may be advised that you do not stop taking the drug suddenly or without medical aid. They include:

  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Tearing eyes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting

Morphine Dangers

When administered intravenously, morphine can inadvertently cause a variety of life-long diseases, such as HIV/AIDs and hepatitis. However, the greatest danger arising from using and abusing this medication comes in the form of an overdose. Since it is a potent depressant, this drug works on the central nervous system and might slow your breathing to the point where you are comatose, or you die.

In fact, the rise of morphine abuse, addiction, and overdose in the US is at such a point that recent CDCP (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports show that the rate of overdoses has gone up by close to 200% since 2000.

In 2014, the same study found that the rate of overdose death arising from semi-synthetic and natural opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine was 3.8 for every 100,000.

On the other hand, expectant women who use this drug might give birth to a baby who is addicted to it. These babies are likely to display the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Being inconsolable
  • Constant irritability
  • Experience difficulties gaining weight and growing due to vomiting and diarrhea
  • Have an unusually high pitched cry
  • Highly active
  • Poor sleep
  • Running fevers
  • Shake with tremors
  • Trouble breathing especially right after birth

Signs And Symptoms Of Morphine Abuse

If you use or abuse morphine, you are highly likely to indicate the following signs and symptoms:

1. Physical Symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Constipation
  • Decrease in metabolism
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drastic body weight changes
  • Forced or heavy breathing
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Kidney failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Physical weakness
  • Rashes on certain body parts
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Restlessness
  • Sinking into deep states of false happiness and bliss
  • Stomach cramps
  • Unexplained euphoria
  • Vomiting
2. Behavioral Symptoms
  • Change of interest
  • Combining the morphine prescription with alcohol
  • Constant complaints of illness or tiredness
  • Constantly talking about quitting but never following through
  • Covertly using the drug while hiding
  • Crushing the pills and injecting or snorting the resulting powder
  • Doctor shopping
  • Dramatic changes in priorities
  • Euphoria
  • General lack of will power
  • General lethargy
  • Hiding the drug in many places around the home
  • Increased aggression that is often inexplicable
  • Irregular and acute depression
  • Job loss
  • Less importance to neatness and grooming
  • Loneliness
  • Lying about the number of pills taken
  • Lying or stealing to obtain more of the drug
  • Marked irritation over small changes in the environment
  • Perceptive isolation
  • Personality changes
  • Poor mental performance
  • Purchasing more of the drug than was prescribed
  • Running out of the morphine prescription long before a refill is due
  • Sudden change in friendships
  • Sudden introversion or shyness
3. Psychological Symptoms
  • Continued abuse of the drug irrespective of the negative effects it causes
  • Euphoria
  • Going into depression when the drug is discontinued
  • Impaired mental performance
  • Inability to control drug use
  • Inability to pay close attention to your surroundings
  • Neglecting other aspects of your life
  • Poor judgment
  • Preoccupation with morphine

Treatment For Morphine Addiction

It is highly advisable that you seek treatment in case you observe any of the above signs and symptoms of morphine addiction. For the first phase of your treatment, you may want to check into an inpatient rehabilitation facility for detoxification to get rid of your withdrawal symptoms.

During treatment, you are highly likely to be placed under constant medical supervision to increase your chances of success. At an inpatient facility, you will receive round the clock supervision.

However, you might also opt for an outpatient program, although the chance of a relapse might be higher with such options. Still, this might prove to be the right solution especially if you need the help of your family and loved ones as you battle morphine addiction.

Overall, you do not have to suffer through your dependency. Get treatment as early as possible to ensure you continue with your normal life as it used to be before you started using and abusing morphine.

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