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Morphine Abuse And Addiction Signs And Symptoms

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

June 4, 2019

Morphine abuse is a serious problem that can increase the risk for addiction. People who abuse morphine may experience a number of physical and mental symptoms. Treatment for morphine abuse may be needed to overcome the physical and mental aspects of drug abuse.

Across the United States, millions of opioid prescriptions are dispensed each year. One of the most common drugs dispensed is the classic opiate, morphine.

Opioids like morphine can change the way a person perceives pain, which can make it effective for moderate to severe pain relief. However, its euphoric effects can also be highly addictive.

Many people who abuse morphine begin by taking it as prescribed by a doctor. One reason that prescribed use can escalate to drug abuse is tolerance. This can lessen the effects of morphine over time, leading some people to increase their dosage on their own.

Morphine abuse can cause a number of symptoms, some more dangerous than others. To prevent serious health consequences, medical and behavioral treatment may be needed.

Physical Symptoms Of Morphine Abuse

Taking morphine as prescribed can cause a number of short-term physical effects, such as nausea and constipation. When someone is abusing morphine, these may be more intense.

Symptoms of morphine abuse are not always obvious at first, especially in cases where someone has other health problems. Some of the milder symptoms, like dry mouth and nausea, may initially be easy to overlook.

However, as a person’s drug problem worsens, the physical wear on them will likely become more noticeable.

Common physical symptoms of morphine abuse include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • dry mouth
  • small pupils (the black dots in the middle of the eyes)
  • headaches
  • slow or shallow breathing
  • low heart rate
  • constipation
  • stomach pain
  • difficulty urinating
  • overdose

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How Does Morphine Affect The Brain?

Morphine is a natural opiate that comes from the opium poppy plant. Like heroin, an illegal opioid, morphine can cause feelings of relaxation and intense pleasure. This effect can be addictive, especially for people that are experiencing a great deal of stress or pain in their lives.

Morphine produces its effects by affecting the brain’s opioid receptors. These changes can have an impact on everything from a person’s mood to their heart rate. Over time, morphine abuse can lead to several morphine addiction symptoms, such as:

  • decreased coordination
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • mood swings
  • lower energy
  • low sex drive

Depression is also common among people with a drug abuse or addiction problem. This can in part be due to the effects of the drug itself. However, many people also feel ashamed of their drug use and its effects on their ability to function in their daily lives. This can lead to a person feeling depressed and hopeless.

Signs Of Morphine Abuse

In 2016, as many as 11.5 million people in the United States reported misusing a prescription opioid. Often, this occurs in people who either received a prescription themselves or misused a family member’s morphine supply.

Unlike heroin, morphine can still be acquired legally through a prescription. Thus, many people who end up abusing morphine are those who started off taking it as prescribed by a doctor.

Signs that a person is abusing morphine can look similar to those of people abusing other drugs. People can often become agitated between doses and have a constant fixation on getting or using the drug. This can have an impact on all aspects of a person’s personal and professional lives.

Not every case of morphine abuse is the same. However, there are certain signs and behaviors that are common among those who are struggling with morphine abuse.

Signs of morphine abuse may include:

  • crushing and snorting tablets
  • taking higher or more frequent doses than prescribed
  • “doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions of morphine
  • missing work or school due to drug use
  • continuing to take morphine after experiencing negative effects
  • avoiding social interaction with family or friends
  • increased criminal or risky behaviors
  • decreased pleasure in activities they used to enjoy

Is Morphine Abuse The Same As Addiction?

Unlike drug abuse, addiction is a disease that can develop from chronic or heavy drug abuse. This can create a psychological need for a person to continue using a drug. Not every person who abuses morphine will become addicted, but they can often go hand-in-hand.

The primary sign of addiction is being unable to stop or reduce the use of a drug on one’s own. Other signs of morphine addiction tend to be similar to those of morphine abuse.

The following factors can increase the risk of morphine addiction:

  • family history of substance abuse
  • having mental illness
  • living in a rural area
  • having low-income
  • getting multiple prescriptions from various doctors or pharmacies
  • taking morphine with benzodiazepine drugs (e.g. Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin)

Treatment For Morphine Abuse And Addiction

Morphine abuse can have dangerous and even deadly consequences when left untreated, including overdose and complications during withdrawal.

Seeking treatment for morphine abuse can help prevent serious consequences, and allow you or your loved one to rebuild a happier and more balanced life. Recovery from morphine abuse is not a short process, but it is possible.

The most effective option for treating morphine abuse is to enter an inpatient program. Formal treatment programs commonly offer a variety of medical and behavioral services, including medical detox. This can help patients safely remove the drug from their system as they undergo morphine withdrawal.

Treatment programs may also incorporate the use of several types of therapies, including individual therapy, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction and can be helpful for easing drug cravings.

Contact one of our treatment specialists today to find morphine abuse treatment options that are able to meet you or your loved one’s needs.

National Institutes of Health: Genetics Home Reference - Opioid Addiction

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - Prescription Opioids

National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus - Morphine

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