Morphine is a highly addictive opioid painkiller that is commonly used in a hospital setting for acute pain. The drug is similar to other opioids in that it is derived from opium, which is extracted from the poppy plant. The morphine high can be euphoric as it attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and causes intense feelings of pleasure.
By acting on our central nervous system (CNS), morphine works to decrease the sensation of pain. The drug has a rich history coming into existence in the early 1800s because of Friedrich Serturner. Merck later marketed the drug in 1827, and today it is used in the synthesization of varying opioids such as oxymorphone (Opana), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and heroin.
The increase in dopamine in our body will demonstrate how quickly you can become dependent on morphine. Much like other opioids, the presence of morphine alters the chemistry of the brain and causes physical and psychological dependence. Because morphine is highly addictive, tolerance and dependence can develop quickly, which ultimately leads users to experience morphine withdrawals when the presence of the drug exits the body.
While morphine addiction is a less popular option when it comes to the current state of the opioid epidemic, morphine use is a significant factor in people succumbing to opioid addiction. Morphine is one of the purest and potent opioids available, but unfortunately, it is extremely dangerous while actively using. Morphine withdrawal can be extreme and unpleasant.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms will vary across individuals based on several factors. One person using morphine for 50 years will have much worse withdrawal than someone who just started using for example. Other factors include:
Someone using smaller amounts of morphine is going to experience less severe withdrawal symptoms than someone consuming significant amounts. It’s important to note, however, that the symptoms will be the same. Morphine is a potent substance that the withdrawal process is often the reason drug users avoid getting sober despite their hatred of using drugs.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms that users can experience once they’ve built a tolerance and dependence will consist of:
While morphine withdrawal is not necessarily dangerous when compared to benzodiazepines or alcohol, morphine withdrawal can still present its own set of complications. When the body becomes dependent on multiple substances, coming off of them can lead to seizures or other adverse effects.
Another proponent of morphine withdrawal that must be considered is its ability to aggravate pre-existing medical conditions. The withdrawal process itself presents uncomfortable symptoms, but if you struggle with certain medical conditions, the stress of the withdrawals can cause dangerous complications.
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The severity of morphine withdrawal symptoms will gradually increase after the last dose has been consumed. While the chance of life-threatening withdrawals is slim, the withdrawal process can make you feel incredibly ill.
At times, withdrawal can be so severe that you may not be able to get out of bed, eat, or sleep for several weeks depending on how much you were using. Unfortunately, this is a part of morphine addiction, which can be treated by professionals to ease the symptoms and help transition you from addiction to recovery.
Morphine is notorious for being a fast-acting opioid, and the symptoms of withdrawal will set in soon after the last dose. While withdrawal symptoms differ from one person to another, you will begin to feel acute symptoms between the first three to 12 hours after the previous dose. Initial morphine withdrawal symptoms consist of:
The symptoms may seem mild and be overlooked at first, but as the withdrawal process moves forward, it becomes clear that you are in the grips of morphine withdrawal as opposed to cold or flu symptoms.
Over the course of the withdrawal process and the days following the final dose of morphine, the symptoms will intensify as more symptoms will appear. The withdrawal symptoms will peak around 48 to 72 hours after the last dose. The physical effects of morphine withdrawal during the peak include:
After around seven to 10 days, the physical symptoms should begin to subside. Some symptoms that may linger include insomnia, depression and mood swings as the body acclimates to its new state of sobriety.
Emotional and mental morphine withdrawal symptoms will appear, and they can be worse than the physical withdrawal symptoms and last much longer. Psychological aspects of morphine withdrawal and lingering physical effects are referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
PAWS can persist anywhere from one to six months after cessation of morphine or other substances used in conjunction with morphine. Generally, PAWS is almost unavoidable if you have professional support and guidance throughout the withdrawal process, and move on to additional treatment.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms are often overwhelming and challenging to overcome on your own, and the detox process can be painful and unsuccessful due to the vulnerability and instability you will experience during these times. Medical detoxification facilities, such as Arete Recovery offer comfort while ensuring your safety throughout the process.
Addiction to opioids of all sorts has a sturdy grip on the user, and they become weak and afraid of living life without the boost of the drugs. Detoxing in a medical facility that surrounds you with professionals can help you overcome the hardship of addiction while also making the withdrawal symptoms more comfortable to deal with. It’s common for detox programs to offer medication to alleviate the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.
During detox, a team of professionals will thoroughly evaluate your condition to determine your best course of action. Depending on the severity of your addiction, they could suggest you attend a residential treatment center to treat your addiction. Detox is just the beginning, and managing your addiction as a whole will be crucial for long-term abstinence. Some therapies and services you can expect to experience include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS
Kosten, T. R., & George, T. P. (2002, July). The neurobiology of opioid dependence: Implications for treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851054/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
Morphine: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682133.html