Morphine in Medicine

Morphine was used for medicinal purposes before it even truly existed. This may sound like an oxymoron or contradiction but, in fact, it is simply a case of semantics. As it turns out, ancient civilizations simply did not know what morphine was, though they used opium plants for medical practices. Morphine’s actual discovery would not take place until sometime between 1805 and 1816 by a man named Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner.

Before Serturner’s breakthrough in isolating morphine from opium, the plant itself was as much a menace as it was a source of treatment. Even after morphine was discovered, countries like China were disseminated with opium addictions as a result of British opium trade. This even resulted in what is known as The Opium Wars. As an alternative in a world of alternative medicine, morphine was seen as a way to retain the pain-relieving abilities of opium while reducing its addictive potential.

Other advances would soon follow to enhance morphine’s effectiveness and popularity in medical applications. Perhaps the premier of which being the invention of the hypodermic needle in the middle part of the 19th century. Following this, morphine became a staple drug used on soldiers suffering from battlefield injuries during The American Civil War. However, the drug’s overuse led to thousands of instances of soldiers developing debilitating use disorders. Stopping pain came at a heavy price at that time — the inability to stop the drug.

Morphine in Medicine | Morphine Medicine Side Effects

Most everyone is familiar with morphine in today’s world. It is the quintessential painkiller medication. The reason for this is two-fold: Morphine is an exceptional yardstick for research and clinical applications, and it is actually the precursor to other opioids. These drugs, such as hydrocodone and codeine, are recognizable in their own right — and some, like heroin, are notorious for all the wrong reasons.

When someone mentions morphine as a pain medicine, they may very well be referring to any of a number of variants. Morphine comes in dermal patches, oral pills, and intravenously injected liquids among others. The doses of each type vary, as do the doses necessary to treat a patient’s unique pain. Dosages range anywhere between 10–200 mg, and individuals with high opioid tolerances may require the latter figure.

In addition to potency, the timing in which morphine distributes itself within the body differs among varieties. Two main formulations exist, extended release and instant release. ER can also be listed as “standard” or “slow” release while “immediate” is a synonymous term for instant-release meds. Many recreational users will lean towards extended-release morphine in order to get high. Extended-release pills are intended to work over the course of an entire day — crushing and snorting them activates all of the morphine at once. Adverse side effects and overdoses are not uncommon.

Opioid medicines have a laundry list of side effects. Now, this isn’t to say that every patient will experience them. There is not a completely accurate way to tell how often side effects will emerge. However, scientists and physicians do know that some reactions are more routine than others.

Common side effects that are not considered dangerous on their own include:

  • Lethargy
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Constipation

Rare side effects that range from uncomfortable to unbearable to downright dangerous include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Blurred vision
  • Spasms
  • Weakness
  • Irritated bowels
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Abnormal breathing patterns
  • Swelling of the throat or vocal chords

Very rare side effects that are potentially life-threatening include:

  • Anemia
  • Coma
  • Collapsed lung
  • Hallucinations
  • Circulation issues
  • Seizures

Using morphine incorrectly or in excess may also lead to an opioid overdose. These episodes have symptoms all their own, most of which fall under three broader categorizations:

  • Unresponsiveness: an individual may be passed out or comatose.
  • Small pupils: contraction of the pupils may occur during an overdose.
  • Trouble breathing or no breathing: morphine interacts with centers of the brain linked to respiration. Overstimulation of opioids can greatly impair these systems.

Morphine has numerous names: Mister Blue, Morpho, Dreamer, God’s Drug, MS, Morf, and more. These colloquial nicknames are likely to only be heard as part of illegal street trades.

On the medical side of things, morphine has dozens of brand-name monikers. Some names are more prevalent than others and include MS Contin, Kadian, Oramorph, Roxanol, Avinza, and Morphabond to name just a handful. No matter the name that appears on the bottle or box, morphine is perhaps the most homogenous opioid across its various iterations. What you see is what you get.

Opioids are undeniably among the most effective pain-relieving medicines to ever exist. Still, in recent years, their propensity to develop crippling dependences and substance use disorders within their users has come to the forefront. This is a growing calamity, and a wicked problem as some would put it. It is the opium epidemic of the 19th century with a new face for modernity. But if you or someone you love is struggling with morphine use, help is on the horizon. 

If you know someone who needs professional detox care to break free from a drug or alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village can help. The programs at this renowned center range from medically assisted detox through outpatient care, and each client is able to pursue sobriety in a safe and supportive environment. To learn more about a center near you, call  352.771.2700 today. 

Morphine in Medicine
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Morphine in Medicine was last modified: September 14th, 2018 by The Recovery Village