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Morphine Detox Guide: Symptoms, Timeline & Effects

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morphine bottleA naturally occurring substance derived from the poppy plant’s seedpod, morphine is a substance that produces feelings of relaxation, sedation, and euphoria 1. Like other prescription opioid medications, morphine is widely used in the medical community to manage relatively severe pain  1,2,3. Morphine is available in many formulations and forms including 1,2:

  • Oral tablets and capsules, both immediate and extended release.
  • Liquids.
  • Many intramuscular and intravenous injectable options.

Morphine may be marketed under the brand names 2:

  • Kadian.
  • Morphabond.
  • MS Contin.

The substance is typically safe and effective when used under the direction of a physician, but the pain reliever carries the risk of morphine addiction and dependence, particularly when misused or abused 1,3. For these reasons, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labels the medication as a Schedule II controlled substance 1.

With the established risks, some people will seek to quit abusing morphine before ill effects can occur. Unfortunately, an individual who is dependent on morphine will likely experience the onset of unwanted physical and mental health symptoms 3,4. These unpleasant morphine withdrawal symptoms can range in intensity from uncomfortable to debilitating.

Addiction Guide

woman struggling with addictionThe drug addiction process can begin with a single use of a drug, depending on the strength of its addictive properties. Even marijuana, a drug that is considered non-addictive by some professionals, may become habitual. Any continuous stimulation of the chemical receptors in the brain can lead to addiction. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the stimulation, so any lapse in drug use may cause adverse reactions.

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

Effects will vary greatly depending on the individual, but common morphine withdrawal symptoms include 5,6,7:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hot and cold flashes.
  • Goose bumps.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Racing pulse and hypertension.
  • Muscle cramps, spasms, pain.

Find Treatment Options: Morphine withdrawal is a significant event that requires professional intervention in many cases. To find detox treatment options that will limit the distress of withdrawal for yourself or a loved one, search our directory for a variety of programs.

Detoxification Timeline

Drug detoxification (drug detox) is the body’s attempt to process and remove the morphine that remains in the system 6,7. In general, opioid detox will begin between 8 and 24 hours after last use 6,7. Total morphine detox length can last anywhere from 4 to 10 days. The exact timeline and length of morphine detox and withdrawal will vary widely depending on factors including 6:

  • Formulation of morphine used.
  • Duration of use.
  • Frequency of use.
  • Dosage used.
  • Concurrent physical and mental health issues.
  • Individual physiology.

PAWS can continue for up to 6 months after the initial detox process has been completed.

For example, an extended-release morphine version will stay in the body longer than other options, so detox symptoms will emerge later. Even after acute morphine withdrawal symptoms have ended, some people may continue to experience additional withdrawal as part of a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) 8. Also known by names like protracted withdrawal and extended withdrawal, these symptoms can continue for up to 6 months after the initial detox process has been completed.

Opioid PAWS symptoms can include 8:

  • High anxiety.
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Poor sleep.

Morphine Withdrawal Complications

man suffering from morphine withdrawalsUsually, morphine detox does not pose any immediate, life-threatening danger to the individual 6,7. Despite this, there are still significant mental health and physical health complications that sometimes arise during morphine detox including 6,7:

  • Cardiac problems: With the impact on heart rate and blood pressure, opioid withdrawal can pose a cardiovascular risk to people, especially those with preexisting problems.
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance: Morphine withdrawal can lead to vomiting, increased sweating, and diarrhea, resulting in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
  • Anxiety symptoms: Increased anxiety is likely in anyone detoxing from morphine, but people with previous anxiety disorders can experience even more intense anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Increased pain and discomfort: Without morphine’s ability to lessen pain, new or returning perceptions of pain may appear.

These complications can encourage people to medicate with other drugs or to restart morphine use after a period of abstinence. Neither option is safe and restarting use increases the risk of morphine overdose. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 23,000 people died from morphine and other prescription opioids overdoses in 2015 alone 3.

Detox Treatment Settings

Professional drug detox can effectively treat withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, leading to a more comfortable experience.

Since morphine withdrawal is not usually fatal, people may seek to detox at home without professional care. This plan may result in needless suffering, though, since professional drug detox can effectively treat withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, leading to a more comfortable experience 6,9. Many programs will focus on safely tapering use of morphine or beginning a course of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to support recovery 6,9. Medications may include Suboxone, a combination formula designed to alleviate cravings and mitigate withdrawal symptoms, and Methadone, a slow-acting opioid medication that can increase comfort during detox as well as ease morphine cravings 6.

Detox options for drug abuse are usually categorized in two groups: inpatient and outpatient 6,9.

  • Inpatient: This level of care applies to any detox program that requires the individual to leave their home to live and receive detox treatment in the facility. Inpatient treatment is more intense than outpatient and offers 24-hour care, to help prevent or address complications that may arise.
  • Outpatient: This level of detox allows the individual to maintain most aspects of their life while traveling to a treatment center for scheduled appointments. Appointments can be scheduled according to the patient’s individual needs. Settings for outpatient detox treatment include doctor’s offices and community substance abuse centers.

Following morphine detox, it will be valuable for the individual to continue professional morphine addiction treatment. Detox, alone, is not usually sufficient to maintain long-term recovery 9. Comprehensive substance abuse treatment can provide a patient with relapse prevention and coping skills necessary to avoid triggers and lead a healthy, sober life.

Sources

  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.).  Morphine (and Heroin).
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus. (2017). Morphine.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2016). Prescription Pain Medications: Opioids.
  4. Medscape. (2016). Withdrawal Syndromes.
  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  7. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.

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