Morphine is known around the world as a drug for pain management. What some may not know is that the drug occurs naturally in opium poppy plants. That discovery was made at the beginning of the 19th century.
Since then, morphine has been the go-to choice for physicians looking to address pain associated with injuries, surgeries and long-term ailments. In addition to its medicinal usage, morphine is the precursor from which other painkillers like codeine or oxycodone are derived. So, whether it is for tooth pain or the chronic pain management of cancer patients, morphine has been an integral drug in health care.
Morphine is part of the group of drugs known as opioids. Morphine is the first opioid of them all — laying the groundwork for centuries of effective pain relief. Even when taken as prescribed, opioids can have dangerous repercussions. Dependence and substance use disorders can develop if people are not careful. These consequences are exacerbated by recreational use. According to the CDC, thousands of individuals overdose on morphine each year.
No matter the form it may take, morphine is a drug that has associated risks and benefits. These two traits never seem to be mutually exclusive and there will almost always be some overlap, so a thorough understanding of what one may be getting themselves into is a vital first step.
Morphine comes in several forms. Perhaps the most common are morphine prescription pills. When in tablet or pill formulations, morphine is chemically linked to a compound known as a sulfate. These sulfates allow the drug to be easily absorbed by the body. From here, the morphine itself may freely bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system to treat chronic pain. Many doctors choose to place their patients on a pill regimen due to the consistency in doses, ease of use and the ability to control prescription numbers.
Some morphine pills will be of the extended- or sustained-release variety, while others being immediate-release. The main difference here comes down to time. Extended- and sustained-release morphine creates a steady release of the medication over the course of several hours. As such, these forms only need to be taken a few times every 24 hours. Immediate-release morphine can be administered more frequently.
Pills containing 30 milligrams of morphine are prescribed regularly. These tablets are recognizable by their red, purple or lavender coloring.
Along with the purplish 30 mg pills, morphine is available in several other potency arrangements. Said dosage amounts include: blue 15-mg pills, orange 60-mg pills, gray 100-mg pills, and green 200-mg pills. The latter of which is reserved for patients with an accumulated tolerance to opioids. Such pills can be lethal to anyone else.
In general, a patient unaccustomed to opioids will be prescribed less potent pills and directed to take the meds once or twice daily. Alternatively, those with an aforementioned tolerance may be prescribed 200 milligrams to adequately tackle their pain symptoms.
A morphine high is similar to that of all other opioids: sedative and euphoric in varying degrees. For morphine, in particular, a high occurs when the pills are taken in excess or in inadvisable ways. Tablets can first be crushed or chewed and then snorted, swallowed or injected. Any of these methods may cause an overdose, simply because breaking the drug prevents its built-in safeguard (the extended-release mechanism) from working properly. There is no telling how much morphine the body will activate instantly, leading to grave results for many.
Symptoms and side effects may arise with any ingestion of morphine pills. A patient or recreational users’ history of use, biology and dosage amount all have something to do with this possibility. Common side effects include dangerous levels of lethargy, confusion, nausea and irregular bowel movements.
More serious and potentially life-threatening side effects such as respiratory depression may also occur, though much less frequently. Symptoms and disorders can arise in any number of regions in the body:
- Cardiovascular system disorders
- Gastrointestinal system disorders
- Nervous system disorders (including those related to the eyes)
- Renal system disorders
- Integumentary system disorders
- Musculoskeletal system disorders
- Reproductive system disorders
- Respiratory system disorders
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Always consult with a medical professional to better understand the related hazards and seek medical attention if any side effects may be indicative of an overdose.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.