What is Morphine Withdrawal?
As an opiate, morphine can be highly addictive. Generally, the drug can be used safely when taken in small doses as prescribed by a physician. However, when morphine is used in large doses and/or abused, the user can quickly develop a physical and psychological addiction to the drug.
When morphine is abused, it stimulates the brain’s reward system. This motivates the user to abuse the drug time and time again, which can lead to tolerance and dependence. Once the user develops a dependence on morphine, they will need to keep using the drug to feel “normal.” If they quit taking morphine, they’ll go through withdrawal as their brain relearns how to function without the drug.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms are typically flu-like and cause the user both physical and psychological distress. The symptoms and duration of withdrawal are different for each person.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Morphine withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, especially for heavy users. Symptoms vary in intensity depending on the user’s tolerance, overall health and metabolism, as well as the frequency and duration of drug use. In general, those who take high doses of morphine and abuse the drug for an extended period of time will experience more severe symptoms.
Common morphine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle aches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Body aches and pains
- Excessive sweating
While symptoms of morphine withdrawal are not typically life threatening, they can still be very intense.
Sometimes, the discomfort of withdrawal proves too much and users relapse. A morphine treatment program that offers medical detox can help users through the withdrawal process, reducing the risk of relapse.
Duration of Withdrawal
The length of the withdrawal process is different for every morphine user. Symptoms of withdrawal can begin as early as 6 hours after the last dose. The physical, flu-like symptoms usually last three to five days. Psychological symptoms known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can last longer, and some do not fade for weeks. Examples include anxiety, the inability to experience pleasure, depression, irritability, mood swings, decrease in enery, poor concentration, and insomnia.
The morphine withdrawal process can be highly stressful. For the best chance at making a full recovery, morphine users are advised to get help at a treatment center.
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Morphine Withdrawal Timeline
|First 6-14 hours||Symptoms usually present within six to 14 hours after quitting the drug. Anxiety, mood swings and drug cravings are often the first to present.|
|15-48 hours||Flu-like symptoms, such as sweating, chills, muscle aches, fever and runny nose, begin shortly after the first round of symptoms. Former users may also have trouble sleeping, have a rapid heartbeat, and feel irritable. Nausea and vomiting may begin towards the end of this time as other physical symptoms peak.|
|Days 3-10||Symptoms usually peak on day 4 and reduce slightly on day 4. By day 5, most physical symptoms begin to fade. Muscle aches start to curb, along with feelings of nausea. Psychological symptoms usually persist.|
|Days 10+||While most physical symptoms have subsided, PAWS such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and drug cravings may continue for several weeks or months, sometimes up to 24 months.|
Morphine detox can be very unpleasant because of the physical and psychological symptoms that characterize morphine withdrawal.
To reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, users are advised to complete the withdrawal process in a medical detox program.
In medical detox, doctors monitor the former user’s vitals and determine the best treatment plan to rid the drug from their system.
Depending on each individual’s circumstances, doctors may recommend quitting “cold turkey” or tapering off use. Generally, a taper method is advised over abruptly quitting because it produces less severe withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction treatment medications, such as naltrexone or buprenorphine (suboxone), may be used to help ease the withdrawal process. This is called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Methadone is a less potent opiate that can also be used as a substitute for morphine during detox.
“I was given meds to keep me comfortable. [Detox] lasted about 10 days…I have been sober for 13 months now…It is possible to live a happy, sober life, no matter how bad your past is. Heal the past, live the present and dream the future!”
When the user completes the detox treatment plan, their doctor will evaluate their condition and decide if they’re ready to be discharged. If detox took place in a treatment center, former users will then begin counseling and therapy to get to the root of their psychological addiction to morphine. For those who complete detox in a hospital or clinic, enrolling in inpatient rehab or an outpatient addiction treatment program is the best next step.
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Treatment for Morphine Addiction
People addicted to morphine often have a very difficult time getting sober on their own as the withdrawal symptoms can be quite stressful. Getting help at a drug treatment facility can increase the user’s chance of achieving sobriety.
If you or someone you love has an addiction to morphine, get help now. Please contact a dedicated treatment provider to discuss available treatment options.