Understanding Morphine Addiction

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 4, 2023

Table of Contents

Morphine addiction can develop rapidly as the substance is such a powerful opioid painkiller, whether the drug is abused or used legally for prescribed pain relief.

Considered the prototypical opiate against which all others are measured, morphine is typically administered for the relief of moderate to severe pain not easily controlled with other medications. Its mechanism of action changes how your brain and CNS (central nervous system) responds to pain.

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Morphine is available in the following forms:

  • Oral solution
  • Extended-release capsule
  • Extended-release tablet

Neither of the extended-release formulas should be used to soothe the pain that could be controlled by on-demand painkillers.

Unfortunately, morphine abuse can cause many adverse outcomes, from physical and mental health issues to full-blown opioid use disorder (OUD). Luckily there are treatment options, like drug rehab in Orange County to help those who are suffering from morphine addiction.

Morphine Abuse

Morphine drug abuse is commonplace, both in those who begin using the substance legally with a prescription and those who abuse morphine recreationally.

When morphine is prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain, the ongoing nature of pain management means there is a high potential for morphine misuse.

Beyond this, the pleasurable effects it induces, as well as the fiercely addictive nature of this narcotic lead many people abusing morphine to develop opioid use disorder. Here, there is some good news, though. Data from the recently published NSDUH 2020 shows a significant drop in the total number of those with OUD in the United States, down to 1.6 million from the 2 million reported in NSDUH 2019.

The most common effects triggered by using morphine are as follows:

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria
  • Sleepiness
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Feeling of calmness
  • False sense of well-being

Morphine is abused for recreational purposes using the following methods:

  • Snorting powdered tablets
  • Chewing extended-release tablets
  • Injecting the substance

The injectable form of morphine provides a more powerful experience than oral forms. To counter this form of abuse, opioids are increasingly produced with abuse-deterrent formulations.

Using morphine without a prescription automatically qualifies as abuse due to the controlled status of this narcotic. Morphine possession without a prescription is a criminal offense, and even when prescribed the substance is heavily regulated.

Abusing morphine in higher doses increases the risk of overdose. Signs of morphine overdose include:

  • Intense drowsiness
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Slurred speech
  • Fever
  • Inattention
  • Insatiable thirst
  • Swelling of extremities and face
  • Pain in lower back or sides
  • Reduced responsiveness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stiffness
  • Spasms
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lack of movement

These effects are due to the way morphine depresses the CNS (central nervous system).

Morphine overdose can lead to unconsciousness and coma, and breathing can even slow fatally.

However morphine abuse occurs, the powerfully addictive nature of this schedule II opioid means the abuse often comes at a high cost. Some of the main consequences of abusing morphine are:

  • Increased risk of contracting hepatitis, per the CDC
  • Link between injecting morphine and increased risk of HIV/AIDS, per AVERT
  • Heightened chance of overdose
  • Risk of death by morphine overdose
  • Inflaming existing mental health conditions
  • Developing mental health conditions like depression
  • Addiction in the form of opioid use disorder


Is Morphine Addictive When Used for Pain? 

Morphine was one of the first drugs to be synthesized for medicinal use, and should always be used only and exactly as prescribed.

Even when morphine is used for pain relief, it can be habit-forming, particularly with sustained use.

Never take more morphine than directed, and do not take morphine more frequently than directed. Never employ alternative delivery methods for using morphine either.

To avoid any possible complications with morphine addiction, liaise closely with your healthcare provider and explore alternative methods of pain management.

Morphine Addiction Symptoms

Morphine and addiction do not always co-occur, but many people find themselves becoming dependent on the substance within a short period.

These are some of the most common signs of morphine addiction:

  • Trying and failing to moderate your use of morphine
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit using morphine
  • Tolerance to the substance builds so you need more morphine to achieve the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop using morphine
  • Spending excessive amount of time using, abusing, or recovering from morphine
  • Getting pronounced cravings for morphine in the absence of the substance
  • Continuing to use morphine in spite of these negative outcomes
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school due to morphine use or abuse
  • Withdrawing from hobbies and activities
  • Becoming socially isolated
  • Putting yourself in dangerous situations through using morphine

If several of these symptoms are apparent, you should consider speaking with your healthcare provider and voicing your concerns about morphine addiction.

Perhaps you are already aware you have a problem with morphine abuse and you’re looking to reclaim your life from opioids. If so, we can help you with that here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Signs of Morphine Abuse

If you have a loved one you suspect is abusing morphine, look out for any of the following common signs of morphine abuse:

  • Irritability and aggression: Many people misusing or abusing morphine undergo behavioral changes as addiction sets in. An inability to control outbursts of anger or irritability is commonplace.
  • Drop in personal hygiene standards and weight: If you notice a loved one start neglecting their appearance and standards of hygiene, this could indicate morphine addiction. Dramatic weight loss can also accompany abuse of this powerful opiate.
  • Financial problems: Many people grappling with addiction end up in financial turmoil as a result, and morphine is exception.
  • Failing to meet personal and professional commitments: If a loved one is becoming more socially isolated and neglecting responsibilities at home and work, this could suggest morphine use has strayed into the territory of abuse and addiction.
  • Continuous drowsiness: Anyone addicted to opiates is liable to appear extremely drowsy on a regular basis.
  • Doctor shopping: If you know a loved one has been prescribed morphine and they are now using more than one doctor in an attempt to get more of the substance, this is a classic marker of morphine addiction.
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Morphine Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

Morphine is undeniably and powerfully addictive, but help is at hand here at our dedicated opiate addiction treatment center.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is proven effective for treating all opioid use disorders.

Opioid withdrawal will start within 6 to 12 hours of your last dose of morphine. Depression, muscle cramps, and diarrhea are the most common immediate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Sickness and nausea sometimes follow, and symptoms peak after a few days.

While it is possible to detox from opioids in the standard timeframe of 7 to 10 days, the toughest part of morphine recovery is remaining abstinent. This is where methadone maintenance therapy can be useful. Taking a small, controlled dose of this opioid agonist will trick your opioid receptors into believing they are using morphine when they are not. According to CSAM (California Society of Addiction Medicine), methadone can improve the efficacy of long-term treatment from 10% to between 60% and 90%.

Although you will have access to methadone and other FDA-approved medications, MAT alone is not enough to turn your life around from morphine addiction.

Here at Renaissance, our evidence-based outpatient treatment programs connect you with all of the following and more:

  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • Talk therapies (CBT and DBT)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Vocational development

When you complete your treatment program, whether that’s an IOP (intensive outpatient program) or a PHP (partial hospitalization program), you’ll have a firm foundation in place for sustained recovery. You will also have a robust aftercare plan to help you stay opioid-free with a reduced chance of relapse. To make this happen, just reach out to Renaissance Recovery’s Southern California recovery center at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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