Morphine addiction

Morphine is an opioid derived from the poppy plant which is used to manage pain. It works by binding to receptors around the brain and body to block pain signals being felt. Medical professionals commonly use morphine to treat chronic pain as well as pain from surgery, childbirth, trauma and cancer. However, when not taken as instructed by a doctor, morphine addiction is a serious risk that can have devastating consequences. If you suspect that you or your loved one has an addiction to morphine, this page will inform you of the signs to look out for and what next steps to take.

Morphine addiction - morphine opioid drug

What is morphine addiction?

Morphine addiction is a serious illness that results in compulsive drug taking, despite the negative impact the habit has on all areas of a person’s life. Due to morphine being relatively cheap and widely accessible, the drug is frequently abused both recreationally and by prescription users who take it more often or in greater doses than prescribed.

According to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, around 140,863 people received treatment for opioid abuse between April 2020 and 31 March 2021. However, a lack of funding for treatment and the shame society has attached to morphine addiction means that the number of people dealing with this illness is much higher. Men are more at risk than women for developing an opioid addiction, including an addiction to morphine, with men making up 72% of people being treated for the condition.

How do people become addicted to morphine?

There are a number of underlying reasons a person may start abusing drugs, one of the most common is to self-medicate from an underlying mental health condition. Due to a lack of access to treatment and shame around admitting to having a mental illness, many people turn to drug use to cope. Other reasons include forming a prescription drug addiction to morphine after medical use, coping with stress, their environment or dealing with unprocessed trauma.

As well as blocking pain, morphine also induces feelings of euphoria and pleasure in its users caused by the release of dopamine. These large rushes of dopamine set up the basis for a morphine addiction to form as they cause the brain to redirect its energy (thoughts and behaviour) into seeking out that positive feeling again and again.

When used over long periods of time, morphine users commonly develop a physiological and psychological dependence on the drug. A person’s tolerance to morphine can build up relatively quickly, where increasingly higher concentrations of the drug are needed to achieve the desired effect.

Once a person is dependent on morphine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if the amount of substance they usually take decreases. Withdrawal symptoms from morphine can be extremely severe in some cases, with users experiencing hallucinations, seizures and a possible coma as a result of quitting.

Side effects of morphine abuse

Morphine abuse often occurs because people want to experience the euphoric effects the drug can produce. However, there are a number of side effects that can occur alongside the euphoria including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Respiratory distress
  • Inhibited cough reflex, which can lead to choking
  • Low blood pressure
  • Itchy skin
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

Morphine addiction - low blood pressure

Is long-term morphine use dangerous?

Using morphine over a long period of time can be dangerous, leading to addiction and a number of negative mental and physical effects. These include:

  • Mental health issues: depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts
  • Dangerous weight loss due to decreased appetite
  • Interference with the menstrual cycle
  • Sleep issues: sleep apnea (breathing stopping and starting while sleeping) and insomnia (trouble falling asleep and staying asleep)
  • Circulation problems
  • Slowed breathing
  • Fatal overdose

What are morphine addiction symptoms?

Denial is a common feature of addiction, with the brain pulling any sneaky tricks possible to keep its supply of dopamine hits coming. On top of this, those with a morphine addiction often go to great lengths to hide their drug-taking behaviour from their loved ones due to shame and fear. For these reasons, it can be difficult to spot if you or your loved one has a morphine addiction.

Morphine addiction - morphine bottle

Morphine addiction - woman feeling depressed

However, there are numerous signs of morphine abuse to look out for that can help you decipher if morphine addiction is at play. These include:

  • Wanting to stop taking morphine but not being able to
  • Increased tolerance to morphine
  • Experiencing morphine withdrawal symptoms if a regular dose is not taken
  • Being secretive about morphine use i.e. hiding morphine in various places or lying about morphine abuse
  • Unusual mood swings
  • Decreased hunger
  • Frequent scratching
  • New mental health struggles
  • A loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Needle marks on arms

How can I help a loved one addicted to morphine?

If you recognise some of the symptoms of morphine abuse in your loved one, it is important that action is taken. Morphine addiction is a progressive disorder that only gets worse over time, so even though it may be difficult, it is best to confront the situation head-on.

Here are some tips:

Voice your concerns and encourage professional help

The first thing you can do to help a loved one addicted to morphine is to have a chat and encourage them to seek treatment. By letting your loved one know that you care for them and explaining how their morphine addiction is affecting you, they may see the situation more clearly. It is important to actively listen to what they are saying and be as compassionate as possible.

Stage an intervention

If a one-to-one conversation doesn’t help, holding an intervention is the next step that should be taken to help them into treatment. Here, close family and friends should be invited to share their concerns for your loved one’s well-being and explain the ways they have been personally affected by their morphine addiction. It is useful to invite a medical professional to the intervention as an unbiased third party as they can help keep the conversation on track and defuse intense situations.

Be patient and look after yourself

Morphine addiction is an extremely powerful condition and, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to persuade your loved one to seek treatment on your first attempt. It is important to know when to take space from trying to help them for your own well-being. If their morphine addiction has taken its toll on you, psychotherapy can be a great tool to educate yourself about the disease and work through any trauma you may have experienced because of it.

How can Linwood House help me with morphine addiction?

Linwood House is an established addiction treatment centre in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. We offer a comprehensive morphine rehab programme that can help you overcome morphine addiction once and for all.

Firstly, you will undergo a medical detox where the drug is flushed out of your system. Withdrawals from morphine can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening and so we offer around-the-clock medical care to ensure your safety and well-being.

Alongside that,you will take part in a range of evidence-based therapies that will address the underlying causes of your morphine addiction and give you the necessary skills and tools for recovery.

To find out more, contact Linwood House today.

Frequently asked questions

Can I risk overdosing on morphine?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on morphine. The drug slows down essential processes in the body – such as breathing rate, heart rate and brain activity. Therefore when too much is taken, it can lead to fatal consequences. Symptoms of an overdose include difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, bluish lips, and a coma. If you suspect someone you are with has overdosed, contact the emergency services immediately.
Can you drink alcohol while on morphine?
Drinking alcohol when taking morphine is extremely dangerous, with both substances slowing down breathing rate and heart rate. Mixing the two can hugely increase your chances of a fatal overdose so it should always be avoided.
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