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Symptoms and Signs of Morphine Abuse

Even when taken as prescribed for the treatment of severe pain, morphine, like all prescription narcotics, can have unwanted side effects. Morphine has major effects on the central nervous system (CNS) by impacting neurotransmitters, M-receptors, K-receptors and D-receptors in the brain. Morphine binds to opiate receptors within the reward and pain pathways, thereby evoking a wide array of side effects, both positive and detrimental. Individuals receiving continuous infusion of morphine sulfate via indwelling intrathecal catheter should be monitored for new neurologic signs or symptoms.1,2 The following are possible signs of an overdose and require emergency medical intervention:

  • Constricted, pinpoint or small pupils
  • Decreased awareness or responsiveness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased thirst
  • Lower back or side pain
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • No muscle tone or movement
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Swelling of the face, fingers or lower legs
  • Weight gain1

Morphine Side Effects

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Anorexia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Diaphoresis (sweating)
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling of warmth
  • Fever
  • General psychomotor impairment
  • Lethargy
  • Relaxation and drowsiness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Sedation
  • Tremors1,2

Mental Side Effects

  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Agitation
  • Apathy
  • Delirium
  • Depressed consciousness
  • Destructibility
  • Disconnectedness
  • Disturbed sleeping
  • Euphoria and elevated mood
  • Fearfulness
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypervigilance
  • Inattentiveness
  • Mental clouding
  • Paranoia
  • Personality changes
  • Psychosis
  • Severe depression1,2

Symptoms of Morphine Abuse

Morphine abuse not only impacts an addict’s physical and mental well-being, but also has negative consequences on lifestyle, personal relationships and other areas of life.

Impact on Health

  • Alternating alertness and unconsciousness
  • Sleep apnea
  • Problems urinating
  • Weakened immune system
  • Lethargy
  • Hallucinations
  • Collapsed veins or circulatory inflammation (in intravenous users)
  • Increased risk of blood-borne disease (in intravenous users)
  • Reduced libido
  • Poor hygiene
  • Needle marks2,3

Behavioral and Social Effects

  • Acting euphoric
  • Faking injuries or harming oneself in an attempt to obtain a prescription
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Spending excessive amounts of money on morphine
  • Stealing to support morphine habit
  • Hanging out with other drug users
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Compulsion and obsession about obtaining and using morphine
  • Sudden changes in actions and mood
  • Neglecting formerly enjoyable activities and pursuits
  • Short-term emotional well-being, warmth and pleasure2,3

Alcohol and Morphine

Drinking alcohol with opioids such as morphine can result in serious adverse reactions and fatalities, due to the additive effect they have on the CNS. An estimated one in four opioid-related deaths involves a combination of opioids like morphine and alcohol. Potentially dangerous effects of co-occurring alcohol and morphine use include:

  • Deep unconscious-like sleeping
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Respiratory depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death4,5
  1. Morphine Side Effects. Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/sfx/morphine-side-effects.html Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 15, 2017.
  2. Long term effects of morphine on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC). Addiction Blog website. http://addictionblog.org/infographics/long-term-effects-of-morphine-on-the-brain-infographic/ Accessed February 15, 2017.
  3. Morphine Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/morphine-abuse/ Accessed February 15, 2017.
  4. Mixing morphine with alcohol. Addiction Blog website. http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/mixing-morphine-with-alcohol/ Published February 22, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2017.
  5. Concurrent Alcohol and Morphine Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/concurrent-alcohol-and-morphine-abuse/ Accessed February 15, 2017.
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