Morphine Abuse and Addiction: Symptoms & Warning Signs

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th 2021

Content Overview

Abuse of opioid drugs, such as morphine, is quite common as users tend to become tolerant to the effects very quickly. Increasing the dose of morphine is classed as abuse and it will only reinforce your tolerance. Once you start abusing morphine, the risk of addiction increases significantly; accidental overdose will also be much more likely as well. It is important to be alert to the signs and symptoms associated with morphine addiction and abuse because knowing what they are may help you to get your life back on track before it spirals out of control.

Morphine is one of the most commonly abused opiates around the world. Originally intended as a prescription painkiller, morphine is abused today through many different channels. When abuse is left unchecked, it can lead to addiction in some individuals. The key to solving the morphine/opiate problem is to learn the warning signs and symptoms so as to get people into treatment as early as possible.

When Does Drug Use Become Drug Abuse or Addiction?

What we know about drug addiction has evolved over the last several decades. We have come to understand that while millions of people use drugs, only a small number of them are already addicted or will eventually experience addiction. Understanding why that is so requires understanding how drug use becomes drug abuse and addiction.

There are people who use over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs on a regular basis without ever losing control of their actions. They may use certain substances only at certain times or for specific reasons. These individuals can say ‘no’ to drugs just as easily as they say ‘yes’.

Drug use becomes drug abuse when the user begins losing control over his or her actions. In many cases, drug abuse is linked to some level of physical and/or psychological dependence. Note that dependence and addiction, be it to opiate drugs or other substances, are not considered the same thing by modern standards.

Physical dependence is a condition in which the body needs a steady supply of a given drug in order to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The body gets used to having the drug in the system and no longer knows how to cope without it. Psychological dependence is similar, but with one significant difference: rather than the body needing the drug, the mind needs it to cope.

Drug abuse becomes drug addiction when the user loses all control over actions and decisions. The addict is driven by compulsion despite knowing that continuing to use drugs is destructive. No matter how many times the user goes through the up-and-down cycle of using and withdrawing, he or she cannot stop.

Negative Effects

The negative effects of drug abuse and addiction touch nearly every area of life. For example, morphine addiction is associated with certain long-term health problems; morphine addicts can easily suffer liver or brain damage. The brain damage is the direct result of hypoxia, which is caused by the shallow breathing associated with morphine use.

In addition to physical and psychological effects, morphine addiction also affects personal relationships. Those relationships suffer because the addict can no longer be depended on. Some cases of addiction create a violent environment, which further degrades strained relationships. Addicts can become isolated from their families and friends along the way.

Morphine addiction often leads to financial problems as well. Those problems may be exacerbated by the loss of the person’s job. That, in turn, could then lead to losing one’s home, car, and any other possessions. It could ultimately lead to a life of crime.

How it Can Change Your Loved One

We want to make it clear that drug abuse and addiction do not harm just you, as the user. They also harm your loved ones. Imagine your spouse or partner having to live with the stress of drug abuse and addiction. Your loved one may suffer guilt, too. Suffice to say that a loved one’s mental health can really be affected.

The stress of living with a drug addict can change your loved one’s outlook on life. He or she can go from having an upbeat disposition to always being unhappy. Your loved one could be overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and a range of other emotions rooted in the inability to get you to stop using.

In short, drug abuse and addiction can transform a loved one from a helpful partner into a lonely victim. We have seen many cases in which family members were so adversely affected that they needed their own treatments. At the end of the day, that is really not a position you want to put your loved ones in.

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Shifts in Behaviour

Loved ones suffer because addiction causes behavioural shifts in the person using drugs. Some behavioural changes are common to all types of addictions. Here is a brief list of some of them:

  • Lack of interest in family activities
  • Unreliability at work or school
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance
  • Gradual social isolation
  • Defensiveness over substance use
  • Spending more and more time obtaining or using drugs.

Some drugs are capable of producing more specific behavioural changes. Again, morphine can lead to brain damage as a result of hypoxia. That brain damage can manifest itself in many ways – from aggressive tendencies to general lethargy.

Morphine Addiction and the Brain

A person addicted to morphine can no longer stop using despite knowing the damage it is doing. This is because morphine changes how the brain works. In its earliest stages, morphine binds and activates opioid receptors in the brain. It also encourages the production of endorphins and dopamine.

Over time, the brain gets so accustomed to dealing with morphine that it is no longer capable of maintaining the natural balance of brain chemicals. This leads to all sorts of things including dependence, addiction, and the behavioural changes associated with both.

Signs of an Overdose

Morphine overdose is rare when the drug is used under the direct supervision of a doctor. Outside of that supervision, overdose is possible when a person takes too much morphine at any given time. The signs of morphine overdose are easily recognisable if you know what to look for:

  • A bluish skin tone
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion, agitation, and irritability
  • Loss of coordination and motor function
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted and unresponsive pupils
  • Fever and sweating
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness.

Overdose Prevention

A morphine overdose can be prevented very easily. It is a simple matter of not using the drug, at all, outside of the supervision of a doctor. Assuming the drug is given by way of prescription, following the instructions on the bottle will prevent an overdose from occurring.

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Early Warning Signs of Teen Morphine Use

Parents who suspect their teens might be using morphine can look for a few early warning signs. First, pay attention to any complaints of regular constipation or unusual drowsiness. Both are physical side effects of morphine.

Parents can also look for a change in the child’s social interactions. One teen may stop hanging out with friends altogether while another may adopt an entirely new circle of friends. The child’s performance in school might also begin to suffer.

Common Physical Warning Signs of Morphine Addiction

Morphine produces recognisable physical symptoms that act as warning signs. At the top, the list is constipation, a side effect that occurs in up to 95% of morphine users. Other physical warning signs are as follows:

  • Episodes of nausea or vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Drastic changes in body weight
  • Slower metabolism
  • Low blood pressure
  • Kidney problems
  • Unexplained rashes.

Common Emotional and Social Warning Signs of Morphine Addiction

Emotional and social warning signs are also present with morphine addiction. They include things such as:

  • a greater tendency toward both aggression and irritation
  • a greater tendency toward social isolation
  • a general lethargy and lack of motivation
  • a loss of interest in personal grooming
  • a change in social circles.

Behavioural Warning Signs of Morphine Abuse

Morphine abuse often produces behavioural warning signs you might recognise in someone you know. For example, morphine abuse can lead to:

  • personality changes
  • significant changes in priorities
  • poor mental performance and decision-making
  • regular episodes of unexplained euphoria
  • regular visits to the doctor and/or doctor shopping.

Symptoms of Morphine Withdrawal

A person addicted to morphine will experience withdrawal symptoms between doses. The symptoms will also manifest themselves during treatment, as the person detoxes.

Those symptoms can include some or all of the following:


  • Nausea & Vomiting – The way morphine affects the digestive system can lead to nausea and vomiting during withdrawal.
  • Insomnia – Because morphine is a sedative, a person may have trouble sleeping during withdrawal.
  • Sweating – With morphine withdrawal comes increased respiration and heart rate, both of which can raise body temperature and produce sweating.
  • Agitation – Withdrawing from any drug with sedative effects can result in agitation while the brain adjusts.
  • Anxiety – Withdrawal often produces anxiety as a result of psychological dependence.
  • Cravings – Among all opiates, morphine tends to produce some of the strongest cravings. The body will want more morphine even as you are trying to give it less.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do drug abuse and drug addiction develop?

Drug abuse begins with drug use. Once a person begins to lose a measure of control, he or she is considered to be an abuser. Addiction is present when a user loses all control and begins acting based on compulsion.

How to know when your teen has a drug problem?

Drug problems affect judgement and mental performance. Your teen might start making poor decisions. Grades will fall, and the teen will gradually become less and less reliable. The child may also exhibit a level of lethargy and lack of motivation that is unusual even for teens.

Are heroin and morphine the same thing?

Though heroin and morphine are both opiates, they are different drugs. Morphine is compound first isolated from the opium poppy back in the early 19th century. It has been used as a painkiller ever since. Heroin is a separate drug derived from morphine. It is created by introducing a variety of chemicals to morphine and then processing the resulting mixture.

How can you know if a family member is addicted to morphine?

A morphine addiction can be recognised if certain warning signs and symptoms are observed. Beginning with the symptoms, family members can look for things like regular constipation, breathing difficulties, kidney problems, and so forth. Warning signs are more social and behavioural than physical.

A person addicted to morphine will spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to secure the drug. He or she is likely to visit the doctor frequently while complaining of all sorts of pain. Doctor shopping is also a common warning sign. Learning to recognise the symptoms and warning signs should make it easier to identify the family member struggling with morphine.

What does morphine treatment involve?

The goals of morphine addiction treatment are to break physical and psychological dependence, educate the patient as to how addiction works, develop strategies for preventing relapse, and then integrate back into society while utilising aftercare treatments to prevent relapse.

What to do if you are concerned for a loved one?

The first thing to do is step back and observe. See if any of the warning signs and symptoms you learned about in this guide are present. If they are, talk to your loved one and share your concerns. Should you receive a positive response, you can then help that person get the necessary medical help.

Should you receive a negative response, you cannot push. Still, offer your full love and support. In the meantime, start researching treatment options. There may come a day when your loved one makes the decision to get help. You want to be ready should that happen.

When should someone go to rehab for morphine addiction?

The best time to make arrangements for rehab is the moment one recognises the existence of a morphine addiction. The sooner the addict gets into rehab, the greater the chances of full and complete recovery. Delaying rehab only delays recovery. It also makes things harder.

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