Morphine Addiction, Withdrawal & Treatment Options

Morphine is the quintessential opioid painkiller and has long been used to treat relatively severe pain, both in hospitals and non-clinical settings. Though several more potent prescription opioids exist today, morphine can still be addictive and potentially dangerous—especially when misused.1

As with many other opioid agonist drugs, morphine overdose can result in respiratory depression, leading to coma and death.1,2

What Are the Signs of Morphine Abuse?

Hands getting pills out of package

Morphine has reinforcing effects within our brain reward pathways which contributes to its abuse liability.1

Though distinguishing therapeutic use from problematic use may not be easy to do when just looking at side effects of use, certain signs/symptoms of morphine use may become more frequent and/or pronounced when use exceeds prescribed guidelines. These might include:2

  • Over-sedation.
  • Intermittent loss of consciousness.
  • Gastrointestinal distress (e.g., nausea/vomiting).
  • Severe constipation.
  • Frequent sweating.
  • Itchy skin with frequent scratching.

Signs of Morphine Addiction

A morphine addiction may be diagnosed as an opioid use disorder (OUD) by a physician or other healthcare professional. Some of the signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes associated with opioid use disorder (OUD) include:3

  • The drug is used in higher doses or over longer periods of time than intended.
  • A persistent desire but inability to slow or stop morphine use.
  • Strong morphine cravings.
  • Failure to complete school or work obligations because of morphine use.
  • Sudden disinterest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Morphine use continues despite the social or interpersonal problems related to its use.
  • Tolerance develops to the effects of the drug.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when morphine use slows or stops.

Though a substance use disorder diagnosis is best left to healthcare professionals, it’s important to take these signs seriously. Opioid addictions can be progressive and often carry an ever-present risk of overdose. Overdose risks may rise as people commonly seek to achieve the high they experienced when first using the drug by taking more and more of it.

A morphine overdose is a medical emergency. Signs and symptoms of overdose may include:2-4

  • Tiny, non-reactive pupils.
  • Slowed pulse.
  • Slow, labored, or otherwise irregular breathing.
  • Bluish tinge to lips and fingernails.
  • Profound sleepiness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

Repeated use of opioids is associated with physiological dependence and an accompanying withdrawal syndrome when someone ceases use of the drug.2 Should an individual who had developed significant morphine dependence suddenly slow or stop use, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms are likely to arise.1,2

Acute opioid withdrawal symptoms can be intensely unpleasant and a challenging hurdle to recovery efforts.

The withdrawal syndrome associated with relatively short-acting opioids such as morphine commonly begins as soon as 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. Symptoms of morphine withdrawal may include:3,5

  • Anxiety.
  • Dysphoria (low mood).
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Aching muscles and bones.
  • Rapid heartrate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Runny nose.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Yawning.

Acute withdrawal often subsides for the most part within 5-7 days, though some symptoms such as anxiety, dysphoric mood, and insomnia may last longer.

Medical Detox for Morphine Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal can be intensely unpleasant, and recovery efforts often start with a period of medical detox and withdrawal management. Aside from the difficult and sometimes-painful symptoms, it’s common for the addicted individual to experience intense cravings for the drug. These factors can make quitting on one’s own particularly challenging. A supervised, medically managed withdrawal can be a huge benefit at the start of treatment, as it helps to keep people as safe and comfortable as possible during this difficult early period.5

Withdrawal symptoms and cravings can be managed via a variety of medications. When it comes to morphine addiction, a person may be first stabilized on an opioid agonist treatment drug like buprenorphine or methadone over the course of days to weeks.6 In some instances, the alpha adrenergic medication clonidine may be used to additionally help reduce certain symptoms of morphine withdrawal, such as anxiety, irritability, and sweating.6

Morphine Treatment Options After Detox

A professional detox program can lay the groundwork and smooth the transition into additional rehabilitation, whether it be an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program.5 As rehabilitation efforts continue in either setting, patients will follow a treatment course that includes:5,6

  • Counseling.
  • Support meetings.
  • Relapse prevention education.

As maintenance therapy, medications such as the buprenorphine initiated during detox, or the combination drug Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) may be continued long after the withdrawal management period.5,6

The Importance of Individualized Care

Addiction treatment works best when it is tailored to the individual; what works for one person may not work for someone else.7 Some people, such as those with co-occurring disorders, unstable living environments, or with a higher risk of relapse, may be advised by their doctor or other addiction treatment professional to attend an inpatient or residential addiction treatment center. Other patients may do well in relatively less intensive levels of care, such as partial hospitalization or other forms of outpatient care.8

We also take aftercare seriously, and we start creating an aftercare plan on day 1. A patient’s plan may include such steps as living in a sober-living facility, attending alumni groups, continued 12-step meeting attendance, or other support group participation. We are committed to the lifelong recovery of our patients and we do everything we can to support you even after you leave our facility. To learn more about our programs, call us today to speak confidentially to an admissions navigator at .

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