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As the first drug derived from opium in 1803, morphine quickly became a widely used painkiller by physicians and individuals worldwide. A great part of its popularity was due to the fact that it was approximately 10 times stronger in its painkilling ability than the naturally occurring opium that had been used previously, going back to as far as 3,400 BC in Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, early users and prescribers of morphine were unaware of or unconcerned with its addictive qualities. The widespread use of morphine in the 1800s, therefore, led to the creation of a huge population of individuals who suffered from varying degrees of morphine addiction.

photo of a vial of morphine and a injection needle

Government Response to Morphine Addiction

As it became more apparent that morphine addiction was a growing social problem, the US federal and state governments began taking steps to curb the problem. One the first of these steps was making morphine only available via a prescription from a doctor. This cut down on the myriad of “miracle cures” for various ailments sold in drug stores or even by sidewalk hawkers that contained morphine as their primary active ingredient. Law enforcement was then engaged to crack down on illegal morphine sales and distribution. However, it was quite some time before governments and individuals realized that a more treatment-focused approach to morphine addiction was a critical part of the solution to this public health crisis.

How Most People Are Introduced to Morphine Today

Due to government regulation of morphine usage and the relatively easier illegal access to other opioids “on the street,” the most common way for an individual to begin taking morphine today is due to a doctor’s prescription. Morphine can be taken by mouth, suppository, injected intramuscularly, intravenously, subcutaneously, and is even injected into the spinal canal for pain control. Doctors often prescribe morphine for moderate to severe pain, either during or after surgery, or for other acute or chronic pain disorders. It is also used during a cardiac event (heart attack) and for pulmonary edema. Many of these uses are completely appropriate and effective; however, once the drug is introduced to certain individuals, they continue to take it even when it is no longer needed for the original purpose in an attempt to experience the euphoria and relaxation that it produces. This can be the beginning of a potentially long-term and dangerous morphine addiction.

illustrated chart detailing the differences between morphine and heroin


Why Morphine Addiction is so Common

Morphine addiction typically involves a physical dependence on and tolerance to the drug. This means that more and more of the drug is needed over time to produce the same “high” that the user initially experienced with a smaller dose. This is because the brain becomes accustomed to the drug’s presence and is physiologically altered after repeated and chronic administration. After long-term use, many users become so accustomed to the drug that they require it to simply feel “normal” instead of using it to achieve intoxication. One can view this part of the addiction equation as the “carrot” component of addiction. Users acquire a “positive” result (at first getting high and later simply feeling normal) from their continued use of the drug. They continue using morphine so as to continue receiving this “positive” reinforcement.

“The Stick” of Morphine Addiction

In addition to the “carrot” or positive reinforcement aspect of morphine addiction, morphine also has a very significant “stick” component to it as well. This “stick” is the extremely unpleasant and painful prospect of morphine withdrawal. If morphine use is suddenly stopped, the addict will go through a painful, protracted withdrawal period. During withdrawal, the person is likely to experience nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, abnormalities in vital signs, and other symptoms. These symptoms are so intense that they can derail the attempts to quit morphine use by even those most determined and committed to do so. This is one of the reasons that it is so critical that those attempting to end their morphine addiction seek out professional assistance for detox and subsequent treatment. Without it, the pain of withdrawal will likely make unsupervised attempts to quit ineffective and short-lived.

infographic timeline showing opioid withdrawal symptoms at different time intervals


Professionally Administered Morphine Addiction Detox

Morphine detox is typically carried out in an inpatient or residential drug detox center. During this part of the stay in the substance abuse treatment facility, the patient will be medically monitored and medications will be administered to attenuate the morphine withdrawal and to maintain stability for any other medical problems that arise. In fact, if the addiction is severe and the patient is older or has underlying medical problems, the untreated opiate withdrawal can lead to a variety of medical problems and even death. This is yet another reason that morphine detox should never be attempted on one’s own, without proper supervision.

The Next Step: Morphine Addiction Treatment

Drug detox is only the beginning of treatment for morphine addiction. It will take much more to give the patient a solid opportunity for long-term recovery. Without follow-up treatment for their addiction, many individuals will quickly fall back into their old habits, resuming their morphine use or switching to other dangerous opioids like heroin or oxycodone (among others). Treatment for morphine addiction usually begins in an inpatient drug rehab. During treatment, recovering addicts learn how to deal with life stressors, family and employment issues, and underlying psychiatric issues. This gives those in recovery a strong foundation on which to build a new life, free from the dangerous lure of morphine addiction.

Defeat Morphine Addiction Now

Morphine addiction is a serious and potential deadly disease. Fight back and defeat morphine addiction by calling BWR today at 800-683-4457. Our operators are available 24/7 to help you and your family get on the road to recovery.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

Your decision to regain your life helps and heals your entire family. Do it for them. Do it for you.


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