Is morphine addictive?

YES. Morphine is highly addictive. This is even the case when morphine is prescribed by a doctor. We review what morphine is made of and how you get addicted to morphine here.

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YES. Morphine is addictive.

But what makes morphine addictive?Is addiction related to how long morphine stays in your system?  And how do you know if you’re a morphine addict? We’ll review and answer these questions here. Then, we invite your questions about the addictive potential of morphine at the end.

What is morphine used for?

A narcotic painkiller, morphine is used to help manage pain that is moderate to severe in nature. Morphine alters the body’s perception of pain by binding to opiate receptors in the brain. The way that morphine works in the brain and central nervous system can also cause feelings of euphoria, along with dizziness, lightheadedness, and even mood changes.

What is morphine made of?

Morphine is derived from the opium poppy. A naturally-occurring substance, morphine is simply extracted from the plant and concentrated to create a powerful opiate medication.

How addictive is morphine?

Morphine is very addictive. The addictive potential of morphine based on its chemical properties alone makes morphine a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. In fact, morphine has a similar abuse liability to other opiate and opioid substances such as opium, methadone or oxycodone. Morphine’s strong effects on the central nervous system cause it to be frequently abused in an attempt to “get high”. Because of how frequently morphine is abused, it’s available only with a doctor’s prescription.

Morphine dependence vs. addiction

Morphine dependence is not necessarily the same as morphine addiction. Nonetheless, even while using morphine responsibly and for legitimate medical reasons you can still become physically dependent on the pain medication. A physical dependence simply means that you are unable to stop taking morphine without side effects.

An addiction to morphine is more complicated than chemical dependence. A morphine addict will experience the same withdrawal effects upon abruptly stopping or reducing morphine doses, but this withdrawal syndrome is combined with strong cravings for the drug, and compulsive use of the drug, despite negative consequences. In other words, the characteristic sign of morphine addiction is a psychological dependence on morphine.

How do you get addicted to morphine?

Are you taking morphine for pain, not to get high? If you’re taking morphine as directed by your doctor, you probably don’t have a problem with morphine even if you’re dependent. It’s far less likely that you’ll get addicted this way, however.

But if you’re taking larger doses than prescribed to try to achieve psychoactive effects, you’re misusing the drug. In general, you can get addicted to morphine if you take it in a manner other than normally prescribed. You’re also much more likely to become addicted this way. Plus, you’re at a higher risk of morphine addiction if you’ve been addicted to other drugs or alcohol in the past.

So how do you get addicted to morphine? If you make a conscious decision to misuse morphine, it’s very likely you’ll become addicted. Some ways that people misuse and abuse morphine are:

  • chewing morphine to prevent controlled release
  • crushing morphine into a powder and snorting morphine
  • crushing morphine to dissolve in water and inject
  • taking morphine in higher doses than prescribed
  • taking morphine more frequently than prescribed

Signs of morphine addiction

It’s true that morphine dependence and addiction can be hard to tell apart. But morphine addiction involves a psychological craving for the drug. You may be addicted to morphine if you need to take it to deal with daily stress. Other signs of morphine addiction include:

  1. Continued morphine abuse despite negative consequences.
  2. Craving morphine and using it compulsively.
  3. Seeking morphine in order to stimulate the “reward center” of the brain.

Morphine addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about morphine addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: ToxNet: Morphine
Medline Plus: Morphine Oral
PubChem: Morphine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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    1. Hi Pedro. Morphine has addictive potential. So, if you’re using it for a longer period you may develop morphine dependence, and even addiction.

  1. Hi I have been in hospital 12 times over the last 3 year. 9 times I have had morphine giving to me Becasue of pain. Will I be addicted to it. It’s just Becasue I have been told to ask about it. I don’t think I am but to keep the cool air in the family I was ask. I have not had morphine for like 5 months now. And then only give it to me once evey time I have had it. I hope you can under stand what I have tryed to ask. I can’t read and write to good. Thank you katie.

  2. been on 400mg morphine daily for last 12 yrs…..take 50mg tablets instant release 2 tabs as required…..cannot function without them..take them for pain only..never get high or anything and take for pain which i suffer from various problems as result of severe trauma…..cannot ever see the day when i will be able to leave them alone…of late pain breakthrough is becoming worse and try as i may i end up having to take more than every 4 hrs…think i need to be on stronger meds…any ideas?

  3. Tria-
    I am just curious to know- How long have you gone without at a single stretch without experiencing withdrawal symptoms (besides the ‘slight stomach upset’, and what type/dose/length have you been on. (I.e. 24hr release, IR, etc) and is it oral or a pump or patch?

    Have you gone 7 or more days without any dosing and not experianced symptoms? (Diarrhea, sweats, etc.??)

  4. Some of the commenters here really do make me shake my head in disbelief! Physical dependence and addiction are not the same, and the addictive potential of morphine depends very much on the individual and their metabolism and personality (if you have what’s called “an addictive personality”, you’re likely to have more psychological issues over opioids – that’s established fact). I’m on a very high dose for a very painful lifelong condition and, while I struggle with a great deal of pain when I run out of my meds (usually this happens when my pharmacy or GP surgery receptionists mess up), I do *not* get any other withdrawal symptoms beyond the occasional stomach upset that I’m fairly sure I would get anyway (thank you, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). Not everyone gets addicted to or dependent on morphine when taking it – but I would still not advise abusing it. If you are in pain, don’t be afraid of taking it; if you’re not, don’t risk it, as you’re more likely to develop an addiction if you *don’t* need pain meds.

    1. Hello 60620. Depends on what kind of back pain it is. I’d suggest you go to the nearest pharmacy and ask the pharmacist about an alternative back pain relief. I hope they can help!

  5. I meant to say Morphine really does rule your life, while others get up in the morning and have their breakfast and so forth, the first thing I go for is my morphine, I am constantly counting them to make sure I have not lost any as this has happened before, always looking at the date to see the doctor next, it really is bad. I have been taking them for a lot of years now starting of from a car crash that I am sure by now I would have got over but now have trouble with my kidneys. I know I shouldn’t do in this day and age but still get looks from the hospital staff I don’t think they believe I am just acting normal after all the morphine I take, it is certainly nothing to be proud of but it just shows you how quickly Morphine gets you and no you dont have to be on much before you need more it seems like a few months if not sooner and that dose your on is not enough for your pain so up you go and on and on it goes. I hope nobody gets to where I am 🙁

  6. I agree with Starla Morphine can cause terrible withdrawals and I also cannot function without it. My morphine is prescribed from my doctor. I am on a very high dose 420 mil twice a day of MST. I had to go in to hospital last year and was in terrible pain as I had a very bad bleed which caused a massive blood cot in my kidney in fact I was in the ITCU for nearly three weeks, the first week thought I was going nuts as they just could not get me out of pain it was really bad. I know it is hard but if possible take the smallest amount you can cope with. I am slowly, very slowly coming down as I could not ever put up with that again. Good luck to anybody on Morphine as you never know if you will have to go to hospital with some kind of pain, I would not wish what I went through on my worse enemy.

  7. let me tell you from personal experiance that morphine is one of the most addictive substances on earth. I was on hydrocodone for a long time, and did not experiance an “addiction”…. But when I switched to morphine, I litterally cannot function without it. If I stop taking it, I experiance the most TERRIBLE withdrawals. It is equal to heroin withdrawal (which can be fatal) because heroin actually turns to morphine in the body. the only differance is that heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier, and morphine itself does not. I STRONGLY encourage anyone who does not have a medical condition requiring very strong pain releif to NOT start taking morphine. You will find that addiction/dependance sets in VERY quickly, and going off it is so hard (physically and mentally) that it may require professional help, as well as anothet medication (such as suboxone) to come off of it.

  8. I think this was an “ok” article re: morphine addiction vs dependence and does provide important info for people who are legitimately taking morphine and are concerned or who know someone taking it legitimately or otherwise. But it over simplifies how one becomes addicted to it, people who are more likely to develop addiction to morphine because they have the disease of addiction or a genetic or environmental predisposition. Everyone needs to know even in everyday or lay person’s language that morphine is addictive because the chemical make-up of morphine and how it interacts with our brain’s that cause it to be so addictive. That while true many people who take it experience some of side effects you describe not everyone does and yet they become addicted or dependent. I also think when we talk about legitimatly taking, using a drug as prescribed our bodies, esp our brains become dependent. The same is true for many antidepressents or even heart medication. I think we need to help develop an understanding that “(physical) dependence” is not a “bad word.” It’s a physiological response. That there is a difference between a “healthy, physiological response” aka “dependence” and dependence that reflects an addiction. If we help take stigma from some words, them maybe people will be more likely to describe, share what they are experiencing with their medications and can help us reach people who may be in “trouble” allowing earlier intervention, treatment & recovery or maybe help with prevention. But it starts with basic information as you have done here. So thank-you.

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