Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > Morphine Addiction and Abuse

Morphine is a strong opioid that is used to treat chronic to severe pain. If the drug is used for long periods of time, there is a high risk of people developing a psychological and physical dependence on the drug, and increasing the risk of morphine addiction. Compared to similar prescription drugs that are used to relieve severe pain, morphine poses the highest threat to abuse and addiction.

If you believe that you or someone you love is abusing morphine, then it is important to learn about the substance, the effects, and the different treatment options available to support you on your road to recovery.

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is believed to be the most effective opioid analgesic and is used to treat severe acute and chronic pain. Similar to other opioids, morphine works by directly acting on the central nervous system. Pain relief is induced by the interactions between the opioid and the opioid receptors in the brain. Morphine can change how our bodies send and receive pain signals between the brain and spinal cord, altogether blocking certain pain signals while reducing others.

As well as reducing pain, opiates can also activate the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical found within the brain that helps regulate mood, and an increase in dopamine can cause feelings of euphoria. When dopamine is released in the brain, we associate this as a reward that is used to reinforce positive behaviors and actions.

For example, our brains release dopamine after eating a good meal or physical exercise. So, when it is released after taking morphine, it creates a false sense of positive reinforcement and encourages a person to take more of the drug, increasing the risk of morphine addiction.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes morphine as a Schedule II substance, meaning that, despite its use for medical purposes, it is recognized as having a high risk of misuse and dependence.

Morphine administration can be given in the form of a tablet, injection, or syrup, and in some cases, it can be smoked. Opioids are a critical component of certain treatments, however, the risk of misuse and abuse poses a significant health risk. In a bid to decrease the risk of abuse and morphine addiction, morphine pills have been created with abuse-deterrent formulations so that they cannot be crushed, injected, or snorted.

Morphine Abuse

Morphine Abuse

Due to morphine's effects, the opioid can cause habit-forming tendencies. Following morphine administration, people experience relief of both physical and mental pain, and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression have been noted to alleviate. This may be due to the increase in dopamine after opioid abuse. In a single year, around 275 million people worldwide report abusing drugs. Among these, 62 million people reported abusing an opiate drug.

The desirable high that is induced by morphine abuse causes a person to crave large amounts of the drug in order to experience intensified effects. A morphine tolerance develops when a person becomes accustomed to a certain dose of the substance.

This means that a person will have to take higher doses of the substance in order to feel the same effects they once did. Tolerance to morphine can develop even if a person is undergoing chronic morphine treatment under a doctor's guidance. In fact, one in four people who are prescribed opioids misuses them during or after treatment.

Once morphine dependence has been established a person will begin to experience adverse side effects when the drug starts to wear off or if they stop taking the substance completely. To avoid these symptoms, people continue to use the drug.

A detox from morphine is the first step in the recovery journey and, although an uncomfortable experience, with the right help and support, morphine withdrawal can be easily managed and controlled.

Morphine Effects

The effects of morphine can be both short and long-term, and the effects can contribute to a morphine addiction as soon as after a few doses.

Short Term

Short-term effects of morphine abuse include:

  • euphoria
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • a relaxed or calm feeling
  • constipation
  • sleepiness
  • reduced sex drive
  • respiratory distress
  • low blood pressure
  • increased tolerance

Long Term

Long-term use of morphine can cause the side effects to intensify, increasing the risk of causing mental, physical, or social health harm. A person using morphine for an extended period of time is at an increased risk of experiencing an overdose. There is a higher risk of experiencing a morphine-related overdose than one related to other opiates. Other possible long-term side effects include:

  • confusion
  • lung failure
  • hallucinations
  • loss of consciousness
  • respiratory failure

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person has been repeatedly abusing morphine, the body becomes accustomed to a frequent supply of the drug, this means that the natural production of opioids is slowed down. When morphine is then cut out of the system completely, the body's chemical's become out of balance, resulting in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

When a person has developed a dependency on the drug or a morphine addiction, they will experience adverse side effects when they stop taking the substance. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • excessive sweating
  • restlessness
  • body aches
  • insomnia
  • anxiety or depression

These symptoms are typically experienced six to 12 hours after a person's last dose and peak between 48-96 hours later. Without treatment, the psychological dependence on the drug may never really go away, however, a medically supervised detox, followed by therapy and an aftercare plan gives people the best chance for a full and successful recovery.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a number of different risk factors for the offset of morphine addiction. However, it is important to remember that addiction is a complex disease and no two experiences are the same. These factors may differ for some individuals and a dependency is possible without any additional conditions.


There are a number of genes that influence the electric and chemical pathways in our brain's reward systems. For example, the OPRM1 gene can influence how the brain reacts and receives different opioids and can therefore increase the risk of developing an opioid addiction.

Similar to other opiate drugs, those who have a family member who has experienced a morphine addiction have a higher chance of developing the same disorder or another opioid use disorder.


Our environments surrounding us are a determining factor for many aspects of our lives, including the ability and desire to access morphine. The euphoria and numbness induced by morphine are sought out by those who may be facing extreme anxiety or depression due to life's circumstances. If a person has already been exposed to morphine, and they are having distress, they may turn to the substance for its desirable effects on anxiety, mood, or pain.

Alternatively, simply being in an environment where others are using drugs around you can increase the chance of drug use. Other environmental risk factors for a morphine addiction include:

  • extreme stress
  • sudden lifestyle change
  • abuse
  • easy access to the drug

Signs and Symptoms of Morphine Use

Alarming changes in personality, health, and lifestyle may all be signs that someone you know is living with a morphine addiction. If anyone is taking prescription drugs in a way that is not consistent with how they were prescribed, they are partaking in drug abuse.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Impaired mental performance
  • Inability to focus or pay attention
  • Euphoria
  • Poor judgment
  • Continued use despite psychological negative consequences

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Stealing or lying to get the substance
  • Hiding the use of the drug
  • Using more than one doctor to try and get more prescriptions
  • Hiding the substance in different places due to the fear that someone may find it

Physical symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increase in tolerance
  • Impaired physical performance
  • Adverse side effects are experienced when no longer taking the substance

Morphine Abuse Treatment

Morphine Abuse Treatment

Opioids are a powerful category of drugs that can quickly lead to dependency and cause people to fall into the trap of misuse due to withdrawal symptoms. However, permanent and long-term recovery is more than possible. In general, treatment centers will typically offer morphine addiction treatment in three phases, medical detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare.

However, addiction treatment plans are usually personalized for the individual and different treatment centers may offer different addiction treatment techniques. The first step in all addiction treatment is treating the physical dependence the body has formed on the substance.


This is the first stage of many addiction treatment plans. The detox stage can at times be uncomfortable but certainly cannot be avoided. This is where a person stops taking the substance to allow for it completely leave the body. The tapering method for opioid use is when people slowly reduce their drug use to reduce adverse side effects, making the experience as comfortable as possible.

Depending on the individual, medication may be prescribed at this point to help a person transition off of opioids. The medication will be closely monitored by a doctor and will be prescribed in small doses. Throughout the medical detox, people will be slowly introduced to talk therapy, general guidance, and peer support to set them up for the next stage of treatment.


Once a person has finished their detox, the rehabilitation and therapy stage begins. While the physical symptoms are over, there will still be behavioral and emotional challenges to deal with.

A person will work with a mental health professional to help deal with the root cause of the addiction, they will work on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that may have contributed to drug use.

Treatment at Cirque Lodge

Cirque Lodge is the number one addiction treatment center in Utah. We offer an enriching rehabilitation experience in a serene setting, providing the most effective treatment for you. We utilize a holistic approach to ensure long-term success in your recovery journey as well as personal growth.

Our team of exceptional medical staff will create an individualized treatment plan for each client as we acknowledge that addiction is a unique experience for all. At our treatment center, we offer state-of-the-art facilities as well as the most up-to-date and evidence-based therapeutic techniques, therapy, and outdoor activities to give you the space to reconnect with your true self.

We know that addiction is not a choice and so wish to nurture your personal development in a supportive environment to give you the best experience possible.

If you believe you or someone you love is living with a morphine addiction, our detox program backed by years of research can help you leave your morphine addiction in the past. No matter what stage of addiction you are at, we are here to help you get back on track to living a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Our center is a community and we are here to listen and assist. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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