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Morphine Addiction: Meaning, Signs, Effects, Causes, and Treatment

Morphine addiction is the uncontrolled and compulsive consumption of the opioid drug morphine despite its negative consequences. Overconsumption of opioid pain-relief medication manifests itself through severe negative consequences to the individual’s mental, physical, social, and professional well-being.

The signs of morphine addiction are repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit, neglecting self-care, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities the individual used to enjoy, and deceitful behavior or increasingly risky behavior.

The symptoms of morphine addiction include intense cravings for morphine, mood swings, reduced performance at work or school, lying to doctors to obtain a prescription, and the inability to stop taking the drug despite wanting to.

The causes of opioid abuse range from mental health issues and genetic factors to neurobiological issues, previous substance abuse history, and prescriptions to pain-relief medications.

Common treatments for morphine addiction include medications such as methadone, detoxification, and inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation clinic. Opioid addiction is also commonly treated with cognitive-behavioral, group, and familial therapy.

What is Morphine Addiction?

Morphine addiction is a life-threatening condition induced by the chronic overconsumption of morphine, an opioid commonly prescribed for pain relief that produces feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Addiction to morphine occurs when an individual chronically abuses the drug in order to recreate the same pleasurable feelings they felt before. This prolonged use of morphine results in the development of a “morphine tolerance”, meaning the individual needs increasing doses of morphine to feel its intended effects and goes to great lengths to obtain and use the drug despite negative consequences

Opioid use disorder affects more than 2.1 million people in the United States alone, according to a 2024 study entitled Opioid Use Disorder by Dydek, Alexander M., et al, published in the National Library of Medicine.

Chronic abuse of opioids causes the person’s brain to adapt to function with morphine. This problematic relationship with morphine manifests itself through a physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Opioid addicts experience severe negative consequences when attempting to cease taking these drugs, which leads to a cycle of abuse in an attempt to avoid these negative feelings.

The root cause of opioid abuse lies in how these drugs affect the brain.

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the natural elements of the opium poppy plant that also include synthetic and semi-synthetic compounds with similar characteristics.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, common types of opioids include:

  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Morphine and other opioids affect the brain by binding to opioid receptors, which block pain. However, they also bind to the reward pathway, which causes pleasurable feelings of euphoria by releasing the key neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins. The release of dopamine and endorphins is what causes addiction if morphine is chronically abused.

According to a 2023 study published in The National Library of Medicine by Murphy, Patrick B, et al., morphine is a highly effective pain-relief medication commonly prescribed in end-of-life care, anti-cancer treatment, and emergency medical care for musculoskeletal pain, chest pain, and even arthritis. Morphine can be administered orally, rectally, or intravenously. Street names for Morphine include Dreamer, Emsel, and God’s Drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to an April 2021 article on mitigating the opioid epidemic in the United States published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, the name morphine comes from the Greek god “Morpheus”, the god of sleep. 

How Common is Morphine Addiction?

Morphine addiction is very common, and the misuse of opioids is on the rise during the opioid crisis in the USA. This is due to several key factors such as ease of access, over-prescription, and lack of adequate monitoring and regulation.

According to a study by Dydek, Alexander M., et al., published in STATPearls in January, 2024, entitled “Opioid Use Disorder”, opioid use disorder (OUD) affects over 16 million people worldwide and over 2.1 million in the United States. More than 120,000 deaths worldwide every year are attributed to opioids.

The following list contains alarming statistics on opioid misuse from the 2021 study by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Key Substance Use And Mental Health Indicators in The United States”:

  •  3.3% (9.2 million people) of individuals aged 12 or older misused opioids, including morphine.
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 17, 1.9% (497,000 people) misused opioids, suggesting early exposure and misuse. 
  • Young adults aged 18 to 25 had a misuse rate of 3.1% (1.0 million people), indicating a peak during late adolescence and early adulthood. 
  • Among adults aged 26 or older, 3.5% (7.7 million people) misused opioids, reflecting continued misuse into older adulthood.

These trends highlight the need for improved prescription practices, better education on the risks of opioid use, and more accessible treatment options to address the growing problem of morphine addiction​​.

What Are The Signs of Morphine Addiction?

signs of morphine addiction

The most common signs of morphine addiction are continued use of morphine despite its negative consequences, lying or stealing to acquire more of the drug, hiding the use of the substance, morphine withdrawals when quitting, and repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit

However, problematic morphine use manifests itself through a range of physical, mental, and behavioral problems similar to other forms of opioid use disorder (OUD).

The following list contains the most common signs of opioid use disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition:

  • Social Withdrawal: Social withdrawal is a common behavioral sign of morphine addiction where an individual isolates themselves in order to either conceal their drug use or due to morphine’s negative effects on their interpersonal skills.
  • Morphine Withdrawal: A common physical sign of morphine addiction is experiencing morphine withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and insomnia.
  • Difficulties at Work or School: A common indicator of morphine addiction is worsening performance at work or school. This is due to the individual prioritizing the drug over important responsibilities.
  • Intense Morphine Cravings: Morphine addiction causes intense cravings for the drug. According to an article published in the January 2021 edition of Molecular Psychology entitled “The Changing Opioid Crisis”, avoiding negative experiences such as withdrawal symptoms, stress, and intense cravings is a major factor in taking opioid drugs.
  • Increased Morphine Tolerance: Chronic morphine abuse causes an individual’s tolerance for the drug to increase. Morphine addiction commonly manifests itself through an individual needing more of the drug to get the same pleasurable effects.
  • Inability to Decrease or Control Intake: The inability to reduce the dosage of morphine or repeatedly taking more opioids than intended are clear signs of a dependence on morphine.
  • Pale Skin, Pinpoint Pupils, And Other Physiological Effects: Opioid use negatively affects the body in several ways that result in clear signs of opioid use disorder. First, opioids such as morphine cause low blood pressure and respiratory depression. This often leads to pale, blue, or clammy skin. They also overstimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which constricts the individual’s pupils. In this case, the person’s pupils will appear unusually small under normal lighting. 

What Are the Symptoms of Morphine Addiction?

The following list contains the most common behavioral, psychological, and physical symptoms of morphine addiction:

Physical Symptoms of Morphine Addiction:

  • Morphine tolerance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired performance
  • Morphine cravings

Behavioral Symptoms of Morphine Addiction

  • Doctor shopping
  • Lying or stealing to obtain morphine
  • Risk behaviors
  • Loss of control

Mood/Psychological Symptoms of Morphine Addiction

  • Preoccupation with obtaining morphine
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in activities 

Morphine Cravings

Morphine cravings are an overwhelmingly strong desire or urge to use morphine or other opioid drugs.

These cravings include persistent thoughts about morphine, intense urges, difficulties concentrating, and physical side effects such as sweating or shaking. 

According to Kako, Johan, et al’s, 2019 study ”Craving in Opioid Use Disorder: From Neurobiology to Clinical Practice” published in the journal “Frontiers in Psychiatry”, this intrusive and overwhelmingly strong compulsion is because of the memory of the pleasant and rewarding effects of the drug superimposed on a a negative emotional state.

Addictive drugs such as morphine and other opioids interact with the brain’s reward center by triggering dopamine release at much higher levels than naturally occurs. As morphine use continues, the brain adapts to these high levels of dopamine and demands more in order to trigger the pleasure response.

The most common triggers for morphine cravings are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Peer pressure
  • Familiar people, places, and behaviors
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is a common side effect of morphine addiction due to the substance’s negative effects on the brain and body.

Morphine addiction induces chemical changes in the addict’s brain that result in a preference for the pleasurable release of dopamine that the drug produces. This results in making food unappealing to the person’s brain.

Also, morphine and other opioids produce severe negative side effects on the individual’s body that make eating unappealing.

According to one study published in the Cochrane Library in May 2014 by Wiffen, Phillip J., et al., and cited by the National Library of Medicine, morphine administration to patients produced the following results on more than 5,000 participants:

  • 25% experienced constipation
  • 23% experienced somnolence (drowsiness)
  • 21% experienced nausea
  • 17% experienced dry mouth
  • 13% experienced vomiting

These unpleasant side effects of opioids reduce the person’s desire to eat.

Doctor Shopping

Doctor shopping is a symptom of morphine addiction in which an individual visits multiple healthcare providers to procure morphine illicitly.

Doctor shopping is a clear indication of opioid use disorder because addicts hope to gain access to more prescription drugs than they were originally prescribed.

According to a French study titled “Systematic assessment of non-medical use of prescription drugs using doctor-shopping indicators: A nation-wide, repeated cross-sectional study” opioids such as morphine, methadone, and oxycodone were the most doctor-shopped drugs for non-medical use.

Doctor shopping is not only a clear indication of morphine dependence, it poses severe health risks for the individual as well as society. Gaining access to more morphine than was originally prescribed could result in life-threatening consequences such as an overdose. And it also results in less effective healthcare, since healthcare providers have less time to spend on other patients with more urgent medical needs.

Loss of Interest (Anhedonia)

Loss of interest or anhedonia is a symptom of morphine addiction where the individual no longer receives pleasure from activities they once enjoyed. 

The inability to find pleasure in hobbies, work, or other pursuits is a common side effect of opioid use disorder caused by several physical and psychological factors.

The following list contains activities that a morphine addict may no longer find pleasurable, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychological Science:

  • Sex
  • Eating
  • Talking
  • Being around others
  • Hobbies
  • An individual’s job

The reason for this loss of pleasure is because chronic opioid abuse results in drastic negative changes to the brain’s reward system. Over time, the person’s brain becomes less responsive to natural rewards. This creates a general loss of enjoyment in all things not related to taking the drug, including basic human instincts such as socialization and eating.

Loss of Control

Loss of control is a symptom of morphine addiction referring to an individual’s inability to set limits, regulate, or manage their use of morphine.

The National Institutes of Health describes this addictive behavior in their journal, News in Health, as “individuals crave and seek out drugs, alcohol, or other substances no matter the cost – even at the risk of damaging friendships, hurting family, or losing jobs”.

A problematic relationship with morphine and other opioids manifests itself through an inability to set limits, repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit, and continued use despite its negative consequences.

This is due to the way that morphine and other drugs affect the brain. According to a 2022 article entitled “Why Are Drugs so Hard to Quit”  published in the National Institute on Drug Abuse: 

“Repeated drug use can also weaken circuits in the brain that help people exercise self-control and tolerate stress. This can make it even more difficult for people to control their drug use—even when it causes harm, when it doesn’t feel the way it used to, or when it gets in the way of other parts of someone’s life”.

This lack of self-control is a clear indicator of substance use disorder.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Morphine Addiction?

long term effects of morphine addiction

The long-term effects of morphine addiction range from negative physical side effects to severe mental health issues, social and family-related consequences, overdoses, and even death. 

Chronic morphine abuse results in several adverse physiological, behavioral, and neurological changes. Understanding these repercussions is a key factor in addiction prevention, treatment, and successful recovery.

The following list contains the most common long-term effects of morphine addiction:

  • Overdose And Death: Morphine is highly addictive, and individuals who abuse the drug quickly develop a tolerance. This means they require increasing levels of the opioid in order to feel its intended effects. This tolerance results in a drastic increase in the risk of an overdose since the person consumes more than their body can tolerate. Unfortunately, deaths due to opioids such as morphine are rising sharply in the United States. According to the Centers For Disease Control’s study on “National Overdose Deaths Involving Any Opioid”, published in April 2024, on their CDC Wonder Online Database, opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 49,860 in 2019 to 81,806 in 2022. 
  • Tolerance And Dependence: Tolerance is defined as “a decrease in the pharmacologic response following repeated or prolonged drug administration”, as per Dumas, Emily O., et al.’s, 2008 study on “Opioid Tolerance and Development: A Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamic Perspective”, published in “The APPS Journal”. The study goes on to state that addicts develop profound tolerance to the drug as well as the inability to tolerate the unwanted side effects that arise when not taking the substance. This leads to chronic abuse to avoid unwanted symptoms and to maintain its chronic pain-relieving effects.
  • Constipation: Opioid-induced constipation is a common long-term effect of taking opioid pain relief medication. According to Sizar, Omed, et al., in their study on “Opioid-Induced Constipation” published in The National Library of Medicine in August 2023, “Opioid drugs are known to inhibit gastric emptying and peristalsis in the GI tract which results in delayed absorption of medications and increased absorption of fluid. The lack of fluid in the intestine leads to hardening of stool and constipation”. The study concluded that 40%-60% of non-cancer patients receiving opioid treatment experienced this side effect. This chronic effect of opioid treatment significantly impacts quality of life in morphine addicts and leads to loss of appetite, weight loss, and chronic discomfort.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Opioid use disorder results in cognitive impairments such as difficulties with executive function, the inability to pay attention, memory loss, and information processing, according to one study published in the National Library of Medicine by Mistler, Colleen B., et al., in August 2021 titled “Adapting Behavioral Interventions to Compensate For Cognitive Dysfunction in Persons With Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). The authors continued by stating that this cognitive decline contributes to reduced patient willingness to seek help and stay in treatment.
  • Respiratory Depression: Another adverse effect of opioid use disorder is respiratory depression or hypoventilation. Hypoventilation manifests itself as shortness of breath, frequent yawning, and an increased heart rate. Due to these serious consequences, opioid-induced respiratory depression is potentially lethal and requires immediate treatment and monitoring by a healthcare provider. According to Algera, Marijke H., et al.’s, January 2019 study “Opioid Induced Respiratory Depression in Humans” published in The British Journal of Anesthesia”, morphine and other opioids act as a respiratory depressant by activating opioid receptors in the brainstem that slow breathing.

What Are The Causes of Morphine Addiction?

Morphine addiction is caused by a mixture of several environmental, biological, social, and genetic factors, including prescriptions for pain relief, mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, social influence, and family history of abuse.

The following list elaborates on the risk factors associated with opioid use disorder in more detail:

  • Medical Prescriptions: Morphine is a highly effective painkiller. However, it is highly addictive, which causes patients to quickly develop a dependence on the substance. Long-term use of morphine during medical treatment leads to addiction frequently.
  • Mental Health Factors: Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma are common among individuals with opioid use disorder. Morphine induces feelings of relaxation and euphoria, which the person uses to cope with their co-occurring mental issues. One study published in The National Library of Medicine by Bakos-Block, Christine, et al., in 2020 entitled “Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders Among Individuals Enrolled in an Emergency Response Program For Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder” found that 60% of patients with opioid-use disorder reported a prior mental health diagnosis.
  • Social And Environmental Factors: Morphine addiction is caused by social and environmental factors such as access to prescription medications, peer pressure, and family role models. 
  • Genetic Factors: Genetics plays a key role in developing opioid dependence and addiction. Certain individuals have a genetic predisposition to addictions based on opioid receptors in the brain. According to the study “A Review of Opioid Addiction Genetics” by Crist, Richard C. et al., in the National Library of Medicine, estimates of heritability in opioid addiction are 23%-54% based on twin and family studies.
  • Previous Substance Abuse: Prior substance abuse issues put the individual at a greater risk of developing a problematic relationship with opioids such as morphine.

What Are The Treatments For Morphine Addiction?

treatments for morphine addiction

The most common treatments for morphine addiction are:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Detoxification
  • Therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and family therapy 
  • Support groups
  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment
  • Dual diagnosis treatment

1. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment is an evidenced based treatment for morphine addiction that combines the use of medications such as methadone with behavioral therapies and substance abuse counseling.

Healthcare professionals refer to this mixture of medication and therapy as “whole-patient” care.

MAT is designed to address the physical difficulties a person experiences when they stop taking opioids while also addressing underlying causes that fuel the addiction.

According to the Food And Drug Administration’s May 2023 publication, Information About Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), there are three drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid dependence:

  • Buprenorphine: A partial agonist medication with lower discomfort when discontinued compared to morphine.
  • Methadone: A synthetic opioid agonist that relieves withdrawal symptoms and cravings for morphine by activating opioid receptors in the brain.
  • Naltrexone: A medication that blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids.

All three drugs have proven to be safe and effective.

2. Detoxification

Detoxification or detox is a process that eliminates or manages the withdrawal symptoms that occur when an individual stops using a drug such as morphine or other opioids. 

Detoxification is also referred to as medically supervised opioid withdrawal.

Some of the most common morphine withdrawal symptoms that detoxing manages are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Morphine cravings
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety

Medically supervised opioid withdrawal involves the administration of medications such as methadone and clonidine to reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal in the opioid-dependent person. The end goal of detox is to safely transition the patient to medication for opioid-use disorder.

Without detoxification, the individual is at a high risk of relapse due to the desire to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. 

Drug detoxification centers are effective at reducing the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms of OUD, it is not intended to treat underlying mental health issues. That’s why it’s normally coupled with holistic treatment options such as CBT, family therapy, and other forms of counseling.

3. Counseling And Therapy 

Addiction counseling is a science-backed treatment for those who suffer from opioid use disorder in which a professional substance abuse counselor provides feedback, education, and guidance on the recovery process.

In substance abuse counseling, the individual will receive education about their condition, obtain guidance on the recovery process, and learn healthy coping mechanisms. They will also learn how to identify and avoid triggers, as well as how to build a healthy support group.

The most common forms of addiction counseling are as follows:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychological treatment in which a patient learns to identify, challenge, and replace their negative thought patterns. This self-correction of faulty beliefs has been shown to reduce stress-related disorders and enhance mental health. 
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy is a treatment for OUD in which families work together to better communicate with, understand, and support an individual struggling with morphine addiction under the guidance of a mental health professional. In family therapy for opioid abuse, families will work on their interpersonal issues and learn more about their loved one’s situation so that they can better provide the support the person needs. Family therapy has been shown to have positive benefits for both users and family systems, according to one study in the Wiley Library by Esteban, Jessica, et al., by the name Effects of Family on Substance Abuse.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy is an effective treatment for opioid-use disorder where individuals practice recovery strategies, learn interpersonal skills, and build social support networks in a group setting. The goal of group therapy is to provide support, reduce isolation, and develop healthy coping mechanisms in a mutually supportive group with others suffering from OUD.

4. Support Groups

Support groups are a therapeutic tool for treating substance abuse conditions in which individuals suffering from the same addiction gather to share their experiences, discuss coping mechanisms, and encourage abstinence from the drug.

One example of a successful OUD support group is Narcotics Anonymous.

The data shows that support groups and group therapy can be much more effective than solo therapy as a treatment for addiction for several key reasons. According to the book Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, Chapter 1, published in the National Library of Medicine, the advantages of group therapy are:

  • Groups provide peer support and pressure to abstain from drug use
  • Groups reduce the sense of isolation that most people with OUD suffer from
  • Groups enable individuals to witness the successful recoveries of others
  • Groups help people see how others deal with their substance abuse issues and learn these coping strategies
  • Groups provide useful information for people who are new to recovery

Group therapies are also cost-effective. Support groups reduce therapeutic costs, if large numbers of patients are present.

5. Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment programs are a type of treatment for morphine addiction where an individual stays in a specialized facility under 24-hour medical supervision and care. 

Inpatient rehabilitation treatment is designed to address substance use disorders, co-occuring mental health issues, and behavioral or physiological issues the patient is experiencing.

During inpatient treatment, patients receive a mixture of care including medications, counseling, and support groups, as well as accommodation.

Types of inpatient care range from small, hospital-like care centers to large luxury facilities that resemble 5-star hotels. However, the core concept of inpatient recovery care is 24-hour care and support regardless of the size of the facility.

6. Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment for morphine addiction is an addiction recovery treatment that involves therapy and medical care when the patient is not admitted to a hospital or inpatient treatment center.

Outpatient rehab allows patients to continue daily activities such as work or school, have access to supportive family members and friends, and reduce costs while still maintaining a high level of care. During outpatient care, individuals still visit a facility for medication and counseling sessions, but return home after their treatment is finished.

7. Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment involves the simultaneous treatment of substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. This integrated approach is beneficial because many individuals with addiction also suffer from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Addressing both conditions together improves overall treatment outcomes by providing comprehensive and coordinated care. 

Treating only the addiction or the mental health disorder in isolation often leads to incomplete recovery and higher relapse rates. Integrated treatment helps in identifying the underlying causes of both conditions and developing strategies to manage them effectively. This holistic approach reduces symptoms of mental illness, decreases substance use, and improves the patient’s quality of life and functional ability.

During dual diagnosis treatment, patients receive a combination of therapies tailored to their specific needs. This includes behavioral therapies, counseling, medication management, and continuous monitoring. The goal is to provide comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of a patient’s health.

What Are the Prevention Methods for Morphine Addiction?

Prevention methods for morphine addiction include proper prescription oversight, better patient education, and alternative methods of pain relief and pain management.

The following list elaborates on these OUD prevention methods in more detail:

  1. Proper Prescription Practices: To prevent morphine addiction, physicians should follow strict guidelines when prescribing morphine. This includes using the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration necessary. 
  2. Patient Education: Educating patients about the risks of morphine and other opioids, as well as proper use and storage, is an effective way to reduce the risk of opioid addiction.
  3. Alternative Pain Management: Utilizing non-opioid pain relief methods, such as physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and cognitive-behavioral therapy, can halt dependence on opioids like morphine.
  4. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs): One regulatory prevention method for morphine addiction is PDMPs. These state-run programs track prescriptions for controlled substances, which inhibits common risk factors such as doctor shopping and over-prescribing.
  5. Public Awareness Campaigns: Preventing initial misuse via media campaigns, community programs, and school-based education can help prevent initial misuse. These public awareness campaigns are becoming increasingly common as the opioid crisis continues in the USA.

By implementing these strategies, we can reduce the risk of morphine addiction and promote safer pain management practices.

What Are The Symptoms of Morphine Withdrawal?

symptoms of morphine withdrawal

Morphine withdrawal symptoms are physical and psychological effects that occur when a person who has become dependent on morphine stops using it. These symptoms arise because the body has adapted to the presence of the drug, and its sudden absence disrupts normal functioning.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), common morphine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings for morphine: These cravings are powerful urges to use morphine again to alleviate withdrawal discomfort. They result from the brain’s reliance on morphine to stimulate the reward system, leading to a strong desire to seek out the drug to feel better.
  • Muscle aches and pains: Significant muscle discomfort during morphine withdrawal is due to the absence of morphine’s pain-relieving effects. This causes widespread muscle cramps and spasms, making the withdrawal process physically challenging and painful.
  • Sweating and chills: These symptoms occur as the body struggles to regulate its temperature without the influence of morphine. Excessive sweating and alternating chills are common because the person’s body is attempting to maintain homeostasis.
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea: Morphine withdrawal disrupts normal digestive processes, leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can result in dehydration and further physical discomfort, exacerbating the withdrawal experience.
  • Anxiety and irritability: The absence of morphine can lead to increased anxiety and irritability as the brain adjusts to functioning without the drug. This emotional instability is a common withdrawal symptom, causing significant psychological distress.
  • Insomnia and restlessness: Withdrawal from morphine often results in sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling or staying asleep. Restlessness and an inability to relax can further contribute to the exhaustion and frustration experienced during withdrawal.
  • Dilated pupils and increased tearing: These symptoms are physical indicators of morphine withdrawal. Dilated pupils occur due to changes in the autonomic nervous system, while increased tearing or “lacrimation” results from the body’s efforts to compensate for the lack of the drug.

What is the difference between morphine dependence and addiction?

The difference between morphine dependence and addiction is dependence involves the body adapting to the drug which causes tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when not using it. Addiction includes these physical aspects but also involves compulsive use and behavioral changes despite harmful consequences​. 

How does morphine affect the brain’s neurotransmitters?

Morphine affects the brain’s neurotransmitters by binding to opioid receptors, leading to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. This creates feelings of euphoria and pain relief. This reinforces drug use and leads to addiction​.

Why is morphine considered highly addictive?

Morphine is considered highly addictive due to its powerful effects on the brain’s reward system. It drastically increases dopamine levels in an unnatural way, leading to intense euphoria. Over time, users need higher doses to achieve the same effect. This desire for the same effects leads to dependence and addiction​.

How do mental health issues contribute to morphine addiction?

Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD significantly increase the risk of morphine addiction. Individuals with mental health disorders use morphine to self-medicate and alleviate psychological distress, leading to dependence and addiction​​.

What role do prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) play in preventing addiction?

PDMPs track prescriptions for controlled substances to identify and prevent doctor shopping and over-prescribing. These programs help healthcare providers monitor and regulate opioid prescriptions and drug addiction. This combination of regulation and oversight reduces the risk of misuse and addiction​​.

How does family support aid in the treatment of morphine addiction?

Family support provides emotional support, helps monitor progress, and encourages adherence to treatment plans. Family therapy can also address relational issues contributing to addiction, promoting a supportive environment for recovery​. This support has proven to improve treatment programs and reduce the risk of relapse.

Ryan Wakim MD
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Dr. Wakim is a board-certified psychiatrist with a passion for and expertise in addiction, mood disorders, trauma-related disorders and the subspecialty of interventional psychiatry. He obtained his medical degree from West Virginia University where he also completed his residency training, finishing as chief resident. Dr. Wakim co-founded and served as the CEO of Transformations leading to a successful merger with Shore Capital in May 2021. He is purpose driven towards improving the standard of and removing stigma related to behavioral healthcare. Dr. Wakim enjoys golf, traveling and time spent with his two dogs, Lulu and Rayna.

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