Morphine Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Detox, and Help 

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Morphine Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Detox, and Help 

Morphine Addiction

Morphine is a powerful, opiate-based pain medication available in a variety of forms including liquid, IV, and pills. It is commonly used by healthcare professionals to treat both short-term and long-term moderate to severe pain. Morphine is rarely used as a first 'go-to' drug, as it has the potential to be addictive.

The powerful nature of morphine combined with its ability to provide a euphoric high makes it easy to abuse. Even if you were prescribed morphine by a doctor/healthcare provider, there is still a good chance that an addiction will form.

The Global Information Network About Drugs estimates that approximately 10% of the population in the United States has abused or misused some type of opiate or opiate-based drug/medication at least once. This statistic includes morphine use, but also includes the use of other opiates or opiate-based drugs.

If you or a loved one may be suffering from a morphine addiction it is important to learn more about it. A better understanding of the addiction can help you get yourself or your loved one the help they need to find sobriety.

Signs of Morphine Addiction

When an individual first becomes addicted to morphine, it can be easy to hide the signs and symptoms of the addiction. Over time, these signs will become noticeable. The signs of morphine addiction can be broken up into three categories: physical, psychological, and behavioral.

Physical Signs of Morphine Addiction

Physical signs and symptoms of morphine addiction are anything that happens to the physical body. These signs and symptoms can happen internally, as is the case with constipation or fainting spells, or externally, such as rashes or changes in skin color.

The most common physical signs of morphine addiction include:

  • Small patches of rashes
  • Skin color changes, such as the appearance of a bluish tint
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Drowsiness that does not go away
  • Muscle twitches
  • Dramatic, unexplained decrease in appetite

One of the most common physical signs of morphine abuse or misuse is difficulty breathing. People who have taken too much morphine will have extremely shallow breath and/or difficulty breathing. The breathing may be so shallow that the person's chest looks as if it is barely moving.

Psychological/Emotional Signs of Morphine Addiction

The psychological or emotional signs of a morphine addiction can often be difficult to notice because they mimic several other conditions or mental illnesses. For example, an individual may be depressed before they become addicted to morphine. This can make it difficult to determine if the depression is a result of morphine use/abuse or of a pre-existing condition.

Some of the most common psychological/emotional signs of morphine addiction include:

  • Increased paranoia
  • Depression
  • Sudden mood changes, such as feeling happy one moment and sad, the next
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of emotional instability

Behavioral Signs of a Morphine Addiction

Over time, people who are addicted to morphine will start to exhibit sudden and unexplainable behavioral changes. The following are some common behavioral changes that have been linked to morphine abuse or misuse:

  • Secretive behavior, hiding things, or long, unexplained absences
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Avoiding social situations, especially if friends or family members will be at the same event
  • Sudden decrease in interest in favorite activities
  • Major disturbances between close family members, significant others, or friends

In addition to these behavioral changes, several empty pill bottles or empty syringes may become noticeable within a user’s home.

Morphine Addiction Side Effects

The occasional use of morphine typically does not have any adverse side effects. Prolonged use of morphine, whether you are following doctor's orders or misusing the medication, can have adverse side effects on both an individual's physical and mental well-being.

The most common long-term side effect of morphine misuse or abuse is constipation and other digestive issues. The body's ability to eliminate waste will gradually slow down. This is the body's natural reaction to the opiate in morphine. Some people even experience frequent constipation or difficulty urinating.  

Other side effects associated with morphine addiction include:

  • Circulatory collapse
  • Complete loss of muscle tone
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Extreme confusion
  • Coma

A morphine overdose can be fatal. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that approximately 10,000 individuals died in 2009 as a result of an overdose of opiate-based medications/drugs. For statistical purposes, the FDA combined all opiate-based medications into one group. Morphine was included as a part of the group, but is not responsible for all reported deaths.

Some side effects, such as loss of muscle tone or confusion, may end when an individual stops using morphine. Other side effects, such as cardiac arrest or circulatory collapse, may have long-term effects that will impact overall health for the rest of your life.

Side Effects of Morphine Use While Pregnant

Women who use morphine while pregnant run the risk of passing that addiction to their unborn child. The unborn child can become so dependent upon the morphine that when they are born they experience intense withdrawal symptoms. In fact, a recent article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 60 to 80 percent of all children born to mothers who use morphine will have to undergo medical treatment for morphine withdrawal.

Morphine Addiction Withdrawal

When morphine is consumed for long periods of time, the body will start to develop a dependency on it. This dependency is dangerous because the body tricks itself into believing that it needs morphine in order to properly function. Unfortunately, this type of dependency makes it difficult to stop using morphine.

Morphine withdrawal symptoms occur when an individual stops using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can occur in anyone who has used morphine, even if only for a few days. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms happen for several weeks as the body learns to readjust to life without morphine.

Some of the most common morphine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Difficulty maintaining proper body temperature, fever, and chills
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Restless legs or a feeling of restlessness
  • Intense muscle aches
  • Mood instability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Intense stomach pain
  • Nausea with vomiting

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person. Some individuals may only feel as if they have a brief case of the flu, while others will have withdrawal symptoms that are so severe medical help is needed.

Due to the unpredictable nature of withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended that a person only stop using morphine under the direct supervision of a doctor. The doctor can monitor withdrawal symptoms and make sure there are no problems.

Morphine Addiction Detox Process

Detoxing after using morphine for prolonged periods of time is a process. The detox process can take anywhere from several days to three weeks, depending upon how long you have used morphine.

When detoxing from morphine use or abuse, it is best to seek the help of a doctor. A licensed medical professional has the training and experience to help you successfully detox with as few symptoms and complications as possible. Proper detox from morphine will typically occur in a licensed rehabilitation center or hospital.

Many individuals may rely on a drug known as methadone to help detox from morphine use. Methadone is known to help dramatically reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with not using an opiate drug, like morphine. Methadone is often administered in place of morphine. Over time the amount of methadone is reduced until an individual has successfully rid the body of morphine.

Sometimes methadone cannot be used during the detox process because of a previous addition to this drug or because of an allergy. If that should occur, doctors and healthcare providers may be able to use other drugs, such as buprenorphine. These drugs can also help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Morphine Addiction Rehab

Detoxing is just the first step in the recovery process. After undergoing the detox process, it is essential to enter a rehabilitation program in order to fully recover from a morphine addiction.

Rehabilitation that focuses on overcoming a morphine addiction is available as either an inpatient or outpatient program. Both inpatient and outpatient programs focus on providing additional support that will help an individual overcome their addiction.

The support services provided by rehabilitation programs include individual counseling, support groups, and behavioral therapy. The goal of these support services is to teach the individual valuable skills that will help them lead a happy, drug-free life.

Even after completing an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, some individuals may need to attend continual counseling with a licensed therapist. These counseling sessions provide individuals with the support and guidance they need to maintain a sober lifestyle.

Sometimes people may find it difficult to lead a normal life after suffering from a morphine addiction. Many rehabilitation programs offer a transitional program or sober living program. These programs provide structured environments that help people reintegrate themselves back into society.

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