A 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:
Morphine may be marketed under the brand names 2:
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.
Effects will vary greatly depending on the individual, but common morphine withdrawal symptoms include 5,6,7:
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.
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:
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.
PAWS can continue for up to 6 months after the initial detox process has been completed.
Opioid PAWS symptoms can include 8:
Usually, 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:
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.
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.
Professional drug detox can effectively treat withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, leading to a more comfortable experience.
Detox options for drug abuse are usually categorized in two groups: inpatient and outpatient 6,9.
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.