Morphine Treatment and RehabAnna Ciulla
Morphine is a potent opiate used for the treatment of severe pain, usually post-surgical or cancer-related pain management. Due to its highly addictive, psychoactive properties, morphine is classified a Schedule 11 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and is widely abused.
Although morphine is a naturally occurring derivative of the opium poppy plant with a rich medical history, modern pharmaceutical and illicit varieties are dangerous— especially when mixed with other drugs or sold on the street in impure form. Morphine is available as a tablet, syrup, injection, or suppository, and users also smoke or snort the drug in order to achieve a more immediate high.
Morphine is a major part of a criminally profitable and socially popular epidemic that is ravaging the nation and undermining public safety and health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), morphine is the third leading cause of emergency room visits. In 2015, morphine resulted in 6,345,800 total prescriptions, and in 2016, 64,070 people died from drug overdoses—primarily opiates. In other words, more Americans died from opiates than they did in the Vietnam War.
Morphine achieves its euphoric effects by interacting with opiate receptors in the brain and throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Over time, this artificial manipulation of brain chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin, creates physical dependency.
Although all opiates work through a similar mechanism, morphine’s alteration of dopamine and serotonin levels—the brain’s natural “feel good” chemicals—is perceived as highly desirable by users who enjoy its euphoric effects and pain-reducing properties. Exact symptoms of morphine addiction vary widely depending upon individual neurochemistry and length and/or quantity of use. Physical symptoms may include:
- Impaired breathing
- Stomach pain
Psychological symptoms of morphine addiction include heightened anxiety, extreme euphoria and memory problems.
Morphine addiction invariably results in withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not regularly taken, or even slight lapses in use occur. Morphine withdrawal can be quite severe depending upon the level of addiction involved. In some cases, it triggers precipitated withdrawal— a sudden onslaught of symptoms that can turn deadly if not treated in time.
Morphine addiction typically produces withdrawal symptoms that occur in as few as six to 14 hours following dosage, and last up to 72 hours. Physical withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Intense cravings
- Teary eyes
- Extreme fatigue
- Dilated pupils
- Hot and cold flashes
- Sore muscles
- Achy bones
- Elevated blood pressure
Psychological withdrawal symptoms include dysphoria, uncontrollable anxiety, panic attacks, and restlessness. In the majority of morphine users, psychological withdrawal symptoms typically last much longer than physical symptoms. In fact, as part of the post-acute withdrawal process (PAWS), they can linger for months or even years.
THE BENEFITS OF PROFESSIONAL TREATMENT
Professional treatment and rehabilitation is critical for those suffering from morphine addiction. Reputable treatment facilities are staffed with highly qualified medical professionals and licensed clinicians who specialize in safely, effectively managing the detox and withdrawal process. In addition to providing comprehensive physical and psychological evaluation, ongoing symptom monitoring, and evidence-based therapy, professional treatment helps minimize the risk of relapse and offers invaluable social support.
Due to the serious, lasting effects of morphine addiction, self-guided detox or at-home treatment are never recommended and carry unnecessary risks. In some cases, self-guided detox results in a trip to the emergency room (ER) and may even cause a coma and/or death. Professional morphine detox provides the basic pillars of support necessary for users to break free from their addiction and live a healthy, functional life— without the heightened risks associated with self-treatment.
Morphine treatment is available in a multitude of options— all of which are appropriate for users battling different stages of addiction. These include:
- Intensive inpatient treatment – This popular morphine treatment protocol involves clients living at a designated residential facility, usually for a period of at least one month. During a client’s stay, a combination of pharmacological and psychotherapy is utilized. The 24/7 staff monitoring and safe, supportive environment offered by such facilities are generally regarded as the industry gold standard, and provide optimal social and therapeutic benefit to morphine users requiring premium level of care.
- Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) – This less intensive treatment protocol involves clients attending a designated treatment facility on a non-residential basis. During the course of IOP, clients are also administered various pharmacological interventions and participate in group and individual therapy. Although IOP programs offer many benefits and are convenient for those with demanding personal or professional schedules, they are not considered optimal when dealing with an opiate as potent as morphine.
- Outpatient treatment (OP) – This least intensive protocol involves clients attending a casual once or twice weekly schedule of individual and/or group therapy in addition to occasional medical follow-up and consultation. OP treatment is not recommended as a first intervention for morphine users, although it is appropriate as a progressive stage in continuing care upon successful completion of an intensive inpatient or IOP treatment program.
Regardless of which initial treatment option a user chooses, it is important to remember that morphine recovery is a long-term process, with challenges and difficulties lasting well beyond the duration of professionally guided treatment. Merely completing a month-long inpatient detox and attending several months of subsequent intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is not always sufficient to guarantee sobriety and prevent relapse— hence the need for an ongoing commitment to a healthy recovery lifestyle.
MEDICATION-ASSISTED TREATMENT (MAT)
The cornerstone of professional morphine treatment is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications combined with behavioral therapy. The following primary pharmacological interventions are supported by an abundance of clinical evidence and have revolutionized opiate addiction treatment industry-wide:
- Vivitrol – an injectable prescription variety of naltrexone that helps control cravings and stabilize psychological and physiological processes. The drug is available in both pill and once-per-month injectable form and works by blocking opiate receptors in the brain, noticeably reducing the euphoric effects associated with morphine.
- Suboxone – a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone (an opiate antagonist), frequently used early in symptom onset to help prevent intravenous buprenorphine abuse. This clinically proven medication for opiate dependence significantly lowers the risk of precipitated withdrawal. Suboxone activates the same neurological receptors as morphine and is generally well-tolerated by the majority of clients.
- Clonodine – an increasingly popular “anti-hypersensitive” medication that helps curb morphine withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine works by blocking the same brain chemicals that activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
During the course of treatment, additional medications may be prescribed in order to treat co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression that are precipitating or exacerbating factors in morphine addiction. Client-specific therapy is also included in the treatment regimen in order to help resolve trauma, identify behavioral challenges, and reinforce positive coping skills. Under the umbrella of life skills therapy, which includes the fundamental skills and abilities needed to function responsibly and autonomously, clients may receive the following evidence-based therapies:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Family therapy
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Trauma focused therapy (TFT)
- Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR)
- Creative and expressive therapy
- Narrative therapy
If you or someone you love is struggling with morphine addiction, call a substance abuse professional today and begin exploring treatment options. Although clients commonly worry about insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses, most receive partial, if not total, coverage and are able to receive the help they need. Even in cases where adequate insurance coverage is denied, reputable facilities may be willing to discuss alternative arrangements.
Morphine addiction knows no personal or professional boundaries. Anyone, at any time, can find themselves addicted to morphine and in need of treatment. Admitting the need for help should never be considered a shameful or embarrassing weakness, but rather a potentially life-saving strength.
Finally, morphine overdose is considered a medical emergency to be treated at your local ER room. If in doubt, never delay and take immediate action— the difference between life and death may depend on it.
For more about morphine addiction and recovery, check out these related articles:
- “Alternative Methods for Managing Pain without Opiates”
- “Dangers of Drug Detox at Home and Quitting Cold Turkey”
- “Common Co-occurring Disorders Associated with Addiction”
- “Long-term Effects of Substance Abuse”
The Scientific World Journal. Morphine for the Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease. Aug, 2015.
The Journal of Pain. Cognitive-affective and somatic side effects of morphine and pentazocine. March, 2005.
Journal of Clinical Oncology. Strategies to Manage the Adverse Effects of Oral Morphine: An Evidence-Based Report. Sept, 2001
World Journal of Anesthesiology. Intrathecal morphine for postoperative analgesia: current trends. Nov, 2014.