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Understanding Morphine and Its Effects
Extracted from the Opium found in poppy plants, Morphine is one of the oldest pain medications in the world. The Opioid drug is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Morphine is typically injected via a syringe or IV drip in a hospital setting or prescribed in an oral tablet in an outpatient setting. Morphine is considered to be a Schedule II drug in the U.S., which means that it has recognized medicinal benefits but is still severely restricted due to the fact that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
Morphine, like all Opioid pain relievers, works by binding to Opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system to change the way the body feels and responds to pain. Upon ingestion, the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream and is carried to organs throughout the body where it affects specific receptors in the nervous system. This interaction blocks pain and floods the body with dopamine, inducing euphoria. Many people will abuse Morphine because of this pleasurable effect or “high” that the drug produces. Any time someone uses the medication without a prescription or not explicitly as prescribed is considered abuse. Morphine is also relatively accessible and easy to obtain, which contributes to the high diverted use rates of the drug.
What Are the Effects of Morphine Use?
Along with its pain-relieving effects, Morphine can also cause some unwanted side effects as well. Although not all of these may occur, some of the most common effects include:
- Loss of appetite
- Blurred vision
- Poor coordination
Like many other prescription drugs, people that are taking Morphine may require larger doses for pain control when used for extended periods of time. Over time, the body can develop a tolerance for the medication and will require more and more of the drug to experience the same level of effectiveness. People with chronic pain who use Morphine may then become physically dependent on the medication, meaning that they will experience symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to stop taking the drug. Depending on a number of biological, environmental, genetic, and social factors, dependence on Morphine often turns into addiction, which causes the user to continue to use the drug despite the negative health consequences.
Symptoms of Morphine abuse typically include the following:
- Constricted pupils
- Decreased responsiveness
- Increased thirst
- Increased blow pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Drug cravings
Symptoms of a Morphine addiction typically include:
- Taking larger amounts of Morphine or taking Morphine for a longer period than intended
- Experiencing persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control Morphine use
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining or using Morphine or recovering from its effects
- Craving, or possessing a strong desire or urge to use Morphine
- Problems fulfilling obligations at work, school, or home
- Continued use despite social, interpersonal, physical, or psychological problems
- Giving up or reducing former activities because of Morphine use
- Using Morphine in physically hazardous situations
- Tolerance, or needing increasing amounts of Morphine to feel the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or taking Morphine to relieve or avoid withdrawal
People who regularly abuse or are addicted to Morphine are more likely to suffer dangerous side effects of the drug, especially those who take it in high doses or inject it intravenously. One of the greatest risks of drug misuse is overdose, which can result in coma and even death. Excessive doses of Morphine can slow breathing to such an extent that an individual can become oxygen deprived and suffer brain damage.
Symptoms of a Morphine Overdose
Morphine overdose most commonly occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes too much of the drug. Because tolerance to Morphine develops quickly, individuals who abuse the substance start to take dangerously high doses earlier than people that abuse other drugs, thus putting themselves at higher risk of overdose. Additionally, many Morphine users have been known to mix the drug with other sedatives such as alcohol, increasing the chance of overdose. Mixing two central nervous depressants together slows the nervous system’s ability to maintain basic bodily functions such as breathing and pumping blood to organs. It is also common to mix Morphine with stimulants such as cocaine, (known as “speed-balling”) which is also very dangerous. Another cause of overdose resides in how the Morphine is consumed. Crushed Morphine can lose its extended-release buffer, allowing for a faster, more hazardous absorption into the bloodstream.
People that experience any of the following symptoms should stop taking Morphine and contact emergency services immediately:
- Difficulty breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Extreme chest pain
- Low blood pressure
- Extreme lethargy
- Excessive drowsiness
- Cold or clammy skin
- Swelling of the throat and face
- Constricted, pinpoint pupils
- Slurred speech
- Lips and fingernails turning blue
When someone overdoses on Morphine immediate medical attention is required. Victims of overdose are to be transported to a hospital or emergency department, where medical professionals will monitor vital signs, including breathing, pulse, and blood pressure to treat any necessary symptoms. The quickest remedy or antidote in most cases of Morphine overdose is the medication Narcan, which rapidly reverses the effects of opioids. One of the most dangerous side effects of a Morphine overdose is life-threatening respiratory depression, so breathing is closely monitored during this time. Impaired breathing may necessitate airway support, oxygen, insertion of a breathing tube, or putting the person on a ventilator. If respiratory depression is not immediately recognized and treated, it can lead to respiratory arrest and death.
The Long-Term Effects of Morphine Use
There are many serious long-term side effects of Morphine abuse. While some are merely uncomfortable, such as fever and hives, others are incredibly dangerous and could result in irreversible damage to a person’s health. For example, many people who use Morphine find themselves at an increased risk for blood-borne pathogens like HIV. This is because many people who misuse the drug or take it illicitly inject it intravenously, sometimes with shared needles. In addition to increased exposure to diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, many people who abuse Morphine will experience adrenal insufficiency and severe hypotension. Opioid-induced involuntary muscle hyperactivity is also characteristic in those who take chronic high-doses of the drug.
Some of the other long-term effects of Morphine use includes:
- Depressed breathing
- Memory problems
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Severe constipation
- Chronic sleep disturbances
- Loss of sex drive
- Impaired muscle coordination
- Kidney failure
- Decreased metabolism
- Physical weakness
- Uncontrollable eye movements
These health risks are increased with higher doses of Morphine and chronic, long-term use. To minimize the chance that an individual will be exposed to these effects, Morphine should be taken exactly as prescribed and never abused.
Finding Treatment for Morphine Addiction
Morphine addiction can be an extremely hard thing to overcome, but it is not impossible. A comprehensive treatment plan consisting of detoxification, counseling, and ongoing support has proven to be extremely successful in treating Morphine use disorders. If you know someone that is struggling with an addiction to Morphine, contact a dedicated treatment provider to receive immediate help regarding treatment.
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