Morphine is reportedly the strongest pain medication available in medical treatment today.
Classified as an opiate (narcotic) analgesic or opioid agonist, morphine is derived from the matured head of the poppy flower. Heroin also belongs to the opiate class of drugs.
Morphine works by attaching to opioid receptors in the nervous system and blocking pain messages to the brain. This potent narcotic is primarily used to treat moderate to severe pain as well as the following conditions:
|· Joint pain||· Anxiety|
|· Bone pain||· Dental pain|
|· Myalgia||· Migraines|
|· Shortness of breath||· Diarrhea|
First discovered in Germany by a pharmacist in 1804, morphine was originally called morphium, but it wasn’t until 1941 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved morphine for medical use in America. This Schedule II drug is highly addictive and carries a high risk of abuse.
There are numerous methods to ingest morphine. In a treatment setting, morphine is most often administered intravenously. Other ways include oral or anal ingestion, snorting, smoking, and inhaling. As some prescribed morphine users are chronically ill or have terminal conditions, the multitude of ingestion methods ensures administration can occur as some people are too sick to consume a pill.
The brand names under which morphine is distributed are as varied as the administration methods and include:
|· Astramorph PF (liquid solution)||· Avinza (capsules)|
|· Duramorph PF (liquid solution)||· Infumorph (liquid solution)|
|· Kadian (capsules)||· MS Contin (tablets)|
|· Roxanol (oral solution)||· Oramorph SR (tablet)|
Morphine is addiction-forming. Long-term use can cause physical dependence and then addiction. It is important to note the main distinction between physical dependence and addiction. A morphine user may develop a tolerance to this opiate, which over time results in needing a higher dosage of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Physical dependence is not addiction; however, physical dependence is always associated with addiction. Individuals who are physically dependent and addicts alike will experience withdrawal symptoms in the event that morphine use ceases or the dosage is significantly reduced.
Illicit Use of Morphine
Morphine is associated with unlawful use and reportedly provides a less expensive high than heroin. Even a brief review of morphine discussions among illicit users on the Internet will quickly reveal that the main focus tends to be on the price and potency of this drug on the street. Drug abuse is often a secretive behavior, at least at first, and the Internet helps morphine abusers to maintain their anonymity while gleaning information about this drug.
The popularity of using morphine illicitly from state to state has led to the development of many nicknames for this drug. Street names for morphine include:
|· Big O||· China White|
|· Buddha||· White Stuff|
|· Black Hash||· Monkey|
|· Black Russian||· Aunt Emma|
Much of the statistical research available focuses on opiates as a class rather than morphine in specific. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), sponsored by the governmental entity the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, did not expressly include morphine within its range of drugs surveyed for the 2013 report (the focus was on the larger category of prescription pain relievers without differentiating between most of the types). Short of having the benefit of information from the NSDUH, the following statistics on morphine abuse provide some insight into the extent of morphine abuse in specific and opiate abuse in general in America:
- Over 50 percent of accidental overdoses in the US are caused by heroin and morphine (per a 1999 survey).
- Approximately 10 percent of Americans have abused opiates in their lifetime.
- About 500,000 Americans have used heroin at least once (per a 2006 survey).
- Approximately 2.5 million Americans had abused a prescription painkiller to get high (per a 2007 survey).
Illicit use of morphine occurs anytime a person uses this drug without a lawful prescription or has a lawful prescription but ignores the prescribed dosage in order to get high from the drug. Illicit use can occur once or chronically.
Morphine is such a potent analgesic that even one illicit use could result in a fatality. For instance, a 38-year-old man in the United Kingdom used his mother’s morphine pain-relieving patch on his sore back. According to the Daily Mail, the man had no history of addiction. He had been suffering back pain and had a prescription for painkillers. When he did not get sufficient relief from his painkilling pills, he persuaded his mother to give him one of her morphine patches. He reportedly died at home, in bed, within hours of applying the morphine patch to his back. The reported cause of death was cardiac respiratory failure.
Different side effects emerge at different times during drug abuse. For instance, there are mild to severe side effects associated with drug use, signs of overdose, and withdrawal symptoms when use ceases or the amount of abuse is reduced. For an untrained person, it may be difficult to recognize the signs of drug abuse let alone whether they are due to use alone, overdose, or withdrawal. As morphine abuse can be fatal, it is particularly important to be aware of some of the signs and symptoms associated with this powerful narcotic.
A person who is abusing morphine may display psychological, physical and social signs. Some common psychological signs include:
- Inflated sense of well-being
- Abnormal thinking
- Feelings of apprehension
Morphine abuse physically impacts the body. The person experiencing symptoms may have lost control over the abuse and cannot seek help independently. Family, friends, and other concerned individuals usually play a key role in getting a morphine abuser into treatment. The following signs may provide a tipoff that morphine abuse is occurring:
|· Vision issues||· Involuntary eye movements|
|· Pinpoint pupils||· Dizziness|
|· Tremors||· Slurred speech|
|· Seizures||· Fainting|
Individuals who become addicted to morphine will give a disproportionately high amount of their time, resources, and energy to getting and taking the drug. Making drugs a priority in this way has a direct impact on obligations such as work, school, and family. Although drug behaviors may initially be relatively easy to hide, the more this illness progresses, the more obvious it usually becomes. Those addicted to morphine will likely show changes in mood, attitude, and relationships with others. The individual may tell lies and steal. These behavioral signs are both indicative and supportive of drug abuse.
As Mental Health Daily explains, there are several factors that play into the level of intensity of morphine withdrawal, including the time period of use, dosage, tolerance level, whether the person has reached the level of addiction, and how quickly tapering off occurs. No two people withdrawing from this narcotic will have the same experience; however, all people withdrawing from morphine should seek medical advice and care.
There are numerous physical side effects associated with morphine withdrawal, including:
|· Abdominal cramps||· Anger|
|· Appetite changes||· Anxiety|
|· Problems concentrating||· Confusion|
|· Cravings||· Depression and suicidal thinking|
Morphine abusers may receive information from laypeople that an at-home detox is possible; however, a medically supervised detox, with the help of consulting physicians, is most advisable. Going through the withdrawal process at a dedicated detox center has many benefits, including making the process safe, comfortable, and protecting against relapse when cravings emerge. The first step is to discuss detox options with a qualified addiction specialist.
It is important to note that the practice of rapid detox or ultra-rapid detox can be dangerous and is not advisable. This detox method involves putting a person under anesthesia while opiate blockers are administered to push through the withdrawal symptoms. The practice promises to detox a person overnight, but there is no evidence to support this claim, this treatment is not covered by insurance, and it carries with it many health risks. In short, there is no miraculous fix to withdrawing from morphine that quickly.
Morphine and other opiates are unique from a treatment perspective in that there are medications approved for use in the abstinence maintenance process. After detox, recovering individuals enter an intensive treatment phase where much of their treatment time is devoted to individual counseling and group therapy. A person recovering from morphine abuse or addiction may be put on a medication assisted treatment (MAT) plan in addition to receiving psychological counseling.
According to research sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following drugs have been approved for use in opiate abstinence maintenance treatment:
- Subutex (buprenorphine)
- Suboxone (buprenorphine and naltrexone)
All of these medications are available at an opiate treatment program, while naltrexone, Subutex, and Suboxone may also be distributed at approved doctors’ offices. PsychCentral, covering the topic of MAT, notes that opiate abusers have a particularly difficult time maintaining abstinence. For instance, quitting opiates on your own can be particularly ineffective as fewer than 25 percent of recovering addicts are able to maintain abstinence for 12 months. Although using medications to treat drug abuse is a debatable practice, according to SAMHSA, this treatment can be effective in maintaining abstinence and preventing relapse..
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