Morphine is one of the oldest opioids used to treat pain symptoms, and it’s still used to treat pain from surgeries, injuries, and chronic diseases. After two centuries of use, morphine is still one of the most common medicinal opioids, but we’ve become more aware of the risks of using opioids as both a medicine and a recreational drug.
Opioids like morphine are powerfully addictive and can have long-lasting consequences on people who become dependent. Though morphine isn’t as strong as some other opioids, especially synthetic ones like fentanyl, it can still lead to addiction. In many cases, dependence on prescription opioids can lead to the use of easier to obtain and afford illegal drugs like heroin.
Learn more about morphine addiction and how it can be treated.
Morphine is a psychoactive substance in the opioid class of medicinal drugs. More specifically, it’s an opiate, which means it is a naturally occurring opioid that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It also can be found in plants and animals. Opioids occur in nature and even in the human body for several different reasons including as a defense mechanism, an ingredient in venom cocktails, and as an analgesic. In humans, opioids come in the form of endorphins, which is a combination of the words endogenous and morphine, alluding to the fact that we have naturally occurring opioids in our body.
The primary function of endorphins is to manage pain and inhibit pain signals to allow you to rest and recuperate after minor injuries and physical strain. It also can cause a feeling of euphoria. You can feel endorphins most clearly after rigorous exercise, which is a phenomenon commonly referred to as a runner’s high.
Endorphins are limited in their pain-relieving potential because your body is designed to alert you to serious injury or diseases that damage tissue. Medicinal opioids like morphine can help relieve even serious pain symptoms, and they’ve been used for that purpose for years. Morphine, first discovered in 1804, has been used and marketed as a painkiller throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
It was used heavily by soldiers in the Civil War and the world wars, and it’s used today to treat pain from surgeries, injuries, and chronic diseases. Its use in the Civil War was when the American public became acutely aware of its addictive tendencies.
Morphine, like other opioids, has a high dependence liability and it can result in addiction if it’s used for too long or too frequently. Today, morphine is one of many opioids that are used medicinally. The increase in opioid prescription has contributed to the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States. Addiction to prescriptions can lead to the use of heroin, which is cheaper and easier to get. Opioid abuse can lead to overdose, which can cause fatal respiratory depression.
If a person in your life becomes addicted to an opioid like morphine, it can take over their life and be difficult to hide. Before long, physical and behavioral signs and symptoms may start to appear. If you have been using opioids and you are worried about dependence and addiction, there are some early warning signs that you will be able to notice. An opioid use disorder often starts with a growing tolerance. You may feel like a normal dose is less effective than it used to be, or that you have to take heavier doses to achieve the same effects. If you increase your dose to compensate for a growing tolerance, you increase your risk of becoming dependent.
Dependence comes with a growing feeling that you need the drug to maintain a sense of normalcy. It’s no longer used medicinally or even as recreation, but to feel normal and avoid uncomfortable symptoms. If you stop using after becoming dependent, you might start to feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that mimic the flu, including symptoms of nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, and body aches.
If you are worried about a friend or family member that has been using morphine, there are some other signs and symptoms that you may notice, such as:
Ultimately, addiction is characterized by the continued use of a drug despite clear consequences that resulted from drug use. For instance, if a heroin habit causes legal trouble, but you continue to use, you may be addicted.
As an opioid, morphine can be powerfully addictive, requiring help in the form of addiction treatment. Addiction treatment is a process that addresses physical, psychological, and social issues that are both related and unrelated to a substance use disorder. Treatment typically starts with medical detox to help you as you go through withdrawal. Morphine withdrawal isn’t known to be life-threatening, but some of the symptoms like vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous.
Medical detox is a process of supervision and medication management from medical professionals. You will have access to 24 hours of medical services every day for about a week. Through this process, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will be managed, and any dangerous medical complications will be avoided. Medical detox is also a good level of care for people who have co-occurring health issues that need to be addressed. After detox, clinicians will help you by connecting you with a level of care that’s appropriate for your specific needs.
There is no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment program. When you first enter a treatment program, you should go through an intake and assessment process that is designed to identify your specific needs. Then, you should have an opportunity to sit down with your therapist and formulate a treatment plan that is tailored to those needs.
Depending on your needs you will move from detox to an appropriate level of care, which can include inpatient services, intensive outpatient services, and outpatient services. As you progress in treatment, you will move to less intensive levels of care. Through the process, you will go through a variety of therapies, which may include individual, group, and family therapy. Behavioral therapies are often used to motivate clients and identify triggers and underlying issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common options, especially when it comes to forming relapse prevention strategies.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder that involves morphine or another opioid, there is help that can lead you to lasting addiction recovery. To learn more about your treatment options, speak to an Ocean Breeze Recovery specialist. Call 855-960-5341 to hear more about morphine dependence and how it can be treated. Addiction is a complex disease, and it’s difficult to get over on your own, but with help, you may be able to get out from under the oppression of active addiction.
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
ASAM. (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre. (n.d.). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. Retrieved from https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/yes-people-can-die-opiate-withdrawal
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis