Morphine Drug Guide

in Addiction
Olivia Pennelle
Published Dec 8, 2020
Methods of Drug Abuse

Morphine is a powerful narcotic painkiller that carries numerous US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) boxed warnings. Those taking the medication are warned that prolonged use may be habit forming and could lead to opioid use disorder.  This blog provides an overview of the medication, what it is used for, and the risks associated with its use, including morphine withdrawal. 

What is morphine?

Morphine is an opioid-based medication, derived from the poppy plant, used to treat severe and chronic pain. Morphine works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain by blocking pain signals. However, as the medication works in the pleasure centers of the brain, causing a sense of euphoria, it carries a risk of misuse and addiction. It is therefore classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.

The effects of morphine vary depending on the strength and type of ingestion. It is available in an extended release tablet, extended release capsule, injection, suppository, and oral solution which comes in three different concentrations. When taken orally, the medication starts to work within 30 to 60 minutes. When injected, taken in liquid form, or as a suppository, the effects will be experienced more quickly. 

The oral solution is usually taken every four hours as needed for pain. The extended-release tablets are taken every 8 to 12 hours, depending on the brand. The suppository is usually inserted every four hours, and the injection is usually given every four hours 

Brand names for morphine include: Arymo ER, Duramorph PF, Infumorph, Kadian, MS Contin, Oramorph SR, Mitigo, Morphabond, Morphgesic, Sevredol, and Roxanol. 

Morphine can adversely interact with a number of other medications, such as antihistamines, medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (buprenorphine), certain antidepressants, and many more medications. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications that you are taking. Morphine is particularly dangerous if taken with other narcotics, sedatives, drugs that slow breathing, or medications that impact the levels of serotonin.

Additionally, certain conditions such as those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, suffer with blockages in the stomach or intestines, those with asthma or low blood pressure, and urinary or adrenal/liver/kidney or thyroid problems should also be cautious about taking the medication and should do so only with the advice, guidance and supervision of your primary physician.

Morphine sulphate

Morphine sulphate is a white round tablet that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. However, given the risks associated with using morphine, it comes with boxed warnings. 

The FDA boxed warning states that MS Contin exposes patients and others to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death. The drug also carries the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (when pregnant mothers take the medication). 

The FDA states that physicians are expected to evaluate each patient’s risk prior to prescribing the drug and if deemed appropriate to regularly monitor patients for the development of these behaviors and conditions. It is also recommended by the FDA that it is prescribed together with the opioid reversal drug, Naloxone. 

Morphine side effects

Common side effects of taking morphine include:

  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Mood changes, such as feeling extreme happiness or sadness
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating

As morphine is a powerful opioid it can lead to overdose. More serious side effects and signs of overdose requiring immediate medical attention include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives, swelling in the face, lips, tongue or throat and difficulty breathing
  • Slowed, shallow, or cessation of breathing
  • Blue lips
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Chest pain
  • Symptoms of serotonin syndrome: agitation, hallucinations, fever, shivering, twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

If you or a loved one experience any of these effects call 911 and seek emergency medical attention. 

Morphine withdrawal

Like other opioids, those taking morphine regularly may develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring an increased dose to have the same effect. If you have been taking the medication regularly and have developed a tolerance, you may experience withdrawal symptoms between 8 and 12 hours of the last dose, including: 

  • Runny nose
  • Flu-like feeling
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Yawning
  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cravings
  • Mood changes, such as depression, uneasiness, and agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping
Coping and relief from withdrawal

Detox is a crucial first step when stopping addictive medications such as opioids. In fact, it is recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.”

– SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

If you, or your loved one is struggling with opioids and don’t know how to, or can’t stop, call us to see how we can help. 

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432