Compared to other opioid painkillers, addiction to morphine is less common. This is because it’s more expensive and more tightly regulated than other similar drugs.
But, as a strong painkiller, morphine has a high potential for abuse and addiction. As such, people prescribed morphine can experience withdrawal symptoms when they reduce their dose or discontinue use.
Here we explain more about what to expect during morphine withdrawal and detox.
What Causes Morphine Withdrawal?
Morphine withdrawal is a set of side effects which occur after an individual builds up a tolerance to the drug and then reduces the dosage or stops taking it.
These side effects are a sign that your body has adjusted various internal functions to accommodate the presence of morphine in your system. Without the morphine, the body is shocked into a sudden need to establish new means to achieve stability, known as homeostasis.
Morphine is such a potent painkiller that it’s possible to build up a tolerance and experience the subsequent withdrawal even in a hospital setting. For example, those who have experienced long-term extreme pain, such as amputees, can end up becoming tolerant to morphine. When their morphine dose is reduced or stopped altogether, they must go through the adverse effects of morphine withdrawal.
As an opioid, morphine is also highly addictive because of the way it stimulates the brain’s reward system with a release of dopamine. As well as blocking pain, morphine sends a rush of pleasure through the body, providing a “high” that the brain becomes dependent on.
But, a sudden stop or decrease in morphine consumption suddenly cuts off these effects. After becoming used to functioning with an altered brain chemistry, the brain struggles to revert back to life without morphine. This sudden need for readjustment then causes a range of physical symptoms as well as psychological side effects.
Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms
Common physical morphine side effects as the result of withdrawal include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal cramps
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Common psychological morphine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense drug cravings
The side effects of morphine withdrawal can be extremely intense. But, the duration and severity of these morphine effects vary from person to person.
Duration of Morphine Withdrawal
Throughout the withdrawal process, individuals can experience some or all of the symptoms at different rates and for different lengths of time.
In most cases, the total duration of physical withdrawal effects is no more than two weeks. Although, cravings and psychological morphine symptoms can extend beyond this period.
Morphine Withdrawal Timeline
In general, the typical morphine withdrawal timeline is as follows:
3-5 hours: Mere hours after the last dose, morphine begins to leave the system and the effects start to wear off. It’s common to feel cravings at this point. Some people may report mild withdrawal symptoms like sweating, yawning, and nausea.
1-3 days: This is often the worst period as many withdrawal effects hit their peak. Pain will be severe, anxiety and insomnia are common, cravings will be strong, and diarrhea often kicks in too.
4-7 days: While flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and aches will continue, other symptoms begin to stabilize at this point. Pain should begin to subside and the frequency of diarrhea and vomiting should reduce. Blood pressure and heart rate should now return to normal.
1-2 weeks: Physical symptoms should reduce, then stop by the end of the second week. Psychological side effects such as anxiety and depression may continue beyond this point. Cravings may also be present for up to a month or more.
Detoxing from Morphine on Your Own
It’s not advisable to attempt morphine detox cold turkey. Morphine withdrawal symptoms can be severe and, in some cases, they can lead to dangerous complications.
Physical withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. This can increase the possibility of heart complications, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
But, one of the biggest concerns someone tries to detox from morphine on their own is the high risk of relapse. As morphine is so highly controlled, those who cannot bear the pain of withdrawal symptoms may seek out alternative opioids, including heroin, in an attempt to feel better.
Medical Detox for Morphine
A medical detox for morphine means constant monitoring by a trained medical team throughout the withdrawal process. This care will help you through the suffering, minimize the risk of complications, and will make relapse less likely.
How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect
A medical detox treats all aspects of morphine addiction. As well as providing relief for the physical and psychological symptoms, a medical detox directly addresses the individual’s morphine dependency.
This combined treatment ensures keeps your physical suffering and cravings to a minimum. As a result, it will be easier to overcome morphine dependency in the long term.
Throughout the detox, medical staff will monitor you 24/7, ensuring that you remain as comfortable as possible and that your vital signs are all good. If not, they’ll give you fluids and the appropriate medications when necessary.
You’ll still experience pain and discomfort as well as a range of psychological symptoms throughout a medical detox. It’s necessary for your body to endure this period of withdrawal in order to regain control of your internal processes. But, a medical detox is more likely to be successful as you’ll have the help of medical staff to treat your symptoms and help reduce morphine cravings.
Medications Available for Morphine
Medications are key to the morphine medical detox process. Those experiencing morphine withdrawal will often take Clonidine. Although it’s a blood pressure medication, Clonidine provides relief for several morphine withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, cramping, and muscle aches.
Doctors may also prescribe medications for nausea or diarrhea to reduce discomfort and cut the risk of potential complications. Antidepressants may help with the psychological symptoms of morphine withdrawal.
Medical detox programs for morphine withdrawal may also use maintenance medications such as buprenorphine. This mild opioid is long-acting and can help to reduce morphine dependency.
In particular, doctors favor Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The buprenorphine helps minimize cravings without providing the same “high” as morphine. And naloxone, as an opioid antagonist, reduces the possibility of abuse.
Seeking Treatment for Morphine Withdrawal
Morphine addiction is complicated and can affect everyone differently. As such, it is essential to follow an individualized plan to help you through the withdrawal and recovery process.
Morphine withdrawal can be extremely painful and difficult. But, with the help and support of a specialized medical detox program, it’s possible to overcome your morphine addiction.
Contact us today. We’ll help you find the help you need.