Morphine is a non-synthetic narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain. When used as intended, morphine provides great relief for people suffering from all types of pain, including post-surgery pain, broken bones, and other types of pain that require intense support. However, when it’s not used as intended, morphine can quickly become the source of an addiction that is extremely difficult to overcome.
Before we get into the side effects of morphine abuse, it would be helpful to understand exactly what morphine is.
Morphine is derived from the opium poppy plant. It was discovered in 1803 by Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner, a 21-year-old German who worked as an assistant at a pharmacy at the time. He was interested in digging deeper into the medicinal properties of opium, a substance that was widely used by doctors in the 18th century. He discovered that by isolating an alkaloid compound from the gum secreted by the opium poppy, the alkaloid had 10 times the power of the processed opium used at the time. He tested the drug on himself, and he was inspired by the sense of joy and euphoria that enveloped him, putting him into a dreamlike state.
He named the substance morphine after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. Morphine had a tendency to cause people to sleep. In 1818, a French doctor named François Magendie released a paper that described how morphine had allowed a very sick girl to sleep and find intense relief from pain. By the 1820s, morphine was used across Western Europe.
By the 1850s, morphine use became even more widespread due to the invention of the hypodermic needle. It was used to treat conditions like neuralgia. In spite of the fact that morphine was so popular back then as a treatment for pain relief, doctors were aware that morphine caused addiction as well.
How Morphine Is Used Today
Morphine is used today to primarily treat moderate to severe pain. It comes in several different forms. It can be delivered as a liquid solution, as an extended-release tablet, or as an extended-release capsule. With the extended and sustained release versions of the medication, morphine is released into the body bit by bit over the course of a few hours.
The extended-release version of the medicine only needs to be administered a few times every 24 hours. Immediate-release morphine is administered much more frequently. Morphine dosage ranges from 15 mg per pill to as high as 200 mg of morphine per pill. The largest dosages are reserved for people who have an accumulated tolerance to opioids. If anyone else were to take such a high dosage, it could kill them. The most commonly prescribed pills are the 30 mg versions.
How People Get Addicted to Morphine
Because it’s an opioid, morphine ends up binding to opioid receptors that are responsible for managing the brain’s reward circuitry. It also attaches itself to pathways that are responsible for handling pain sensations.
When someone experiences something that makes them happy, neurotransmitters in the brain release dopamine, setting off a feeling of intense happiness. People then set out to repeat whatever action gave them that sense of pleasure.
When people take morphine, the morphine takes over the body’s reward pathways. It disrupts the body’s natural reward process by activating its own high levels of dopamine that floods the brain, causing intense euphoria. After a while, the only way that a person abusing morphine can achieve joy is through this morphine-managed dopamine reward process. At this point, they’re now dependent on the drug.
People who abuse morphine usually take it by crushing the tablets before snorting it, injecting it, or swallowing it. When people crush the extended-release pills, they’re taking it in a way in which it was not prescribed, so the extended-release mechanism no longer works. The person is getting a massive dose of morphine all at once instead of having it spread out over time, raising the risk of an overdose. When people inject morphine, they do so because it enters the bloodstream much quicker than it does if they snort it or swallow it.
As their body builds up tolerance, they have to take a lot more morphine in order for them to get the same effects they received when they first took morphine. Once their body has reached the point where it needs the morphine to release endorphins, they’re now dependent on it and addicted to morphine.
Signs That Someone May Be Abusing Morphine
If you’re concerned that someone may be abusing morphine, there are some signs that you should look out for.
- Extreme drowsiness is one of the most typical signs of morphine addiction. People who have this symptom usually fall asleep suddenly in public, or they sleep a lot. Sleeping is already a side effect of morphine, so if someone is using it in excess, they’ll sleep even more.
- Many people who take morphine in excess seem to become angry and irritated about minor issues. This type of behavioral change coupled with other signs could be a clear indication that someone is abusing morphine or a similar opioid.
- People who are abusing morphine often seem to pull back from their obligations to family, school, or work. They become hyper-focused on getting the drug, and everything else will cease to matter.
- Another common indicator of morphine abuse is sudden and dramatic weight loss. When someone is addicted to morphine, the small intestines don’t work as well as they should, so they’re unable to digest their food properly. This causes nausea and vomiting.
- Another sign that someone could have morphine addiction is financial difficulties. When someone is struggling with a morphine addiction, they need to get the morphine illicitly. Street prices for morphine far exceed what someone would pay when getting it prescribed. Because of their addiction, they may no longer have money for things like food, rent, and other bills.
All or some of the above signs taken together could show that someone is struggling with a morphine addiction.
Side Effects of Morphine
Another way that you could determine if someone is suffering from morphine abuse is by paying attention to any side effects they may be experiencing. Some of the most common side effects of morphine abuse include sleepiness, dry mouth, a change in mood, pinpoint pupils, painful or difficult urination, stomach cramps or pain, dry mouth, nervousness, and headaches.
Medical attention should be sought if someone experiences any of the above symptoms, but certain symptoms need immediate medical attention. These more serious symptoms include changes in heartbeat, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, seizures, extreme drowsiness, itching, hives, swollen face or throat, difficulty breathing, irregular menstruation, hallucinations, fever, shivering, severe twitching, or stiffening of muscles, loss of coordination and more. Symptoms like these could indicate that the body is going through major distress, and it would require emergency medical attention.
People who have long-term exposure to morphine could also develop certain disorders. Some of those include gastrointestinal system disorders, musculoskeletal system disorders, respiratory system disorders, cardiovascular system disorders, nervous system disorders, and more.
Signs of Withdrawal
When someone is withdrawing from morphine, they could encounter serious medical issues. Once the body has become dependent on morphine, it’s extremely important that the user gets medical help during the withdrawal process so that their body doesn’t go through further trauma.
Signs of withdrawal from morphine include a runny nose, abdominal cramps, chills, headache, vomiting, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart rate, muscle aches, restlessness, brain fog, extremely fast breathing and much more. Because withdrawal symptoms can be significant and are potentially life-threatening, it’s always recommended that withdrawal from morphine be done under medical supervision.
How Granite Recovery Center Can Help
Morphine is a very powerful drug, and the consequences for not getting help if one gets addicted to it are dire. Without treatment, morphine addiction can easily end in death. At the very least, it will permanently change a person’s ability to function and live a normal life.
At the Granite Recovery Center, our goal is to help people struggling with morphine addiction get the help that they need. Once they’ve made the decision to get help, we can help them with the next critical steps.
Intake and Assessment
When we meet with people suffering from morphine addiction, we’ll take an assessment of their physical, mental, and emotional health. Our goal is to create a plan that works with their specific circumstances. We go out of our way to make our clients feel comfortable because we’re so proud of the difficult but important step that they’re taking.
The morphine detox process can be extremely difficult to deal with if it’s not done under medical supervision. As mentioned above, the withdrawal symptoms for morphine withdrawal are severe and potentially life-threatening. This is especially true if the withdrawal is handled without medical supervision.
In addition to trained medical professionals who will monitor the client every step of the way, we use medication-assisted treatment programs called MATs at Granite Recovery Center. The goal of MATs is to provide medication-based support for people who are going through withdrawal. It helps lessen the strain on the body and the mind as the drug is removed from the system. Discomfort and pain from withdrawal are the main reasons that many people avoid drug rehab for morphine addiction. By having medication available to ease withdrawal symptoms, people are much more likely to be able to go through the process.
People who are addicted to morphine and who decide to take methadone maintenance treatments usually start on methadone right away instead of having to go through withdrawal management. If people decide to go through the withdrawal process, medications like buprenorphine and clonidine may be given to help ease the symptoms as they go through detox. Medical staff will be on hand to help ensure that the patients are comfortable as they go through withdrawal, receiving medications to ease any symptoms that make things distressing. We have a strong belief in harm reduction policies and treatments like MATs because they help us work with our clients wherever they are in the recovery process.
Another important part of our morphine recovery program is providing our clients with therapy and mental health support. Many people become addicted to morphine and other opiates because of past traumas, inability to handle life’s stresses, and many other reasons. Through therapy, we help them get to the root causes of many of their issues. By facing those issues head-on instead of hiding from them, we help them start to develop healthier coping mechanisms.
People who have experienced trauma could get trauma therapy, and people who have destroyed relationships with loved ones in their lives can get support and advice about how to rebuild or move on from those relationships. Our aim is that clients will have the tools they need to succeed.
Our care does not simply end at the end of treatment. Our aftercare program is just as important as any other part of the treatment process. For some people, it’s even more important. The risk of relapse is real, and people tend to relapse when they feel that they have no one to turn to during difficult moments.
We let our clients know that we are there for them. As they move forward, we provide them with the information about how to access resources that they need to continue to thrive in their communities once they’re at home. By continuing to work with our clients long after the drug has left their system, we make it less likely for old behaviors to return.
If you need help with morphine addiction recovery, reach out to our team today.