Is Morphine Addictive?

Morphine is a highly addictive opiate drug that affects the central nervous system and its response to pain. Opiates are powerful drugs that are currently responsible for a worldwide addiction crisis. People who are addicted to opiates might swap morphine for another drug when it becomes inaccessible to them.

Addiction to morphine can be life-altering and fatal. Its effects lead to the loss of motor functions and addiction comes with painful withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for morphine addiction requires a detox and then continuing a strict rehab program. 

Morphine is one of the most widely known pain relievers in the world. Its use can be traced back to the Civil War, when it was used to relieve acute pain in injured soldiers. Today, the primary use of morphine remains the short-term treatment of pain. It is also used as an aid to anesthesia before surgery. 

While morphine is usually administered through an intravenous drip to treat short-term pain, there are also extended release pills available. These are sold under the brand names Kadian, MS Contin, and Morphabond.

Signs of Morphine Abuse

Morphine works by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain, which blocks pain signals and produces other mental effects. People who abuse morphine usually do so because taking a higher than prescribed dose, especially by injecting or snorting it, results in a euphoric feeling. In some cases, people abuse morphine because they have chronic pain and their prescribed dose does not help.

Most people who are prescribed morphine by a doctor and who use it as prescribed are not at risk for addiction. However, developing an addiction in this situation is still possible. Any misuse of the drug greatly increases the risk of forming a habit. Morphine addiction can develop shockingly fast. If you notice any of the following signs in someone you are monitoring for a morphine addiction, abuse of the drug might be present:

  • Going in and out of sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Large pupils
  • Shallow breathing/ shortness of breath
  • Making bad choices/ lack of judgment
  • Huge mood swings, going quickly from euphoria to depression

Behavioral & Social Signs of Morphine Addiction

The signs listed above are strong indicators of morphine or other opiate abuse. This is because they are direct effects of taking a high dose of morphine. In addition to these, there are other behavioral and social signs to look for if you suspect someone may be addicted to morphine:

  • Crankiness/aggression without reason
  • Withdrawing from social situations and close relationships with friends and family
  • Lethargy and a lack of willpower
  • Lying and avoiding questions from loved ones
  • Trying to find new doctors to fill morphine prescription
  • Running out of prescription early
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Hiding morphine around the house
  • Sudden changes in friends

By monitoring those you suspect might have a morphine addiction for the signs above, you should be able to determine whether an addiction is present. However, an addict might be so good at concealing their drug abuse that they manage to evade concerned friends and family. In these cases, it is good to understand the specific physical symptoms of morphine abuse.

Morphine Addiction Symptoms

The behavioral signals of morphine addiction only tell part of the story. Sometimes, it is important to know the physical symptoms and side effects of heavy morphine use in order to identify a problem in a loved one. The physical symptoms of morphine addiction include:

  • Nausea and vomiting (common symptoms of most opiate drugs)
  • Constipation (one of the most common side effects of morphine abuse)
  • Difficulty breathing/ drastically slowed breathing
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Loss of coordination (similar to someone who is very drunk)
  • Physical weakness
  • Stomach cramping
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Kidney failure

Anyone displaying any of the symptoms or side effects above, especially in combination with behavioral signs, could be suffering from a substance abuse problem.

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

Morphine withdrawal is a painful process that begins when someone who is physically dependent upon morphine stops use or greatly reduces their dose. Unlike alcohol withdrawal, the symptoms of morphine withdrawal do not include immediately life-threatening issues such as seizures or cardiac arrest.

However, morphine withdrawal is a very painful experience that acts as a barrier between addiction and sobriety. The best way to ensure that withdrawal goes smoothly is by visiting a treatment facility to go through morphine detox. 

Morphine withdrawal is very uncomfortable and it can start within 6-12 hours of the last dose. Usually, symptoms of withdrawal are worst between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. At a treatment center, medical staff can monitor a patient and ease the process with medications for pain relief. The symptoms of morphine withdrawal include:

  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Tearing in the eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Large pupils
  • Goosebumps on the skin
  • Excess sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to sleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fast heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure

Morphine withdrawal affects all users differently. Some might experience severe symptoms for a long time, while others will only feel mild effects of withdrawal for a few days. Generally, symptoms of morphine withdrawal peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and last for around 10 days.

Factors That Affect Withdrawal

There are many factors that affect how long and severe morphine withdrawal will be.

  • Duration of morphine addiction and dose. The longer a morphine addiction has gone on, and the heavier the dose, the worse the withdrawal will be.
  • Metabolism and genetics. Everyone’s body processes drugs at a different rate. Factors such as metabolism, liver function, and genetics all influence what the withdrawal experience will feel like.
  • Abuse of other drugs. If a morphine addict has been abusing alcohol or other drugs as well, the withdrawal process will be affected and could involve different symptoms and complications.
  • Co-occurring disorders. If a person has mental health problems in addition to their addiction, this could affect withdrawal.

All of the factors above make the withdrawal process very unpredictable. To be safe, it is always best to visit an addiction center to detox from morphine. 

How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?

Similar to withdrawal symptoms, the time that it takes for morphine to be removed from the body depends on a number of factors. Everyone’s body processes morphine differently. The following factors affect how long morphine stays in the body:

  • Body weight and fat content. Overall weight and size affect how a drug is processed by a person’s body. Also, fat can store molecules of morphine longer than other kinds of tissue. Hence, people with more fat might take longer to remove morphine from their system.
  • Age and metabolism. Really, it’s metabolism that matters here. The faster a person’s metabolism is, the quicker they can process morphine. Younger people usually have a faster metabolism than older people. Thus, morphine stays in young users’ systems for a shorter amount of time.
  • Liver and kidney function. Both the liver and kidneys play key roles in eliminating toxins from the body. The better these organs are functioning, the faster morphine will be removed.
  • History of addiction and presence of other drug abuse. Usually, those who have been abusing morphine heavily for a long period of time will take longer to eliminate it from their bodies. If other drug or alcohol abuse is also present, this could slow the process of detox down as well.

If you are wondering how long morphine will stay in your system for a drug test, the answer depends on the above factors. It also depends on what kind of drug test will be taken. In general, morphine can be detected for 12 hours in the blood, 2-3 days in the urine, and up to 90 days in hair follicles. Usually in the case of a drug test, the person being tested will not know what type of test they will receive. 

Treatment for Morphine Addiction

Morphine addiction is part of the larger opioid crisis that is going on in the United States. Morphine addiction treatment always starts with detox at an appropriate treatment and rehab center. Once detox is completed, long term treatment begins.

Detox can be thought of as a way to break physical dependence on morphine. The treatment that takes place afterwards deals mostly with psychological dependence. Treatment for morphine addiction varies depending on the person involved and their specific needs.

Usually, treatment involves therapy techniques like group therapy and counseling. These aim to get to the root cause of addiction and help recovering addicts learn how to avoid relapsing. Sometimes, medication is given to help with underlying mental health concerns, and to curb drug cravings.

It is recommended to start with a residential detox program, before moving to outpatient care. The initial residential period is very helpful for establishing good habits before adding the triggers and distractions of everyday life. The goal in recovery from morphine addiction is to get clean (detox) and stay clean (treatment). Understanding that treatment for drug addiction is a lifelong process is a good first step towards recovery.


Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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