When people rely on morphine to not just control their pain, but to also feel better in general, or if they’re simply looking for a new way to get high, it can become a very difficult – but not impossible – habit to break.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies morphine as a Schedule II drug, meaning that even though it has a high potential for abuse and can cause physical and psychological dependence, it is of considerable medical value. Indeed, notwithstanding the risks of addiction and withdrawal, many doctors argue that the benefits of using morphine outweigh the dangers. The sentiment is echoed by people who use morphine illicitly, whether they are desperately seeking relief from their pain or because they are chasing the euphoric bliss that comes from an opioid high. Whatever their reasons, they put themselves in danger with unregulated morphine abuse, especially given how habit-forming morphine can be.
How does Morphine affect the Brain?
Morphine is an opioid analgesic, meaning that it is a painkiller derived from opium. It is, in fact, the main chemical ingredient found in opium, making it particularly potent and addictive. Like other opioids, both medicinal and illicit, morphine treats how the body reacts to pain by directly working on receptors in the brain and central nervous system. As an opioid, it reduces the release of neurotransmitters carrying signals of pain, dulling the effects and responses to pain for about 3 to 6 hours. Morphine’s potency makes it a very popular choice for pain management; in fact, morphine is considered the standard opiate and the drug of first choice in the treatment of moderate to severe cancer pain.
Morphine Withdrawal Timeline
Because of how easily morphine binds to opioid receptors in the brain, a constant flow of the drug will prime the user to fall quickly into morphine dependency. The habit will go from simply taking the morphine to control pain, to taking the morphine when the user is bored, upset, angry, or otherwise discontent. It may become the individual’s go-to for dealing with anything unpleasant that comes his or her way, soon becoming the only way he or she can experience anything resembling “normality.”
Like most drugs, morphine builds up a tolerance in the body. While a certain amount was once sufficient to cause the rush and make everything go away, soon more and more will be required to get that same feeling. This continues to the point where the morphine is so deeply embedded in the user that discontinuing use causes severe withdrawal effects. Morphine withdrawal follows the pattern of other forms of opioid withdrawal:
- 6 hours after last use: drug craving, depression, anxiety, and mood swings
- 14 hours after last use: sweating, runny sinuses, and depression
- 16 hours after last use: muscle cramping and twitches; loss of appetite
- 24 hours after last use: involuntary limb movements, diarrhea, insomnia, high blood pressure, and high breathing rate
- 36 hours after last use: vomiting
- 72 hours to 5 days after last use: gradual abatement of symptoms, although some chronic users may experience lingering effects
While morphine withdrawal usually balances out around the 5th or 6th day after the last intake, it is not unheard of for symptoms to linger for 7 to 10 days, especially in cases of long-term or serious morphine abuse. Despite the severity of these symptoms, morphine withdrawal is not fatal. Overdosing on morphine, on the other hand, can cause death from asphyxiation.
Even though morphine withdrawal isn’t fatal, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely distressing and difficult to endure, so much so that users may be tempted to abandon detox and take morphine again. While even this will likely not prove life-threatening, compared to someone going through alcohol withdrawal, which is much more dangerous, it does raise the possibility of someone going through morphine withdrawal to develop a deepening a dependence on morphine, undoing any work and good intentions that may have been done by the attempted withdrawal.
Morphine Addiction Treatment
Withdrawing from morphine on your own is always inadvisable. The risks you take when there is no one around to help you stay clean during your most vulnerable time outweigh any possible benefits. The alternative, which is to go through structured and supervised withdrawal at a treatment center, offers many more advantages:
- Withdrawal is a complex chemical process, and you will be in the hands of trained medical staff members
- The facility’s doctors can prescribe careful doses of anti-anxiety and anti-nausea medication to ease the withdrawal process
- Other medical needs will be properly addressed
- There is no danger of relapsing when your withdrawal symptoms are at their worst, as you won’t have access to morphine
- When the withdrawal stage is complete, the treatment center can immediately start you on a course of psychotherapy
As important as it is to get over the physical craving to use morphine, whether or not it was prescribed by a doctor for pain management, controlling the mental compulsion to use morphine plays an even bigger role. A psychotherapist’s job is to work with you to understand the thought processes that led to an unhealthy need for morphine. Once those processes are brought to light, he/she can help you learn new ways of dealing with the temptation to use morphine. This can cover anything from changing habits to keeping certain perspectives in mind when the pain threatens to become unbearable or when the frustrations and annoyances of daily life start piling up again.
At Futures of Palm Beach, we want you to know that you do not have to go through morphine withdrawal on your own, in danger of making the same mistakes all over again. Call today to start living morphine free.