Morphine Addiction & Abuse

Commercial production of morphine started in the 19th century, and it was introduced as a moderate to severe pain reliever. Initially, it gained reputation as a useful substitute in the treatment of opium addiction, but later turned out to be even more addictive than opium itself. Since then, morphine has gained a notorious reputation as one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, with widespread addiction across the US occurring from both its abuse and usage as a prescription drug. Morphine addiction has far reaching repercussions; it affects the user, his or her family, and the society in general. In the US alone, more than $500 billion is spent on morphine addiction. This amount is inclusive of healthcare costs, lost employment, accident, crime and morphine litigation costs.
Morphine is an opiate compound derived from the opium poppy plant. Morphine is one of the most powerful narcotic opioids derived from opium poppy plant. It is the golden standard for pain killers, and it works by blocking pain sensations and calming the central nervous system, slowing blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration to give a sense of pleasure and calm. Morphine is a federally designated Schedule II drug and it’s prescribed for cancer related pain and after major surgeries. However, morphine runs a high risk of abuse because it’s relatively easy to access and it gives a feeling of euphoria.

It borrows its name from Morpheus, the Greek God of dreams, mainly because it gives the user a euphoric feeling often described as a dreamlike sensation.

Ever since human discovered the medicinal and recreational effects of the opium poppy plant, they have used it extensively across the centuries, especially in Asia where the plant is native. During the industrialization age, many Asians took advantage of the improved transportation network and migrated to America, bringing with them opium which was so common in their countries. Abuse and usage of opium as a pain reliever continued, and addiction rose to shocking levels in the 18<sup>th</sup> and 19<sup>th</sup> centuries.

A solution was thus urgently needed to mitigate the addictive effects of opium, while maintaining the positive medicinal properties. Between year 1805 and 1816, a pharmacist assistant named Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner managed to isolate a yellowish white crystalline compound from crude opium. After testing very small doses of the compound on himself, he discovered that it had the effects of pain relief and euphoria. He named this compound Morphine after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus.

By the mid nineteenth century, morphine was now commercially produced and it was highly praised as a miracle drug that doctors could prescribe to injured soldiers during the American civil war. It was effective in its job, but after the war, it was discovered that veterans who had used morphine, both from north and south, had developed morphine addiction.

The drug was also gaining traction as an alternative to opium in pain relief and as a substitute for opium to treat opium addiction among users. The perfection of the first hypodermic needle in 1853 provided a new way of introducing morphine directly into the bloodstream. Due to the refined form of the drug, Morphine proved to be ten times more effective in comparison to opium, in the relief of pain. However, one major problem arose; its addictive properties also turned out to be exponentially enhanced, posing a new challenge that needed to be mitigated.

Morphine Sulphate tablets were thus developed and introduced to address the risk of dependence observed among individuals who needed morphine for pain relief. These tablets release the morphine into the body in smaller doses at a time, and were seen as a solution to the stubborn stain of addiction and dependence that has defied science in the application of opiates for medicinal purposes. Today, Morphine Sulfate tablets are prescribed for the management of critical and chronic pain, which is severe enough to require an opioid analgesic, but for which alternative treatments are inadequate.

Morphine is by nature a crystalline compound. In its medical application though, it has taken various forms and states depending on the pharmaceutical company that has manufactured it and the mode of administration. The administration of Morphine for medicinal purposes is done through two methods; oral administration through morphine sulphate tablets, and through the injection of liquid morphine directly into the bloodstream.

Morphine sulphate pills take different shapes, sizes and colours. Some tablets are round in shape, while others take an oval/elliptical shape. We also have capsule shaped morphine sulphate tablets. The colour and shape notwithstanding, one common feature of all morphine sulphate tablets is that they must indicate their dosage content in miligrams on the face of the tablet. Here are sample pictures of morphine sulphate tablets.

Morphine Sulphate oral solutions are commonly used in aleviation of pain for individuals who may be unable to swallow solid tablets in one form or the other. Just like the tablets, the oral solutions come in varying dosage and should be administered strictly as prescribed to minimize the risk of dependence.

Injectable morphine sulphate is also used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It may also be used before or during surgery with an anesthetic, as it acts on the central nervous system to relieve pain.

Morphine goes by a varied number of names, both in terms of brand names and slang names applied in the streets. Some of the common brand names under which morphine is produced and marketed are; Roxanol, Kadian ER. Morphine Sulphate ER, MS Contin, Kapanol, Morphabond and Oramorph SR. In the streets, it is impossible to list all the names that are used in reference to a drug, some of the names that are however commonly used in reference to morphine include; Monkey, Dreamer, White Stuff, Aunti Em, Aunti, Morph, Drone, TNT, Tango and Cash, Dance Fever, Murder 8 and Goodfella, among other obscure and discreet names that may be known only to limited users in a locality.
Morphine is a drug that gets easily absorbed into body and bloodstream within a short time of usage. If taken orally, it reaches the peak levels of concentration within sixty minutes of administration and falls gradually thereafter. If administered through an injection, it reaches peak levels of concentration within 30 minutes of administration and falls gradually with time from that point onwards. It has a half-life of 3 hours with normal administration, and does not stay in the body for very long. However, traces of morphine can still be found, in blood, hair or urine, within a specified timeline after the usage.

Due to its short half-life, morphine dissipates within a very short span of time in blood. On average, it falls below detectable levels in blood, one day after administration or use.  Hair on the other hand can show traces of drug use after a very long time. Although factors such as the length of the hair, the frequency of getting a haircut and the amount of the drug used come into play, traces of morphine can be detected in hair for up to 90 days. In urine, morphine can be detected within one to two days after use. With particularly heavy use, this can extend for a longer period of time, but it can never go beyond four to five days from the last dosage.

Just like every other prescriptive drug, there are some recommended dosage amounts while taking morphine. This though varies from one individual to the other depending on the purpose of the administration of morphine. Initial administration of morphine sulphate should be in the dosage range of 15mg to 30 mg for every four hours as needed for pain. Care should be taken to avoid overdosing, as an overdose of morphine can have devastating effects or even turn fatal. Morphine sulphate still carries a high risk of developing reliance, dependence or even addiction. Federally designated as a Schedule II drug, care should be taken in administration of the drug, with strict monitoring to ensure that an individual is weaned off the drug gradually at the first sign of developing dependence.
Morphine is categorized as a Schedule II substance under the by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Department of Justice. A Schedule II substance is defined by the DEA as; “…..drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” For this reason, Morphine should be taken strictly under prescription and even then, close supervision by a medical doctor is required as the risk of developing dependence is still very present. The risk of developing a dependence and addiction to morphine is so high that it does not require prolonged use, it can develop within the first few times of taking the drug in whichever form.
According to statistics available on the Addiction Center Website, which is also backed up by data availed by the Global Information Network About Drugs (GINAD), in the recent past, more than half of the accidental deaths in the US have been caused by morphine and heroin. More than ten percent of the US population admitted to having used morphine within their lifetime. The number of morphine addicts admitted to hospital emergency rooms increased by one hundred and six percent between year 2004 and 2008. With the situation being that dire a few years ago, it is sad that all indicators point to even greater numbers in morphine addiction in the current times.
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Morphine Addiction was last modified: April 5th, 2017 by The Recovery Village