December 12, 2022

Is Morphine Addictive?

Demerol Withdrawal Timeline
An image of prescription needles, symbolizing the question: Is morphine addictive?

Morphine is a powerful opiate and a Schedule II controlled narcotic.

Opiates are chemical compounds derived from the fibers and sap of opium poppies. Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetic or semi-synthetic chemical compounds. Like all opiates, tolerance to morphine builds rapidly, often followed by abuse and addiction.

Prescribed for the treatment of moderate or severe pain, morphine is also sometimes administered for the treatment of chronic pain. Other medical applications for morphine include treating cancer-related pain, alleviating pain after major surgery, and addressing breathing issues in those at the end of life.

While morphine is a highly effective pain-reliever used the world over, the substance also triggers a dreamy sense of euphoria. These effects lead many people to abuse this potent opiate.

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is an opiate and a narcotic analgesic. The medication works on the CNS (central nervous system) to relieve pain. 

The medication is available only with a prescription. In addition to generic versions of morphine, you can also find branded versions, including:

  • MS-Contin
  • Oramorph SR
  • Roxanol
  • RMS
  • Kadian

Historically, morphine was almost exclusively administered in injectable form. There are now other forms available alongside morphine injectables:

  • Oral solution
  • Extended-release tablets
  • Extended release capsules
  • Immediate-release tablets

The extended-release formulations are used for the treatment of pain so severe that it warrants continuous and long-term opioid therapy. Morphine is used where other pain medications were ineffective or not tolerated.

Is morphine addictive, then? 

Can You Get Addicted to Morphine?

If morphine is used long-term, it can become habit-forming, leading to the development of both physical dependence and psychological dependence. Like all Schedule II controlled substances, morphine is highly addictive. 

Those who require morphine for long-term relief of chronic pain may develop physical dependence as tolerance builds but will be unlikely to develop psychological dependence if the medication is used purely for pain relief.

Becoming physical dependent on morphine means you will need the substance to function normally and to prevent the presentation of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms in its absence. You will also experience urges and cravings for morphine. These effects can be minimized in those using morphine for legitimate pain-relieving purposes with a tapered reduction in dosage.

Most people who become addicted to morphine – formally diagnosed as opioid use disorder – abuse the substance long-term before finding themselves unable to control or moderate their use of this opiate.

Morphine Abuse

Morphine induces a variety of effects, including:

  • Pain relief
  • Trancelike, blissful state
  • Calm and relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Reduced anxiety levels

Morphine is mainly abused for the sense of euphoria it triggers. 

All of the following scenarios are considered morphine abuse: 

  • Using more morphine than directed as tolerance to the opiate builds and its pain-relieving and euphoric effects diminish.
  • Taking morphine for recreational purposes.
  • Using morphine without a supporting prescription.
  • Doctor shopping to obtain more prescriptions for morphine.
  • Using a morphine prescription intended for someone else.

If you take morphine in high doses, you will increase your risk of experiencing opiate overdose. According to 2020 data from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), opioids and opiates were implicated in more than 75,000 of the 100,000 drug overdoses reported in the United States that year. The same data shows that opioids were associated with just 55,000 overdose deaths in 2019.

These are the most common indicators of morphine overdose:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Inattention
  • Slurred speech
  • High blood pressure
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Pain in the lower back or sides
  • Muscle cramping
  • Spasms
  • Swelling of face, hands, or feet

Morphine overdose can cause unconsciousness and fatal coma.

Morphine Addiction

How addictive is morphine, then?

Morphine addiction most frequently stems from chronic abuse. If you take this medication long-term, tolerance quickly forms. This triggers two outcomes:

You will require more morphine to achieve the same euphoric and pain-relieving effects.

Withdrawal symptoms will present in the absence of morphine. 

Taking increased quantities of morphine to mitigate tolerance and the diminished effects of the drug accelerates the development of physical dependence. Addiction often but not always follows.

The symptoms of opioid addiction vary from person to person and depending on the substance used. Some signs are noticeable almost from the onset of opioid therapy, will other symptoms manifest after months of opioid abuse.

These are some early signs of morphine abuse:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for morphine
  • Tolerance to morphine
  • Inability to moderate or discontinue use of morphine
  • Mood swings
  • Weight loss
  • Using morphine despite negative outcomes
  • Withdrawal symptoms as effects of morphine wear off
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Diminished interpersonal relationships
  • Financial stress

If addiction to morphine develops, this is classified as opioid use disorder per DSM-5-TR (fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

For a diagnosis of morphine addiction, at least two of these criteria must present during a one-year period:

  1. Morphine taken in greater quantities than intended or for longer than intended.
  2. Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop using morphine or to moderate morphine use.
  3. Lots of time spent obtaining and using morphine, as well as recovering from the effects of morphine abuse.
  4. Cravings for morphine.
  5. Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of morphine.
  6. Tolerance to morphine.
  7. Ongoing use of morphine despite the neglect of personal and professional commitments.
  8. Morphine use continues, even though it is triggering interpersonal and social problems.
  9. History of morphine use in potentially dangerous situations.
  10. Using morphine despite the abuse of opioids inflaming or causing a physical or mental health condition.
  11. Continued use of morphine in spite of negative outcomes.

Morphine Addiction Treatment

Morphine addiction can be treated similarly to other opioid addictions. A combination of these behavioral and pharmacological interventions is proven effective: 

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

Psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy)

Counseling (individual and group)

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approves three medications for treating opioid use disorders like morphine addiction.

During MAT, naloxone (an antagonist) and buprenorphine (a partial agonist) can mitigate the rewarding effects of morphine, so discouraging subsequent abuse of this opiate. Methadone is also proven effective for improving treatment retention and minimizing the likelihood of relapsing during recovery.

Medication-assisted treatment is best complemented by behavioral interventions like psychotherapy and counseling. 

If you’re ready to fight back against morphine addiction, we can help you at Gratitude Lodge.

Morphine Addiction Treatment at Gratitude Lodge

If you have abused morphine long-term and developed opioid use disorder, kickstart your recovery at Gratitude Lodge. We have affordable luxury rehab centers located in:

  • San Diego
  • Newport Beach
  • Long Beach

Take advantage of a supervised medical detox to streamline the challenging initial phase of morphine addiction recovery. After a week or so, you can transition directly into one of the following treatment programs:

  • 30-day inpatient program
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)

Opioid addiction, like alcoholism, responds positively to MAT (medication-assisted treatment) both during detox and throughout ongoing therapy. You can also access these evidence-based interventions if you commit to recovery at Gratitude Lodge: 

  • Psychotherapies (CBT or DBT)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • 12-step immersion program

When you are ready to reclaim your life from morphine addiction, call Gratitude Lodge at 888-861-1658.

Want to learn more?

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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