Morphine Addiction Treatment

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What is Morphine?

Morphine is a painkiller prescribed for acute, chronic or long-lasting pain. The seedpod of the poppy plant produces morphine, which can be manipulated into opium or heroin. These substances are called opiates, or opioids. Morphine can be manufactured into pills or solutions (liquid) for medical use. Misuse of morphine and other prescription opiates can result in dependency, abuse and addiction.

Morphine is a controversial medication for its role in the recent and ongoing opioid epidemic, though its history of addiction dates back over a century. Morphine is prescribed to patients dealing with difficult chronic pain, although it should only be prescribed for acute pain in non-cancer pain patients. Physicians must find the right dosage and length of treatment to be sure it is effective but not over-prescribed. If the pain-relieving effects of morphine wear off and leave the patient in pain, it is all too easy to misuse the drug by taking too many additional doses. Morphine is a Schedule II controlled substance for its highly addictive properties, making the choice to take it excessively a very dangerous one.

Morphine side effects and dangers

Like any prescription medication, morphine may cause side effects even when taking it correctly. The following morphine side effects are common:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating

Morphine use crosses the line into abuse and even addiction when it is misused. Misuse includes taking excessive doses of morphine or altering the way you ingest it, such as cutting the pills in half. If your current morphine dosage is not providing effective relief, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating with additional doses.
There are serious risks to morphine misuse. It is illegal to share, give away or sell morphine because of its dangerous medical consequences. Prescriptions are filled based on medical history and physical condition, and there is a high risk of a life-threatening overdose when taking another person’s morphine prescription.

Morphine overdose symptoms, which can be fatal if not treated immediately, include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Atypical snoring and airway obstruction
  • Sleepiness progressing to stupor or coma
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Death

The path to serious abuse of morphine can begin when the desired effect is the high produced by the drug instead of pain relief. Tampering with morphine pills, such as crushing, injecting or snorting them, allows the body to absorb the drugs faster. The euphoric high comes faster, but so does bodily harm and the need for another dose.

If a person seeking morphine is unable to access the drug, they may turn to illicit measures. Because illegally-purchased or stolen morphine is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients. Even worse, morphine users may find relief in a cheap, plentiful alternative:  heroin. This is a common scenario in today’s opioid epidemic.

Morphine abuse and addiction signs

Any use of morphine outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with morphine pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the morphine pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also abuse of the drug.
Morphine addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Cutting, crushing, chewing or otherwise tampering with morphine before taking it
  • Incorrectly measuring liquid morphine doses with household objects (teaspoons) instead of the included measuring device
  • Refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral
  • Repeated “loss” of prescription

Opioid withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on morphine, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical morphine dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. A morphine prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the dosage to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important—those who are physically dependent on morphine will experience opioid withdrawal symptoms if they stop their morphine prescription too suddenly. If the opioid withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm—the definition of addiction.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure, heartbeat or breathing

These problems vary in severity and duration depending on the specific morphine dose taken and duration of use.

Morphine withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as all opiate withdrawal treatment.  In general, the opioid withdrawal stabilization procedures resemble those used for withdrawal from sedatives:  longer-acting opioid are substituted for shorter-acting ones and the patient is stabilized on the longer-acting opioid medication, such as Suboxone. The patient will be most uncomfortable during the first one to three days of the opioid withdrawal phase, so a combination of clonidine (an alpha-adrenergic agonist), a sedative such as phenobarbital, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Motrin (generic name ibuprofen) is frequently combined with the longer-acting opioid to help make the patient more comfortable for the first two to three days of the conversion to Suboxone.  Usually after day three of the correct dose of Suboxone, a patient’s withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings have almost completely subsided.

Treatment options for opioid addiction

Most opioid addicts need help getting clean and require residential drug treatment. Few people can safely stop using without a supervised drug and alcohol detox and evidence-based addiction treatment program.
Withdrawal and recovery from opioid addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals, who are able to assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, opioid addicts go through a drug and alcohol detox program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

The drug and alcohol detox process alone is not a cure for opioid addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with opioid addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain – and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for opioid addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for opioid addiction treatment work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that morphine affects. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone), block the effects of morphine, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opioid addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Opioid addiction treatment with Enterhealth

People suffering from morphine addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential morphine addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas, and our outpatient morphine addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.