Morphine Withdrawal

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Leila Khurshid BCPS, PharmD

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Last Updated - 1/17/2023

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Morphine, like all opioids, changes the way the body senses and reacts to pain. Because of this effect on the body, it is a prescription painkiller with a high potential for misuse, even when taken as prescribed. As a result, quitting morphine can be very challenging and cause many uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

How To Quit Morphine 

Quitting morphine can be very difficult without help. Symptoms of morphine withdrawal can be severe, often leading those who want to stop to return to the drug to find relief. While you should always discuss your specific case with your healthcare provider, the safest and most comfortable way to quit morphine is through medical detox or by tapering (or weaning) off the drug. Tapering is a process where you allow your body time to adjust by taking less and less of the medication over time until you can comfortably stop.  

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Specific patient populations may be more disposed to morphine withdrawal symptoms. Even when taken as prescribed, morphine withdrawal symptoms in the elderly are more likely because this population is often sensitive to morphine’s effects and may have other conditions, such as liver or kidney dysfunction, that slow morphine’s metabolism or excretion. Morphine withdrawal symptoms after surgery are also prevalent because morphine is often given during surgery and needed in the time immediately post-op. The highly addictive nature of morphine makes it so you may become dependent on it even after this short time.

Similar to other opioids, there are several different possible morphine withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking morphine abruptly or taper it down too quickly. These symptoms are often referred to as early or late withdrawal symptoms.  

Early symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Late symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How Long Does Morphine Withdrawal Last?

How long morphine withdrawal lasts depends on the formulation of morphine you take and how you consume it. For example, taking the long-acting MS Contin will take longer for the drug to leave your system; consequently, withdrawal may last longer. On the other hand, those who take immediate-release morphine or inject it, for example, could expect their systems to eliminate morphine faster. 

In addition to the type of morphine you take and how you take it, other considerations impact how long morphine withdrawal lasts. For example, how much morphine you take, other substances you regularly use or your overall health (especially liver and kidney function) can all affect how long morphine withdrawal lasts.


Morphine Withdrawal Timeline 

Short-acting morphine withdrawal symptoms will start 8–24 hours after your last dose or 12–24 hours after your previous long-acting morphine dose and can last 10–20 days.

The first few days after stopping morphine often include pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The next few days often bring mood changes, insomnia and chills.

Finally, in the following weeks, depression and anxiety are common. Protracted withdrawal is also possible with morphine, resulting in feeling unwell and cravings lasting months.

Medical guidance is always recommended because of these severe withdrawal symptoms. Often, other treatments are also available to help with these disruptive symptoms. 

How to Taper/Wean Off Morphine 

Tapering off morphine will depend on the same factors that can determine how long morphine withdrawals last, like the type of morphine you take, how much you have been using, other substances you regularly use and your liver and kidney function. For example, how to wean off morphine sulfate ER (extended-release) may be different than weaning off immediate-release morphine. In general, tapering off of morphine reduces the amount you take over weeks or months. This slow dose reduction allows your body time to adjust to less and less of the substance and helps to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. For the most personalized recommendation, always consult your healthcare provider.  

Morphine Detox 

Medically supervised morphine detox is recommended to monitor and treat withdrawal symptoms and increases the likelihood of sobriety for many. When detoxing in a medical facility, doctors, nurses and other healthcare team members will monitor you three or fourtimes daily and can provide treatment and support if you are experiencing withdrawal. 

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Morphine?

Detoxing from morphine differs between people and depends on many factors, including starting dose and how you use morphine. Generally, it can take up to 20 hours for the body to entirely metabolize and eliminate a single dose of morphine. It can take even longer if you take higher doses, use morphine long-term, take other substances or have liver or kidney dysfunction. 

Morphine Withdrawal Treatment 

One benefit of medically supervised morphine detox is medical professionals who will evaluate your withdrawal symptoms and can treat them as clinically indicated. In addition, many medications can be used for morphine withdrawal, depending on the symptoms you experience, and are called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.  

  • Clonidine can help with sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, chills, anxiety, insomnia and tremor. However, its use is limited due to its side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness and low blood pressure.
  • Buprenorphine is commonly used to manage opioid withdrawal and decrease cravings. This medication works in the same brain area as morphine (mu-opioid receptors) and carries respiratory depression or overdose risks, especially in relapse cases.
  • Codeine is sometimes used similarly to buprenorphine. However, in 2–10% of cases, it has been found to have no effect. 

Danger of Morphine Withdrawal Treatment at Home

Morphine withdrawal at home is rarely recommended for those who have taken morphine at low doses or for a short time. For many, treatment at home is not recommended due to the severe withdrawal symptoms that happen for most people wanting to stop taking morphine. Many complications are possible due to withdrawal, including aspiration (which occurs when you inhale vomit and can cause pneumonia) or electrolyte abnormalities from vomiting or diarrhea (which can cause cardiac disturbances). In addition, the lack of monitoring at home can result in a dangerous situation if proper treatment is not nearby. 

In addition to the potential for complications with morphine withdrawal treatment, those who withdraw at home are less likely to maintain sobriety. Withdrawing from morphine is often so severe that many people return to the drug for relief. In contrast, you would be monitored and treated in a treatment facility for safety and to minimize these symptoms. Always speak with your healthcare provider if you are considering stopping morphine. 

Morphine Addiction and Withdrawal Treatment in Columbus, Oh

At The Recovery Village Columbus, our healthcare team will work with you to provide expert-level care at our Joint Commission-accredited facility. We are conveniently located in Groveport, Ohio, and offer several different indoor and outdoor amenities to provide you with whole-body healing. In addition, we offer a full range of treatment programs, from medical detox to inpatient and outpatient rehab, to support you at any time during your journey to a healthier life. 

Contact us today if you or a loved one are struggling with morphine addiction. We are available 24/7 to provide customized guidance about regaining control of your life. 

View Sources “Morphine Monograph for Professionals.” March 3, 2022. Accessed August 15, 2022.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and opioid withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, Reviewed May 10, 2010. Accessed August 15, 2022.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed August 15, 2022.


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