Morphine Sulfate Overdose

Morphine sulfate is one of the most well-known opiate painkillers. It was first isolated from the poppy seed plant in the mid-1800s and has since been used as a benchmark to measure the effectiveness of all other pain medications.

Morphine sulfate is highly effective at reducing pain. It’s also highly addictive. This has led to high rates of misuse and abuse. In 2015, approximately 20.5 million Americans aged 12 years or older were estimated to have a substance abuse disorder. Of these cases, two million involved prescription painkillers.

The chance of overdosing on morphine sulfate increases when the drug is mixed with other painkillers of the opiate variety. These include oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are commonly prescribed following traumatic injuries and surgery.

Drinking alcohol while taking morphine sulfate is not advised. The depressant effects of alcohol on the central nervous system can compound morphine sulfate’s activity on respiratory depression.

Most individuals can handle up to 120 mg of morphine sulfate before being at risk of an overdose. However, a dose of 60 mg can result in a fatal overdose in hypersensitive patients. Patients experiencing an overdose are typically treated with naloxone. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that rapidly reverses the effects of opiates.

The primary symptom of morphine sulfate overdose is severely depressed breathing. Morphine sulfate increases skeletal muscle flaccidity and suppresses the body’s signals that normally notify the patient that they’re breathing has become inadequate. In other words, they forget to breathe. There is a marked difference between being sedated from morphine sulfate and the stupor that characterizes an approaching overdose. As a rule, if the patient is not alert to their surroundings or if they’re unresponsive to questions, they should be considered at risk of overdosing.

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

In addition to unresponsiveness and severe respiratory depression, other signs of morphine sulfate overdose can include drowsiness, cold/clammy skins, and constricted pupils. Less common signs include bradycardia (slow heart rate), pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), hypotension (low blood pressure), atypical snoring, and airway obstruction. If left untreated, these symptoms can progress to coma and death.
The risk of overdose is highest when patients are first introduced to the drug. Initially, individuals should not exceed more than 30 mg per dose and never take more than 1600 mg per day. In cases of high tolerance, up to 2000 to 3000 mg can be tolerated per day.

Patients should never take more than 120 mg per dose, even in cases of severe dependence. This is the minimum lethal dose of morphine sulfate. Some patients may be hypersensitive to morphine sulfate. There have been cases in which hypersensitive individuals have died following a single 60 mg dose.
Morphine sulfate is available in both immediate release and extended-release tablets. Immediate release morphine sulfate is available in 15 mg and 30 mg tablets. Patients are typically advised to take one dose every four hours as needed, with an effective range of three to seven hours.

Extended-release tablets may be prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. These come in 30 mg doses and are released into the patient’s system gradually over the course of 12 hours. To avoid unwanted sedation, patients should not exceed more than 30 mg per day.

Although it is difficult to determine exactly how many people die from Morphine overdose each year, the Center for Disease Control estimates more than 14,000 people overdosed on opioids in 2016. When it comes to identifying the amount of morphine sulfate, doctors have ran into some issues. Morphine sulfate and heroin appear identical in the body to doctors performing autopsies, therefore the exact number of overdose deaths attributed to morphine sulfate might be skewed. However, morphine sulfate overdoses are more likely to occur.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

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