How to Prevent a Morphine Overdose? Dangers and Treatment

Morphine is a highly addictive prescription pain reliever. Learn about the progression of Morphine addiction and abuse.


Morphine, also known as morphine sulfate, is a powerful pain reliever with central nervous system effects. As an opiate derived from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum falls under the broader category of opioids—drugs that, like opiates, bind to specific brain receptors.

Morphine is necessary for many people who have severe post-operative pain or chronic conditions that are difficult to manage with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Its addictive nature, on the other hand, raises the possibility of dependency. Any change from the recommended morphine dosage can lead to severe illness or even death. Recognizing and responding to the signs of a morphine overdose can save a life.

If you or someone you know is suffering from Morphine addiction, We Level Up Treatment Centers can help. Speak with our hotline specialists and discover the support and professional-accredited addiction treatment programs we offer.


Why is a Morphine Overdose Dangerous?

An excessive intake of morphine can trigger a dangerously slow or irregular heartbeat, as well as drastically slow down breathing, causing a shortage of oxygen to the brain—an alarming condition known as respiratory depression. If the affected person doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen and prompt treatment, it could result in potential brain damage. Additionally, there’s a risk of self-harm if the individual becomes disoriented or loses coordination, leading to accidents such as falls or injuries while operating machinery or driving.

Opioid overdoses have been escalating in recent times. By September 2022, drug overdose emerged as the primary cause of accidental deaths in the United States. While fatalities mainly involve heroin or synthetic opioids, prescription opioids significantly contribute to this trend. Developing a reliance on pain medications is a genuine concern and can develop into prolonged addiction if not addressed with professional guidance.

What to Do in Case of a Morphine Overdose

If you suspect someone has consumed an excessive amount of morphine, immediately call emergency services. In situations of uncertainty or suspicion of substance ingestion, you can seek guidance from the poison control center. Operating round the clock, they offer emergency assistance and guidance in poisoning incidents.

Avoid inducing vomiting without proper guidance. Morphine can be ingested orally, injected, or via skin patches, and attempting to induce vomiting may cause harm. Always adhere to medical advice provided by the emergency response team.

If the person ceases to breathe, you may consider administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However, it’s crucial to seek instructions from the emergency medical team beforehand.

Details to Provide Emergency Responders

Prepare to provide the following information to emergency responders, according to Medline, a government resource:

  • The individual’s age.
  • Their weight.
  • Their level of consciousness (conscious, alert, confused, unconscious).
  • When the morphine was ingested.
  • The quantity of morphine consumed.

This information will help the medical response team determine the best treatment for the individual.

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Opioid Withdrawal comes in phases. There is the early phase, which occurs 6 to 24 hours after use; the acute phase, at 24 to 72 hours after the last use; and then post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which happens after the typical withdrawal period has ended.``
Opioid Withdrawal comes in phases. There is the early phase, which occurs 6 to 24 hours after use; the acute phase, at 24 to 72 hours after the last use; and then post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which happens after the typical withdrawal period has ended.

Typical Morphine Overdose Symptoms

Even when adhering to prescribed doses, morphine, due to its potent nature, can lead to severe side effects. Usually, these side effects manifest within the initial one to three days of commencing morphine use. However, if these symptoms are observed in oneself or someone using morphine for more than three days, they could indicate an overdose. These symptoms include:

  • Constricted (small) pupils.
  • Behavioral changes or mood swings.
  • Sleepiness or fatigue.
  • Rapid or slowed heartbeat.
  • Difficulty or pain during urination.
  • Confusion.
  • Fainting or feeling faint.
  • Stomach pain or cramps.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Twitching or seizures.
  • Sweating.
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Changes in appetite or menstruation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fever.
  • Irritability or nervousness.
  • Skin discoloration (blue or purple).
  • Unresponsiveness.

If the individual exhibits unresponsiveness, bluish skin discoloration, seizures, or severe confusion, posing a risk of harm, immediate emergency assistance should be sought. In addition to these well-documented side effects, possible symptoms of a morphine overdose may include:

  • Clammy or cold skin.
  • Bluish lips or fingertips.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Slow, irregular, or labored breathing.
  • Slow heartbeat.
  • Limp or floppy muscles.
  • Excessive drowsiness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.

If any of these symptoms arise, it is crucial to dial 911 or the relevant emergency contact number without delay.

Causes Of Morphine Addiction

Morphine addiction can arise from various factors, and it is often the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental elements.

  • Pain Management: Morphine is frequently prescribed for pain management, especially in cases of severe or chronic pain. Individuals may develop a dependence on morphine as they seek relief from persistent pain, leading to a reliance on the drug.
  • Brain Chemistry: Morphine acts on the brain’s reward system by binding to mu-opioid receptors, releasing dopamine, and producing pleasurable sensations. Over time, the brain may adapt, and individuals may require higher doses to experience the same effects, contributing to the development of tolerance and dependence.
  • Genetic Factors: Genetic predisposition can play a role in an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. Some people may be more genetically prone to developing dependence on opioids like morphine.
  • Psychological Factors: Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, can increase the risk of morphine addiction. Individuals may use the drug as a way to self-medicate or cope with emotional pain.
  • Environmental Influences: Social and environmental factors, such as peer pressure, family history of substance abuse, and easy access to opioids, can contribute to the initiation and continuation of morphine use.
  • Prescription Practices: Overprescribing or inappropriate prescribing of morphine by healthcare providers can contribute to the development of addiction. In some cases, individuals may start using morphine for legitimate medical reasons but then misuse or develop dependence on the drug.
  • Lack of Education: Limited understanding of the potential risks and consequences of morphine use, including the potential for addiction, can contribute to misuse and dependence.

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Even if you have failed previously and relapsed, or are in the middle of a difficult crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. When you feel ready or just want someone to speak to about therapy alternatives to change your life call us. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you to wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our network hotline today.

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Possible Treatments for Morphine Overdose

Upon accompanying an individual displaying symptoms of a morphine overdose to the emergency room, specific treatments can be expected. The medical team may provide oxygen support to aid breathing. In severe cases, intubation might be necessary—inserting a tube into the airway (trachea) to maintain open airflow and prevent potential brain damage. This often involves the use of a ventilator.

Activated charcoal is a standard treatment for oral morphine overdose, intended to absorb some of the opioid medication and mitigate further harm. Administered promptly, ideally within three hours after morphine ingestion, activated charcoal can limit potential damage.

Patients typically receive intravenous fluids to maintain hydration during treatment. Additionally, various diagnostic tests are performed to assess the extent of morphine-induced damage. These tests may include blood and urine analyses, brain CT scans, chest X-rays, and electrocardiograms (ECGs). The results guide subsequent treatment decisions. Naloxone may be administered as an antidote to morphine. In severe instances, gastric lavage, also known as “stomach pumping,” might be necessary to physically remove orally ingested drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with Tramadol may differ for each person. Gradually tapering off the drug can help minimize the effects.
Withdrawal symptoms of Morphine may differ for each person. Gradually tapering off the drug can help minimize the effects.

How to Get Better After an Overdose of Morphine

The prognosis for recovery following a morphine overdose is determined by factors such as the timing of treatment, the amount of morphine consumed, overall health, concurrent medications, the presence of other substances in the system during the overdose (e.g., alcohol, caffeine), age, and weight.

Only a medical professional can provide an accurate prognosis. Morphine overdoses are dangerous, with long-term consequences such as kidney problems and irreversible brain damage.

Understanding the addictive nature of morphine, as well as its potential for harm, is essential for preventing an overdose. Understanding the medication’s instructions is critical—some morphine tablets are extended-release and should not be split. Incorrect use, such as breaking a tablet for a lower dose, could result in an overdose. It is critical to seek professional advice from a prescribing medical professional.

Breaking the addiction to morphine or other opioids, especially after long-term use, can be extremely difficult. Seeking help from an addiction specialist is critical in such cases.

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Despite declining prescription rates, opioid overdose deaths remain a significant public health concern. Many opioid-related deaths are attributed to the misuse of prescription opioids or illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl. Unfortunately, Norco hydrocodone is included in the problem.

There is a need for increased access to evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorder, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and behavioral therapies, to address the addiction crisis effectively.


1.6 Million

An estimated 1.6 million people in the US were reported to have opioid use disorder in 2019, indicating a diagnosed addiction to opioids.

Source: NCBI

70%

In 2020, over 69,000 drug overdose deaths in the US, and approximately 70% involved opioids.

Source: CDC

18%

In 2019, only about 18% of people with opioid use disorder received specialty treatment for their addiction.

Source: NSDUH


Bioavailability

Bioavailability refers to the extent and rate at which a drug or substance is absorbed into the bloodstream or becomes available at the site of action after administration. It measures the amount of the administered dose that enters the systemic circulation and can produce an effect.

How Morphine and Other Opioids Affect the Body

Opioids adhere to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive system, exerting their effects when attached to these receptors.

The brain naturally produces its opioids, which are responsible for various effects such as reducing pain, regulating respiratory rate, and even alleviating feelings of depression and anxiety.

However, the body’s natural production of opioids isn’t sufficient to address severe pain like that from a broken leg. Additionally, the body doesn’t generate opioids in quantities that would lead to an overdose. Opioid medications and recreational drugs replicate these naturally occurring opioids.

These drugs can affect the body in several ways:

  • They may impact the brainstem, regulating functions like breathing and heart rate, potentially slowing breathing or suppressing coughing.
  • They might act on specific brain areas, like the limbic system controlling emotions, causing feelings of pleasure or relaxation.
  • Opioids reduce pain by affecting the spinal cord and transmitting messages between the brain and the body.

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Morphine Withdrawal Detox

Detoxifying from Morphine can be an uncomfortable process due to the range of physical and mental symptoms that define Morphine withdrawal. To ease the intensity of these symptoms, individuals are encouraged to undergo a medical detox program.

During medical detox, doctors oversee the individual’s health and create a tailored treatment approach to remove the drug from their system. The method of quitting, either abruptly stopping (“cold turkey”) or gradually reducing the dosage (tapering), is determined based on the person’s specific needs. Tapering off is often preferred as it typically results in milder withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involving drugs like Naltrexone or Buprenorphine (Suboxone) can be employed to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal. Methadone, a less potent opioid, might also be used as a substitute during the detox process.

Once the detox phase concludes, their physician assesses the individual’s health to determine readiness for discharge. If detox takes place in a treatment facility, the following steps often involve counseling and therapy to address the psychological aspects of the Morphine addiction. For those detoxing in a hospital or clinic setting, the subsequent phase may involve enrolling in an inpatient rehabilitation program or outpatient addiction treatment.

Morphine Addiction Treatment

Upon completing detox, individuals may undergo various therapies and treatments as part of an extensive treatment plan. Rehab after detox is crucial for addressing underlying addiction causes. Rehab occurs in different settings:

  1. Residential or Inpatient Rehab: This involves residing onsite throughout treatment, receiving constant care, and participating in diverse therapies. Suited for severe addiction cases or those lacking supportive home environments.
  2. Outpatient Rehab: Requires traveling to the facility for treatment and returning home afterward. Suitable for individuals with supportive environments and reliable transportation.

Ongoing medication maintenance is integral for maintaining sobriety and averting relapse. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone may be part of this maintenance. Naltrexone, functioning as an opioid antagonist, blocks opioid effects, preventing highs if opioids are used again.

Treatment for opioid use disorder encompasses diverse therapies and supports:

  • Counseling: Addresses addiction-related issues.
  • Behavioral Therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM), or motivational interviewing foster positive behavioral changes.
  • Family Therapy: Repairs relationships affected by addiction.
  • Vocational Training: Assists in employment post-rehab.
  • Case Management: Aids with social services such as securing basic needs and legal aid, allowing individuals to focus on recovery.

Aftercare is essential for ongoing recovery. Post-treatment, participating in individual counseling, mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), attending support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), utilizing recovery apps, or engaging in recovery management checkups with treatment providers are beneficial.

Comprehensive treatment should address substance use and associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues tailored to individual needs.

Why Choose We Level Up Treatment Center?

At We Level Up Treatment Center, our dedicated team of professionals is committed to guiding you through every step of your recovery journey. We prioritize your well-being and provide a nurturing environment conducive to healing and growth.

Take the first step towards recovery today. Contact us to begin your journey to a drug-free life. You don’t have to face addiction alone—we are here to help you reclaim control and achieve lasting sobriety.

Start a New Life

Begin with a free call to an addiction & behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up treatment center network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

  • Personalized Care
  • Caring Accountable Staff
  • World-class Amenities
  • Licensed & Accredited
  • Renowned w/ 100s 5-Star Reviews

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How Long Do Opiates Stay in Your System?

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