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Morphine Use

Morphine Is Habit Forming

Morphine is a pain reliever that is extracted from opiate plants. Doctors prescribe it for both, acute pain and chronic pain. orphine is frequently used for pain from surgery or during complicated medical interventions. However, this drug has a direct effect on the central nervous system.

Here, we review the medical use of morphine. We also cover the consequences of long term morphine use and the risks associated with different routs of administration. At the end of the page we welcome any questions or personal experience you might want to share about the use of morphine.

Medical Use Of Morphine

Morphine has a wide use in medicine. Generally, it is used as a reliever of moderate to severe pain. Morphine acts directly on the central nervous system by affecting different receptors causing sedation, analgesia, shallow breathing, and low heart rate. Morphine is typcially prescribed in these medical cases:

  • A reliever of pain caused by heart attack.
  • Before and after surgeries to ease acute pain when bigger organs are removed or treated.
  • During surgeries combined with other agents to support “balanced” anesthesia.
  • Car accidents.
  • For rheumatic pain in the extremities.
  • In cases of severe cough as a cough suppressant.
  • Sedating patients prior to surgery.
  • Treating acute pain caused by broken bone/ twisted joint.
  • Treatment of kidney stones.
  • Treatment of water collected in the lungs.
  • Terminal cancer patients.

Of course, there are other prescribed drugs for treating these conditions, but morphine is used only for extreme cases.

Acute and Chronic Pain

Usually, patients treated with morphine are diagnosed with either acute or chronic pain. But, it is only prescribed for extreme cases of pain treatment. So, what are the difference between acute and chronic pain?

Acute pain is defined as  severe pain that appears suddenly including anything from a broken bone to a respiratory attack. Chronic pain is considered to be a long-term health condition. Acute pain can lead to chronic pain, and vice-versa.

Morphine Recreational Use

One of the main reasons for using morphine recreationally is for experiencing euphoria and an extreme sense of well-being. However, any morphine use besides prescription by doctor is considered illegal.

According to the Controlled Substances Act, morphine belongs to the Schedule II class of drugs. Federal drug possession penalties are different on every state, but you can go to jail between 1 to 10 years, or pay fees up to $ 2,500 for recreational morphine use.


Morphine can be given by mouth, by injection into a muscle, by injecting under the skin, intravenously, into the space around the spinal cord, or rectally. The effects last 20 minutes when morphine is taken intravenously and 60 min when given by mouth. The effects of pain relief and sedation can last between 3 -7 hours for long acting formulas.

Depending on the route of intake, morphine has different time lasting of effectiveness and presence in the human system. It acts quickly from 15-60 minutes after the administration, and usually, the euphoria last from 4-6 hours.

Here is a list of the most common modes of administration and effects.

  • By mouth (drinking, chewing and crushing). Morphine takes about 30 to 60 minutes to reach euphoric effect and has a half-life of 4-6 hours. Taking this way, morphine may cause dry mouth that leads to gum problems and tooth decay.
  • By snorting. Administrated by nasal insufflation, morphine gives an immediate “hit”, but leads to irritation of the nasal passages and persistent runny discharge.
  • By rectal suppository. Taking morphine through the anus brings on a rush due to the rich blood supply in the rectum. The drug passes the blood-brain boundary fairly quickly and onset of effects happens soon after administration.
  • By injection (intravenous and intrathecal).Injecting morphine makes quick reach in the blood system going straight to the brain. This route causes rapid effect, but also, brings the most risks compared to the other ways of administration.


Long Term Morphine Use

In medicine terms “long-term” means “chronic”, something that endures for at least 6 months or more. Experts claim that long-term morphine use can be safe and effective therapy for severe pain management if it is constantly monitored by a professional.

However, morphine is a habit-forming drug, and its long-term use may cause physical dependence, or even an addiction. Physical dependence is linked to the central nervous system and how the brain adapts the drug presence over time. A physically morphine dependent person goes through withdrawal symptoms when doses are suddenly lowered or stopped. While morphine leaves the system, the brain needs time to get used to. Common side effects of long-term morphine use include:

  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Mild depression
  • Nausea
  • Pruritus
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Urinary retention
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Prolonged Use Of Morphine

Constant use of morphine for a period of time may lead to physical dependency and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to lower the dose or cease using the drug completely. The prolonged use of morphine may also trigger the development of a certain level of tolerance in the body, a point where the system is no longer reacting to the drug. In these cases, morphine users often start to take a higher dose of morphine to trigger the wanted well-being effect.


When someone who’s been using morphine daily stops using the drug, the brain produces morphine withdrawal symptoms. The first symptoms start within 45-96 hours after the last dose and maintain for up to 8 – 12 days.

Here are some physical withdrawal symptoms:

  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu symptoms
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Physical weakness and restlessness

Psychological symptoms of morphine withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia

Your Questions

Still have questions about the main uses and biology of morphine?

We invite you to post them in the designated section below. We try to reply personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to your question, we will refer you to someone who can help.

Reference sources: NIH: Morphine
DEA: Morphine
Medline Plus: Morphine

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