How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?

The opiate crisis in America continues to spread causing addiction and death rates to increase. While there are many forms of opiates, the most common are morphine, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Morphine is the prime component of the poppy plant. It is by far one of the most potent analgesic opiate and has been used for pain relief for many years. It is a prescription medicine that doctors use to treat moderate to severe pain and it is often used to reduce pain that may be cause from surgical procedures. Morphine is most commonly used in a hospital setting, however it is readily available therefore making it easily abused outside of a medical setting. Morphine comes in many forms such as tablets, injection, syrup or suppository. People take it orally, intravenously, rectally, as an epidural or they smoke it.
How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?
Currently there are only four countries that legitimately grow poppy plant crops for medicinal use. These countries include: Australia, France, Spain and Turkey. These countries have been authorized to grow the plants to meet the growing demands for opiates by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board.

This is not to say that these are the only countries the plants can be found as places such as Thailand, Afghanistan, Columbia and Mexico have been known to grow unregulated crops for illicit use on the black market.

  • Severe to moderate pain
  • Accident victims
  • Cancer patients
  • HIV/AIDS pain management
  • Major surgery patients
  • Kidney stone pain
  • Chronic back pain
The CDC reports that nearly half of the accidental drug overdoses in the United States were caused by heroin and morphine. Other statistics around opiates and morphine include:

  • Every day, 60 people die from opioid pain medications, which is equal to roughly 22,000 people per year.
  • 19 million Americans are addicted to opioid painkillers.
  • 10 percent of the U.S. population has abused an opiate drug in their lifetime.
  • The number of morphine addicts admitted to the emergency room increased by 106 percent between the years of 2004 and 2008.
  • More than 60 percent of morphine addicts admitted to getting the drug from friends or relatives.
  • Morphine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is subject to regulations and controls around how often a prescription can be written and refilled.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine identifies there are numerous brand names for prescriptions containing morphine that are both advertised and used in the United States.

The brand names for morphine drugs are:

  • Avinza®
  • Kadian®
  • Morphabond®
  • MS Contin®
  • Oramorph®
  • Roxanol

Interestingly enough, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that out of the 130 to 140 tons of morphine imported into the United States annually, only 15% is used as is. The remaining 85% of morphine stock is converted to other popular morphine-based medicines, such as:

  • Hydromor-phone (Dilaudid®)
  • Oxymorphone (Numorphan®),
  • Methadone (Dolophine®)
  • Oxycodone (Roxicodone®, Percodan®, Percocet®)
the bloodstream to the brain. It can reach the brain almost as quickly if it is smoked also. Then there are those who snort heroin or morphine to avoid the use of needles as well as issues associated with needle use. When it is snorted, the drug does not reach the brain as fast as it does when injected or smoked. While it may not act as quickly, snorting morphine can actually make the effects last longer.

One morphine reaches the brain it binds to opiate receptors in certain parts of the brain that are associated with the reward center pathways. These areas include the cerebral cortex, VTA, nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Morphine also attaches to the parts of the brain that are involved in the pain pathways. These areas include the thalamus, brainstem and spinal cord. As morphine binds into the pathways of the brain that handle pain, it can cause analgesia, or the loss of pain.

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Intensified relaxation
  • Loss of pain or decreased perception of pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced worry and stress

Morphine carries a very high potential for addiction because of how it reacts with the brain’s reward pathways and because of its potency. A person taking morphine often wants to continue taking it to obtain the sense of euphoria they feel when they first take it. Tolerance and physical as well as psychological dependence can develop very quickly which causes it to be a commonly abused drug.

One of the many dangers with morphine abuse is the potential is has for causing breathing problems and paralysis of the lungs. This can be a life-threatening respiratory issue that occurs in people who frequently use or mix morphine with alcohol or other drugs.

The half-life of morphine really depends on how the drug was administered as this has an effect on how long it stays in the body as well as it’s effectiveness. Morphine, in general, has a short half-life lasting only about an hour and half up to 7 hours.

The peak life for a morphine injection is about 20 minutes with a half-life at only 1.5 hours.  Whereas, if morphine is taken orally, it reaches it’s peak after around 30 minutes and has a longer half-life lasting anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.

Several factors contribute to clearance rates of morphine and how long it will stay in a person’s system. Two people could take the same dose amount, in the same timeframe and one may excrete morphine quicker than the other. The most important factors to consider are:

  • Age: The younger someone is, the more likely they are to eliminate drugs faster from their systems simply because their metabolism is likely moving at a faster pace and their organs are usually in better shape that those of an older person.
  • Body height / weight / fat: Depending on how tall someone is, how much they weigh and how much body fat a person has may cause them to eliminate faster than someone else when we compare their dosage amounts.
  • Genetics: Genes are important factors in not only how a person’s organs and metabolism are built, but also their predisposition for addiction.
  • Function of the Kidney & Liver: The liver and kidney are vital organs in the elimination process of the body. If a person has a damaged liver or kidney their clearance rate will be longer.
  • Metabolism: The speed at which a person is able to metabolize his or her food, liquids or drugs will effect how quickly morphine is process through the body.
  • Frequency of use: A person who only takes a single dose, one time, is going to eliminate morphine faster from his or her system than a person who has been using it for an extended amount of time at much higher doses.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they indicate some estimates for how long it takes morphine to leave the system. The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows for drug testing, that a user can expect morphine to be discovered by several testing methods:

  • Urine: Morphine can be detected in the urine for 2-3 days
  • Hair: Morphine, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.
  • Blood: A blood test can identify Morphine for up to 12 hours.
When it comes to morphine withdrawal each person has varying levels of discomfort, which can range from mild or moderate to severe depending on all the their dosage amounts, regularity of use as well as their ability to purge morphine from his or her system. Each of these factors will affect both the intensity of their withdrawal symptoms as well as the timeline and duration.

When coming off of morphine, it’s highly advised to go through the detox process under medical supervision with a trained professional. Undergoing medical detox for opiate withdrawal from morphine is the best way to ensure that painful and uncomfortable side effects are mitigated as best as possible.

The withdrawal process is what often keeps a person addicted, as it can be so unpleasant that it discourages them from following through all the way. Medical detox can both keep someone encouraged and also help to alleviate symptoms and avoid complications.

Morphine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Sweats and chills
  • Stomach cramps or diarrhea
  • Fast heartbeat and breathing rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Weakness or fatigue

Once someone has made it through the withdrawal and detox process from morphine, long-term treatment such as an inpatient or outpatient program is advised. Opiate addiction from morphine should be addressed after detox as the next phase towards recovery so that any underlying causes can be identified and worked through.

Guide for Estimating Requirements for Substances Under International Control, International Narcotics Control Board, <>, February 2012

Increases in Drug and Opiod Overdose Deaths, Center For Disease Control, <>, January 2016.

Drugs The Straight Facts: Morphine, State University of New York at Buffalo, <,%20Morphine.pdf>, Gregory Busse

How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?
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