Morphine Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Morphine is an opioid used primarily for pain control. It works on receptors in the brain and spinal cord to decrease pain sensations as well as to decrease the emotional response to pain.  When used for a long period of time, people can become psychologically and physically dependent on the drug. If stopped suddenly, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur. Tolerance develops relatively quickly, meaning more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect.  Since it is relatively easy to obtain and inexpensive, it is frequently abused. Among similar drugs used to treat chronic and severe pain, morphine has one of the highest addiction and abuse rates. The frequency of overdose from morphine is also the highest among the opiates.

Statistics

Opioid abuse has been increasing regularly over the past 10 years. Opioid abuse is rarely seen before the late teens or early 20’s however it can develop at any age. Among adults over the age of 18, prevalence rates have been estimated at .37%. The male to female ratio for opiates other than heroin is 1.5 to 1. The highest prevalence rates are found in individuals age 29 or younger (.82%), after which the disorder decreases until it reaches an estimated rate of .09% in those ages 65 or older.

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Co-Occurring Disorders

Common disorders which co-occur with Morphine Use Disorder include:

  • Other Substance Use Disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Conduct disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Causes

Genetic:  Morphine, like all the opioids, have a high heritability. Those with first degree relatives who experienced a morphine use disorder are significantly more likely to develop the same disorder or another opioid use disorder than individuals without a similar family history.

Brain Chemicals and Brain Structures: Morphine effects the amount of certain pleasure inducing chemicals in the brain. By stimulating the structures that release these chemicals, morphine acts to increase the amount circulating in the brain. In addition, there are naturally occurring opioids produced in the brain, called endogenous opioids. Morphine binds to the receptor sites for endogenous opioids and reduces the excitability of neurons. It is believed that this contributes to the euphoria experienced when using morphine.

Environment: Everyone feels overwhelmed by stress at one time or another. When overwhelmed by stress over the long term however, our bodies remain tense producing muscle and joint pain, and we experience anxiety regarding what the future holds. In addition to producing euphoria, morphine relieves pain and reduces fear and anxiety. If an individual has been exposed to morphine and their usual coping mechanisms aren’t decreasing the distress, the person may turn to this opiate knowing its effects on mood, anxiety and pain.

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Signs and Symptoms of Morphine Use Disorder

Mood/Psychological Symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Impaired Mental Performance
  • Inability to pay attention to surroundings
  • Preoccupation with the drug
  • Continued use despite knowing the substance is causing or exacerbating psychological
  • Poor judgment

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Doctor shopping to obtain more than one prescription
  • Lying or stealing in order to acquire more of the substance
  • Hiding or covertly using the substance
  • Concealing the substance in different places due to fear some may be discovered and confiscated
  • Continued use despite knowing the substance is causing or worsening physical problems

Physical symptoms:

  • Impaired physical performance
  • Decreased hunger
  • Interference with the menstrual cycle
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms from no longer taking the substance

Effects of Morphine Use Disorder

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Respiratory distress
  • Circulation problems
  • Inhibited cough reflex which can lead to choking
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Dehydration

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Negative Mood
  • Nausea
  • Increased or decreased need for sleep
  • Increased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety and Fear
  • Sweating
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