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Morphine Addiction and Treatment

Morphine is considered one of the most effective opioid pain relievers for cancer and post-operative pain.1 Morphine and other opioids are highly regulated due to pharmacological properties that include inducing euphoria and reinforcing of drug-taking behavior. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies morphine as a Schedule II controlled substance defined as drugs with a high potential for misuse that can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.2

If you or someone you care about are struggling with controlling morphine use, learning more about the health effects of morphine misuse and addiction can help you make an informed decision about your health.

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is a naturally occurring opioid derived from the opium poppy plant.3 Morphine is available in various forms, including immediate- and extended-release capsules and tablets and injectable and oral solutions.3 It is FDA-approved for the management of acute and chronic pain that cannot be effectively managed with other types of medications.2

How Is Morphine Misused?

Like other prescription opioids, morphine is generally safe when used as directed by a doctor.4 However, morphine can be diverted for non-medical use into illicit channels of distribution. It can also be misused by a person with a legitimate prescription.2

Morphine misuse occurs when a person:2, 4

  • Takes morphine in a dosage or way other than prescribed (e.g., snorting).
  • Takes someone else’s morphine, even if for a legitimate medical complaint (e.g., pain).
  • Takes morphine for its rewarding effects (e.g., to feel euphoria).

A person may misuse morphine by ingesting the drug in its capsule or tablet form, crushing the pill and snorting it, or dissolving the crushed pill in water and injecting it.3, 4

The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported over 1.7 million people aged 12 and older in the United States used morphine in the past year, with 200,000 reported misusing morphine.5

Is Morphine Addictive?

Yes, morphine can lead to addiction. Addiction refers to a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological symptoms that develop due to repeated substance use; it involves compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and substance use despite the significant negative consequences.2 Morphine addiction can occur in people who take morphine as prescribed, as well as in those who misuse it.2

Signs of Morphine Addiction

Medical professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose morphine addiction, classified as an opioid use disorder (OUD). A diagnosis is based on the presence of two or more of the following criteria manifesting within a 12-month period:6

  • Using opioids like morphine in larger amounts or for longer periods than originally intended.
  • Wanting to cut back or stop using opioids but being unable to do so.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids like morphine.
  • Feeling cravings, or strong desires to use opioids.
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work because of opioid use.
  • Using opioids like morphine despite experiencing persistent or recurrent interpersonal or social problems caused or exacerbated by opioid use.
  • Forgoing important occupational, recreational, or social activities because of opioid use.
  • Using opioids in situations where it is dangerous to do so (e.g., driving).
  • Continuing to use opioids despite persistent physical or psychological problems caused or worsened by opioid use.
  • Developing a tolerance, meaning you need higher or more frequent doses of the opioid to experience previous effects. (Note: The presence of tolerance does not count as meeting diagnostic criteria among people who take morphine as prescribed).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the opioid. (Note: The presence of withdrawal symptoms does not count as meeting diagnostic criteria among people who take morphine as prescribed).

Morphine addiction can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. Recognizing these signs in yourself or a loved one does not confirm a morphine addiction. However, it may signal the need for professional medical assessment and possibly for treatment.

Dangers of Morphine Misuse and Addiction

The rewarding effects of morphine are associated with dysregulation of rewarding dopamine pathways leading to increased levels of dopamine due to stimulation of opioid receptors in the brain.1 Like other prescription opioids, there are several morphine side effects to be aware of. The most common include:2

  • Constipation.
  • Nausea.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sedation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.

Regular morphine use can result in developing tolerance, in which a person needs higher or more frequent doses of morphine to achieve the desired effects.2 Regular use can also result in physiological dependence, which refers to the body’s adaptation to a drug following regular use, causing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is abruptly reduced or stopped. Morphine dependence and tolerance can occur even when the drug is taken as prescribed, and both can contribute to a person developing problematic patterns of use that can lead to addiction.2

Addiction in general can have far-reaching consequences including:7

  • New or worsened mental health disorders.
  • New or worsened health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, blood-borne infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDs), and stroke.
  • Motor vehicle accidents and other traumatic injuries.
  • Problems at home, school, or work.

Morphine Overdose

A morphine overdose occurs when a person takes enough of the drug to result in life-threatening symptoms or death.2 The risk of overdose increases when morphine is combined with benzodiazepines or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, including alcohol. Morphine overdose signs can include:2

  • Slowed, shallow, or stopped breathing.
  • Sleepiness or sedation that progresses to loss of consciousness.
  • Flaccid muscles.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Constricted or dilated pupils.
  • Slow heart rate.

A morphine overdose is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect that you or someone else are experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. If you have access to naloxone (Narcan), you should administer it and follow any instructions provided by the 911 operator.8

Morphine Withdrawal

As mentioned, a person who is dependent on morphine can experience opioid withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly cut back or stop taking morphine.2 Common morphine withdrawal symptoms include:2

  • Restlessness.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Yawning.
  • Sweating.
  • Chills.
  • Muscle aches and pains.
  • Dilated pupils.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, but they are not typically life-threatening.9 Medication is available for people experiencing morphine withdrawal that can help to minimize or even eliminate certain withdrawal symptoms.9

Morphine Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are struggling with morphine addiction, treatment is available and can help you begin your recovery journey. Treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) often involves a combination of:4, 10

  • Medications, such as methadone, naltrexone, or buprenorphine.
  • Behavioral therapies, such as contingency management or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Participation in support groups (e.g., 12-step programs).
  • Aftercare planning.

Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) can help patients by eliminating or reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms and by blocking the effects of opioids. These medications can be continued after withdrawal symptoms subside and help many patients stop opioid misuse, giving people the time and ability to make necessary life changes associated with long-term recovery.10 Behavioral therapies are often used in conjunction with MOUD and can help patients identify and modify harmful behaviors and thought patterns that contribute to drug use.10

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for every patient. Effective treatment also considers a patient’s needs outside of their drug use (e.g., financial, legal, psychological, social).10, 11 Treatment can occur in various settings and at different lengths and levels of intensity. Patients may begin treatment with a period of medical detox to help manage withdrawal symptoms as comfortably and safely as possible and prepare them for ongoing treatment, which may take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting.10, 11 Patients typically receive an assessment to develop an individualized treatment plan based on their goals and needs.11

Finding Morphine Addiction Treatment

You can find morphine addiction treatment in different ways, such as:

  • Having an honest conversation with your doctor or a mental health practitioner to discuss your needs and get referrals.
  • Using our directory to find morphine addiction treatment near you or out of state. Narrow your results by filtering by insurance, location, and type of care.
  • Contacting your insurance provider to find an in-network facility and learn more about using insurance for rehab.

American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment with treatment centers throughout the U.S. Contact one of our caring admissions navigators at to learn more about morphine addiction treatment programs.

Check Your Insurance Benefits for Morphine Addiction Rehab

Find out if your insurance covers morphine addiction treatment by filling out the short form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential and there is no obligation to enter treatment.

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