Morphine Abuse and Addiction in Ohio

A bottle of morphine next to a syringe

Morphine, or morphine sulfate, may not be the most widely abused opioid medication, but it is one of the most well known. People have used morphine and other poppy extracts for hundreds of years.

On the one hand, morphine is a critical and life-saving medication used to treat pain. Morphine and other drugs like it allow for surgery and more invasive procedures that we could not perform centuries ago. It is even listed on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.

On the other hand, morphine and its chemical cousins have devastated the United States during the opioid epidemic.

Morphine is an addictive substance, the same as other opioids. Its potential for addiction and abuse is a primary contributor to its harmful qualities.

What is Morphine?

Morphine is an opioid and an opiate that occurs naturally in poppy plants. All opiates are considered opioids, though not all opioids are opiates, so morphine can be considered both an opiate and an opioid. 

Naturally occurring opioids are opiates. Synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids are opioids and not opiates.

Morphine works by activating mu-opioid receptors on the surface of nerve cells. Once activated, mu-opioid receptors stop us from perceiving pain. A side effect of treating pain is that morphine also creates feelings of pleasure and this is the source of its addictive potential.

Classification

Morphine is both a prescription medication and a controlled substance.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), morphine is a Schedule II medication. This type of medication has a recognized medical use but a high potential for addiction and abuse.

What is Morphine Used For?

Morphine is prescribed to manage pain.

Morphine is usually used during surgical procedures, labor and delivery. It can also be prescribed for post-surgical pain and is sometimes used in the management of chronic pain conditions.

Dosage and Administration

Morphine can be given orally, through injection and through an epidural injection, which is when the drug is injected into the space around the spinal cord.

The dose of morphine varies greatly based on the opioid tolerance of the person taking it.

Normal doses for immediate-release release oral morphine are 10 mg to 30 mg every four hours. Extended-release oral morphine is dosed 30 mg to 120 mg per day for people without an opioid tolerance.

Tolerance to morphine can develop quickly, some people require over 120 mg daily. Doses can increase up to 1,600 mg or more for people with a high tolerance. For most people, a dose this high would be fatal.

Prescribed Methods

Morphine is commonly prescribed in oral or injectable formulations.

Oral formulations may be solid (tablets or capsules) or liquid morphine solutions. Morphine pills are immediate-release or extended-release versions. Immediate-release formulations last between three to five hours and extended-release lasts between eight and twenty-four hours.

Injectable forms can be injected into a vein (intravenous), into a muscle (intramuscular), under the skin (subcutaneous) or into the space around the spinal column (epidural).

Morphine Abuse

A common way to abuse morphine is to crush a tablet or open a capsule to create a powdered form. Morphine powder is then heated into a liquid for injection or snorted.

People may crush the extended-release versions of morphine to break the extended-release mechanism and release all the drug at once.

What Does Morphine Look Like?

Morphine tablets and capsules vary in appearance and anyone with questions about a morphine product should speak with their pharmacist.

Oral liquid morphine is usually blue, and liquid for injection is clear.

Morphine powder is white and crystalline in appearance.

Brand Name

Most oral morphine products have been generic for years and no longer have a brand name. However, specialized formulations of morphine have brand names, and some examples include:

  • Avinzo (extended-release oral tablet)
  • Arymo ER (extended-release oral tablet)
  • Astramorph (injection)
  • Depodur (extended-release injection)
  • Duramorph (injection)
  • Infumorph (for use in continuous infusion devices)
  • Kadian (extended-release oral capsule)
  • Mitigo (for use in continuous infusion devices)
  • MorphaBond (extended-release oral tablet)
  • MS Contin (extended-release oral tablet)
  • Roxanol (oral liquid solution)

Other Names and Street Names for Morphine

Morphine has gained a number of street names over the years, some of morphine’s street names include:

  • Dreamer
  • Emsel
  • First Line
  • God’s Drug
  • Hows
  • M
  • Miss Emma
  • Mister Blue
  • Monkey
  • Morpho
  • MS
  • Unkie
  • White Stuff

Side Effects of Morphine Use

Common morphine side effects include:

  • Abnormal mood changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Pupils smaller than normal
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Stomach pain and cramps

A common and dangerous side effect of morphine (and opioid) abuse is an overdose. Overdose is a medical emergency, so if you see someone with the following symptoms, call 911 immediately:

  • Blurry vision
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Fainting
  • Irregular breathing
  • Limp muscles
  • Lips or fingers blue or purple
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Small (pinpoint) pupils
  • Vomiting or gurgling noises

Overdose is a life-threatening emergency and people can experience permanent harm, coma or death. Prompt medical treatment can reverse the effect of opioids with opioid reversal agents like naloxone.

How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?

Based on morphine’s half-life, it will stay in the body for about 10 to 20 hours for most adults. 

Extended-release products stay in the body between 55 to 65, but their effects usually last only a maximum of 24 hours.

Morphine Half-Life

The half-life of a drug is how long the body takes to metabolize half of it. Morphine’s half-life is two to four hours.

So, for example, if someone takes 30 mg of morphine now, then in two to four hours they will still have 15 mg in their system.

Is Morphine Addictive?

Yes, morphine has a high potential for addiction and abuse. Morphine and other opioids are some of the most addictive substances that we are aware of.

In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States struggled with a substance use disorder (SUD) related to opioid and morphine addiction. That same year, 47,000 people died as a result of opioid overdoses.

Despite these staggering numbers, SUD is treatable and people with a previous addiction often go on to live normal and stable lives.

Key Points: Understanding Morphine

Keep the following key points in mind regarding morphine:

  • Morphine is a naturally occurring opiate and an opioid medication
  • It is a critical medication in healthcare, allowing the performance of surgeries and invasive procedures
  • Morphine has been available in medical products for almost 200 years, but people have used versions of it for much longer
  • It is a Schedule II substance, so despite its medical use it can be addictive
  • Half of a dose of morphine is metabolized from the body in two to four hours
  • If you see someone with symptoms of an overdose, calling 911 immediately may save their life

Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help address your substance use disorder. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Sources

Food and Drug Administration. “Morphine Sulfate Injection Package Insert.” 2011. Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

Food and Drug Administration. “Morphine Sulfate Tablets Package Insert.” 2012. Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Morphine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” 2018. Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Morphine Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

National Institute of Health “Street & Commercial Names.” 2017. Accessed Aug 28, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Columbus aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.