Like all opiates, Morphine can also be incredibly dangerous if abused. According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately half of all drug poisoning deaths registered in England and Wales in 2021 involved opiate abuse, amounting to 2,219 deaths.1
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Morphine addiction and abuse
Morphine works by stopping pain signals from travelling through the nervous system to the brain.2 It induces feelings of euphoria, putting its users in a dreamlike state, which can be a very pleasurable experience. It is a highly addictive substance. Users can very quickly become psychologically and physically dependent on the drug. When subjected to morphine the brain essentially rewires itself. The parts of the brain that control reward and pleasure responses, as well as self-control, are heavily altered by persistent use of morphine.
Tolerance to the drug builds quickly, so users need to take more and more in order to achieve the same effect. Users who take morphine recreationally can very easily end up chasing those feelings of euphoria, but it is also possible for patients who have been prescribed morphine to develop a dependency issue. Because it is so highly addictive, its use is tightly restricted in the UK. Morphine is considered a Class A drug, which means that possessing it without a medical prescription could result in a prison sentence of up to seven years and an unlimited fine.3
The dangers of morphine addiction
The persistent and heavy use of morphine can be extremely dangerous. If you abuse morphine at high doses, you run the risk of suffering from an overdose. Confusion, headaches, dizziness and feelings of lethargy are common side effects of morphine use, but there are also much more serious complications such as low blood pressure, seizures, and even comas. Morphine abuse can also slow your breathing significantly, and the worst-case scenario is that it slows your breathing to the point of asphyxiation. If you take morphine and experience seizures or breathing difficulties, the situation could be fatal. The NHS advises that you ring 999 immediately or go directly to your nearest A&E department if you experience either of these two symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms of morphine
When it comes to getting clean, the withdrawal stage is generally the most difficult hurdle. Because opioids are so addictive, withdrawal from morphine can be particularly difficult and often even dangerous. The body metabolises opiates relatively quickly, which means that the withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest soon after your last dose. The physical and psychological effects of morphine withdrawal include:
- Fevers, chills, and profuse sweating
- Agitation, irritability, and restlessness
- Muscle aches, tremors, and stomach cramps
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Watery eyes, runny nose and other flu-like symptoms
- Disorientation and confusion
Withdrawal will always be uncomfortable. At its most severe, morphine withdrawal can even be deadly. The safest and most effective way to deal with morphine withdrawal is to enrol at a residential rehabilitation centre with detoxification facilities.
How morphine addiction is treated in rehab: Detox
A detox clinic offers a regulated environment where you can be safely weaned off morphine. At a specialised clinic you will be under the supervision of trained medical professionals, so care will be immediately on hand should you suffer any severe withdrawal reactions. You may also be prescribed a temporary course of replacement drugs to help ease your cravings. Replacement drugs are often used in the treatment of opiate addiction. They trigger the receptors in the brain that respond to opioids, basically tricking the brain into thinking that it is receiving the drug it craves, thus satisfying the craving without inducing the euphoric effects. By gradually reducing the dose of the replacement drug, you can be slowly and safely weaned away out of dependency. Like all opiates, these replacement drugs are open to misuse and are thus tightly controlled, so this would simply not be an option outside of a specialised detox clinic.
How morphine addiction is treated in rehab: Therapies and aftercare support
Flushing the morphine out of your system is only half of the battle. Once your body is free of morphine, you need to break your psychological attachment to the drug. Morphine addiction treatment also includes a programme of holistic therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a popular and effective form of therapy that aims to alter the ways in which you think and behave, encouraging you to find healthier ways to respond to stresses in your life and avoid self-destructive patterns of behaviour. Counselling services, both on an individual and group basis, can help you identify and confront the roots of your morphine abuse. While many people find the idea of group therapy daunting, it can be invaluable. Addiction can often feel like an isolating experience. Realising that you are not alone in your struggle can offer great relief.
Addictions are not beaten overnight. Recovery can be a lifelong struggle. There is always the possibility of a relapse, especially with a drug as addictive as morphine. Comprehensive aftercare programmes, including relapse prevention sessions and continued contact once the main course of your rehabilitation is finished, will ensure that you have the best possible chance of staying clean.
If you are struggling with an addiction to morphine, contact us today for specialist advice and guidance. We work with an extensive network of rehabilitation centres across the UK, and we will be able to find the programme of treatment that works for you. Morphine is a dangerous drug and it is all too easy to induce an overdose, so it is best to act quickly.
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