Morphine withdrawal symptoms

Outlining symptoms of morphine withdrawal, when they happen, and how to manage them.

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A person with a physical and psychological dependency to morphine will experience severe withdrawal symptoms when the powerful opiate pain reliever leaves their bloodstream. This is because the brain becomes used to morphine causing rushes of dopamine and without the morphine, the brain and body start to function differently to how they used to.

It's recommended that someone with a morphine dependency seeks professional support so their morphine withdrawal symptoms are managed in a safe and structured way.

How long do morphine withdrawal symptoms last?

Early morphine withdrawal symptoms can start within 6 to 12 hours of when morphine was last used. Morphine withdrawal symptoms will commonly peak between 48 to 72 hours of the last dose.

Why do they happen?

Morphine withdrawal symptoms happen when a person with this physical and psychological dependency no longer has the drug in their bloodstream. Their brain and body has become used to operating with the drug, so morphine withdrawal symptoms occur as they attempt to function in ways they're no longer used to.

Common morphine withdrawal symptoms

The severity and longevity of morphine withdrawal symptoms can differ from person-to-person, and can depend on a number of factors including the amount and duration of their drug use, the method by which they have been abusing the drug, genetic influences, co-occurring mental health disorders and any other substances being consumed. However, anyone withdrawing from morphine will likely start to experience withdrawal symptoms 6 to 8 hours since they last used the drug.

6 to 12 hours into morphine withdrawal:

  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Tearing up
  • Runny nose

48 to 72 hours into morphine withdrawal:

  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Heightened blood pressure and heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Sneezing
  • Tremors

After 72 hours, morphine withdrawal symptoms may start to ease as the morphine leaves the body. Ideally, anyone withdrawing from morphine would be under medical supervision so their withdrawal symptoms can be monitored. If this isn't possible and symptoms don't ease around 72 hours after the initial detox, then it's highly recommended they seek medical attention.

Detoxing from morphine will have many effects on the body and morphine can take up to 5 days to leave your system. Therefore, it's important to make sure the detox is done correctly and as safely as possible.

How to manage morphine withdrawal symptoms

Drug detoxification

As morphine withdrawal symptoms can be severe, it's recommended that the drug detoxification process takes place in a medically assisted environment. This gives a person the opportunity to deal with the physical side of their addiction in an environment that's safe and well-monitored.

At Priory rehab centres around the UK, our teams are able to provide round-the-clock care and support to make sure that all traces of morphine are safely removed from the body. Our experts can also make use of appropriately controlled medication to help a person be as comfortable as possible when experiencing physical drug withdrawal symptoms.

Residential addiction programmes

Following on from detoxification, we recommend entering a residential rehabilitation programme for your morphine addiction. Through workshops, group therapy sessions and individual key working time, a person has the opportunity to learn about the causes and triggers of their drug abuse, discover ways to improve their self-worth and confidence, and develop strategies for life going forward.

All people who go through a residential addiction treatment programme at Priory then receive a personalised continuing care plan to help them navigate a life in recovery. Ongoing support, meetings and groups also form part of our free 12-month aftercare service, so the people we work with remain well-supported during their first year in recovery.

Blog reviewed by Dr Michael Bristow (MA, MBBS, FRCPsych), Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woking

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