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Morphine Dependence

Are You Dependent On Morphine?

You are not alone.

And if you want to quit the pain medication safely, there are medical procedures and protocols that can help you get off morphine…for good.

In this article, we get into more detail about the nature and causes of morphine dependence. Then, we review several effective strategies to help you manage the condition. At the end, we invite you to send us your questions and comments via the section at the end of the page. We value your feedback and try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

Morphine Efficacy

The efficacy of morphine as a narcotic painkiller used in the management of moderate to severe chronic pain is well known. It works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain and alters the body’s perception of pain by. However, morphine can also exert a strong potential for abuse, and lead to euphoric mood, tolerance, and withdrawal syndrome.

So, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your morphine dose keep increasing?
  • Is your morphine use becoming more frequent?
  • Do you find it hard to quit because it hurts to do so?
  • Do you keep using morphine just to be able to function normally?

If YES, there are great chances you have developed a morphine dependence.

But is morphine dependence a bad or dangerous thing? How is it different from addiction?


Want to give an end to your morphine dependence?
Dependence is a medically treatable condition.
We can help!


What is Morphine Dependence?

Basically, it’s a natural and expected adaptation of your body.

The development of morphine dependence involves specific areas of the brain. Long-term, and repeated use can lead to changes in the brain’s chemical balance, thus resulting in dependence. As these changes take place, your neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and can only function normally in the presence of the drug. In fact, your body starts to rely on morphine and views its presence as normal and necessary.

When the drug is withdrawn, doctors expect several physiologic reactions to manifest. Many of the withdrawal symptoms from morphine are generated when the opiate receptors in the thalamus and brainstem are deprived of morphine. These symptoms can be harsh, and in some cases even dangerous, which is why medical care is strongly advised when stopping morphine use.

Does Morphine Dependence = Addiction?


Dependence is a state of the body, while addiction is a state of the mind. This means that you can be morphine dependent without being addicted. For instance, there are people who suffer from terminal cancer and are treated with morphine long-term. When morphine is cut down, they too, undergo morphine withdrawal symptoms. But, these patients are not habitual users and will not crave the drug after treatment is over…meaning they are not addicted to morphine.

PHYSICAL DEPENDENCE to morphine occurs when your body can function normally only in the presence of the drug. Dependence is especially noticeable when you lower or stop your usual morphine dosing. That is when withdrawal symptoms occur.

ADDICTION to morphine is a more complicated condition than physical dependence. A person who is addicted to morphine will experience the same withdrawal effects upon discontinuation of use, but they have a hard time staying off the drug. Addiction is characterized by:

  • Compulsive drug seeking behavior.
  • Continued use despite negative consequences.
  • Difficulty controlling or stopping use.
  • Strong cravings for the drug.
  • Needing morphine to feel pleasure and reward.
  • Neglect of home, work, school, and other obligations in favor of morphine use.

Morphine Dependence Symptoms

Chronic morphine users are prone to developing morphine dependence only after a few weeks of regular taking. The two main symptoms that indicate morphine dependence are: tolerance and withdrawal.

1. Tolerance to morphine happens when you start to require higher doses of morphine more often in order to be able to get the same effects as in the beginning of use. Tolerance may continue to progress with continued, chronic use.

2. Morphine withdrawal symptoms occur as your body tries to balance out whenever you abruptly lower your usual doses or suddenly discontinue use. Symptoms may start only a few hours after the last used dose of morphine and can last up to 8-12 days. Typical morphine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Carvings
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Irritation
  • Pain in the muscles
  • Sweating

Signs of Dependence

Besides an increase in tolerance and occurrence of withdrawal, there are other possible signs of dependence that you may display (if you are using morphine) or notice in a loved one who uses morphine. They may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Irritation
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Do you notice these warning signs in yourself or a loved one? Reputable treatment programs can help you address withdrawal symptoms, lower your tolerance gradually, and work with you to resolve any underlying issues that may be fuelling your morphine abuse.

How To End Drug Dependence

The first step in every physical dependence or morphine addiction treatment is to seek medical advice from a licensed and knowledgeable professional such as your family doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or a social worker. If you are not comfortable talking to your physician due to fear of stigma, then calling a Helpline can offer you the needed confidentiality and anonymity.

When you are directed to the right source of help, it’s time to start a treatment program specially tailored to fit your therapeutic needs. It is best to rely on multi faceted methods in treating morphine dependence and withdrawal that include supportive care and medications to help overpass the harsh symptoms. Who diagnoses and treats drug dependence?

  • Detox clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient addiction treatment centers

What is Withdrawal Treatment Like?

Here is what treatment usually involves.

Tapered withdrawal: This method involves a controlled opioid therapy monitored by an experienced addiction professional to help you during morphine withdrawal. Slow tapering of morphine doses is usually recommended, since sudden cessation may cause acute withdrawal and trigger relapse. The general duration of a tapering period is 2-3 weeks, and has proven as effective in most cases. Tapered withdrawal should always be carefully monitored by an addiction professional that can evaluate your progress, run drug tests, adjust your tapering schedule, provide support and medical advise.

IMPORTANT: After some clean weeks the body loses its developed tolerance to morphine. Users should never take a high amount of morphine, even though it may be the one they previously used on a daily basis. As tolerance to your old doses drops, use may lead to an overdose.

Medications: Your doctor may prescribe some medications used for treating morphine withdrawal, including:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine

Home treatment: Home remedies or over-the-counter meds available at the pharmacy without a prescription can also be useful in managing morphine withdrawal symptoms. For instance, symptoms similar to flu can be relieved with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting can be controlled by taking Imodium. Also, drinking plenty of fluids can prevent dehydration since profuse sweating is part of morphine withdrawal.

Peer support meetings: Joining a support group is a consistent part of every recovery, so joining one in close proximity to your living area can help you to overcome morphine withdrawal symptoms that may linger even after the initial tapering period is over. Sharing your experience does not only help you, but it will help others.

Got Any Questions?

For all of our readers who have additional questions, we invite you to leave a comment in the designated section below. We do our best to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. In fact, we strive to help all of those who need a hand to end morphine dependence and start to live a drug-free life.

Reference Sources: NIDA: Definition of dependence
NIDA: Brain regions mediating the development of morphine dependence
NIDA: Addiction vs dependence
NCBI: Morphine dependence and withdrawal induced changes in cholinergic signaling

Morphine Dependence

2 Can you get addicted to morphine?

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Morphine effects

April 8th, 2017

A research backed synopsis of morphine’s effects on the body, brain, organ systems, behavior, and fertility and pregnancy. Learn how morphine affects the organism of long-term, chronic users and what are the potential risks.

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