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Morphine addiction - signs, symptoms and treatment

Morphine is a strong opioid painkiller that is prescribed and administered to relieve extreme and chronic pain. With morphine being such a strong opioid painkiller, it is possible to become addicted to the drug. Regardless of whether a morphine addiction starts as a result of a person obtaining the drug legally as a genuine prescription or illegally, its abuse can have incredibly dangerous consequences. Some people are so desperate for their “hit” that they are known to have stolen morphine from their loved ones who genuinely are in need of pain relief.

For those concerned about morphine abuse, we will take a look at the warning signs of addiction and also outline the treatment that is available to help a person recover and get their life back on track.

Signs of morphine addiction

If you are worried about yourself or someone close to you, the following signs could suggest a morphine addiction:

  • Wanting to cut down on morphine intake, but not being able to
  • Spending a large amount of time, money and effort on getting, abusing and recovering from morphine
  • Having cravings and strong urges to take morphine
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work and/or home
  • Becoming isolated and withdrawn from their family and friends
  • Putting themselves and others in risky or even dangerous situations to obtain or take morphine
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to cut down on or stop taking morphine

Morphine addiction is extremely dangerous. As a person builds up a tolerance to the drug, and needs higher doses in order to feel its effects and also ward off withdrawal, this can lead to respiratory depression, causing their breathing to become very slow and shallow.

Respiratory depression can, in turn, result in respiratory failure, where a person starts to lose consciousness, goes into a coma or stops breathing, as they become too sedated by the drug.

Morphine withdrawal signs

When a person is withdrawing from morphine, they may exhibit the following signs:

  • A fever
  • Watery eyes and a running nose
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps

It is highly recommended that a medically assisted detoxification is sought out during the withdrawal process, so that a person can access the support that they need to remove the drug from their body as safely as possible.

Seeking treatment for an addiction to morphine

At Priory, we are able to provide detoxification, residential treatment as well as day care support and outpatient treatment for morphine addiction.

During detoxification, the addictive substances are removed from the body and physical withdrawal symptoms are reduced. The person is closely monitored throughout the process and can receive medical assistance if it is needed, in order to carefully manage their withdrawal.

Our residential Addiction Treatment Programmes provide a person with counselling and workshops to help them understand the addictive personality and address underlying causes and triggers for their addictive behaviours. We consider the use of morphine or indeed other substances or behavioural addictions as the symptom. So, becoming abstinent is merely the beginning. This residential stay also helps a person to recognise the impact that their morphine addiction has had on their lives and on others too, while providing them with the support they need to enter life in recovery.

Outpatient and day care support then works well as a step-down service, where a person can still access support and ongoing therapeutic input as they start to rebuild their life away from morphine.

As recovery involves changing lifestyles, behaviour patterns, and even thinking and attitudes, we often explore the potential to continue treatment in our secondary treatment centre, Rhodes Recovery. This is an environment where therapy is combined with re-establishing a person’s outside responsibilities such as their work or education, and reconnecting with their family. Rhodes Recovery supports the major adjustment to living life without using morphine as the coping strategy, which has become a destructive force, and moving towards making healthier choices even when life presents its challenges.

This page was reviewed by Pamela Roberts (BSc (Hons), Fd Systemic/Family, Dip.Addictions Therapy, Dip.Sex Addiction, PG Dip.Group Facilitation, PG Dip.Trauma Therapy), Addictions Programme Manager at Priory Hospital Woking

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