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Morphine is an opioid analgesic drug used to relieve severe pain. Aside from its well-known use during labour is it also use to treat severe pain in injury related trauma, post operation and in illnesses such as cancer.

Morphine can also be used to control pain in chronic long term conditions where an individual has become tolerant to the effects of a less potent opiate such as codeine or tramadol.
When used within a hospital environment, Morphine is generally a very safe and well tolerated drug. However, outside of a hospital environment, when abused or even when used as a genuine prescription, Morphine can lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction.

Morphine’s powerful sedative and euphoric effects make it a very popular drug for abuse. In 2019 there were significant concerns raised by the public media of the overprescribing of addictive opiate drugs. Public Health England (PHE) revealed there had been more than a 60% increase in prescriptions issued for opioid drugs over the past decade. Many of these prescriptions were for morphine. This has lead to the government placing prominent warning labels regarding addiction on all opiate drugs.

The CQC (Care Quality Commission) were also prompted to issue guidelines to medical practitioners for the safer management of controlled drugs in 2018/2019. This followed after identifying a major rise in ‘unaccounted for losses’ around opioid medications in particular.

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The main unaccounted for losses were contributed to: opioids going missing, discrepancies in recording data and prescriptions being reported as lost or stolen. After methadone, morphine was identified as the second most prolific drug to contribute towards unaccounted for losses in opiates (1)

The main concern with opiates and opioids such as morphine is their ability to quickly cause drug tolerance and dependence, which in turn can lead to addiction.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a morphine addiction or dependence it is important to seek professional help. You can call our Delamere helpline for confidential, expert advice today.

How does morphine work?

Morphine works directly on the central nervous system as a depressant, reducing pain signals or stopping them entirely from reaching the brain. It’s use also encourages the production of feel good chemicals in the brain. This is what makes the user feel good whilst providing very effective pain relief.
As with all controlled medications, morphine does come with unpleasant side effects. The side effects of morphine can become particularly problematic when the drug is used for prolonged periods of time.

Side effects of morphine include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Brain fog
  • Constipation and gut problems
  • Changes in sleep patterns and quality of sleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Demotivation
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • False perception of pain (the effectiveness of morphine as an analgesic may cause an individual to do things that could worsen their condition or delay their physical recovery)
  • Lethargy
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory problems and forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced awareness and decision making skills
  • Reduced cognitive ability and motor skills
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Slurred or delayed speech

In addition to a whole host of unwanted side effects, when morphine is used continuously for a period of more than 7 to 14 days the following risks can occur:

  • Tolerance (The need for increasing amounts of morphine).
  • Dependence (Experiencing withdrawal symptoms on missing a dose or trying to stop morphine).
  • Morphine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Addiction (A complex, chronic brain disorder where the brain becomes chemically damaged and structurally altered through repeated drug abuse and exposure).

As with all opiates, there is little evidence to support morphine being beneficial in the treatment of most chronic pain related conditions after a period of 3 months continuous use.

Effects of Morphine

Morphine’s effects are very similar to heroin and other strong opiate drugs. As a naturally occurring drug, morphines effects are probably closest to heroin out of all of the opiate drugs available. This makes is a highly desirable drug for abuse.


Morphine can be administered orally by mouth, rectally by suppository or injected intravenously. It can also be injected in to the muscle, under the skin and into the space around the spinal cord. Morphine is also available in tablets, syrups and slow release transdermal patches (2)

Trade names and brand names for morphine include:
AVINza, Morphabond, MS Contin, Oramorph SR, Roxanol, Roxanol-T, Kadian and Kadian ER

Typically, when abused, morphine will either be taken orally or through intravenous administration. The onset of Morphine’s effects are the quickest when administered Intravenously. This method of taking the drug comes with the most risks and also has the highest risk of overdose.
When an individual abuses morphine there are certain effects that are sought after or ‘desired’.

The effects of morphine when abused include:

  • Analgesia – powerful pain relief
  • Calmness
  • Drug cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Feelings of warmth
  • Euphoria – a false sense of wellbeing
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced anxiety

The signs and symptoms of morphine abuse in someone else

If you suspect someone you love is abusing morphine, look out for the following signs and symptoms of morphine abuse:

  • Appearing drunk
  • Slurred, slow or delayed speech
  • Nodding in and out of sleep
  • Extremely drowsy
  • Appearing to be in a trance like or dream like state
  • Pin point pupils
  • Finding drug paraphernalia i.e numerous empty morphine bottles/packets, needles, tourniquets etc
  • Euphoria
  • Slumped or very relaxed position
  • Unsteady on their feet or knocking things over
  • Reduced respiratory rate, slow or shallow breathing

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Signs of morphine addiction

If you are taking morphine regularly and wondering if you have developed an addiction to it, there are some signs that indicate you need professional morphine treatment urgently.

Signs and symptoms of morphine addiction include:

  • Losing control over how much morphine you are taking
  • Obsessing over where your next dose of morphine is coming from
  • Continuing to use morphine despite experiencing unpleasant side effects
  • Seeing relationships suffer and losing interest in other activities
  • Experiencing distinct cravings for morphine
  • Trying, but failing, to reduce the amount taken
  • Your interpersonal relationships are suffering and you have lost interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of depression/anxiety and being ‘trapped’
  • Feelings of shame and guilt related to your morphine use
  • Experiencing distinct cravings for morphine
  • Frequent morphine intoxication
  • Taking morphine in inappropriate or dangerous situations, ie whilst driving
  • Taking increasing amounts of morphine as your tolerance increases
  • Using morphine purely to get high (ie continuing to use morphine when the pain related condition has been resolved or taking morphine that has not been prescribed for you)
  • Lying, cheating, stealing or manipulating in order to get morphine
  • Experiencing morphine withdrawal symptoms
  • Hiding the true extent of your morphine use from others 
  • Withdrawing socially from family and friends
  • Mixing morphine with alcohol or other drugs for greater effect
  • Trying, but failing, to reduce the amount of morphine you take

Delamere’s targeted approach gets results

At Delamere we deliver medically managed morphine detoxes here at our purpose-built clinic in Cheshire. Our bespoke detoxes are delivered by our elite team of medical staff.

Our qualified detox nurses provide 24/7 care for all of our detox patients. Using approved medications we will effectively manage your morphine withdrawal symptoms to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal.

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Many of our distinguished team of practitioners have themselves lived through the experience of addiction. This gives us a unique insight not only in truly understanding the implications of addiction but also in how to overcome them successfully.

At Delamere rehab you will feel safe from judgement of any kind. We will help to nurse you back to full health whilst instilling essential relapse techniques and healing any underlying issues.

We have considerable experience in treating patients who suffer from opiate addiction. We can help you too to break the addictive cycle and undergo a profound personal transformation that allows you to live a life beyond addiction.

Want to break free from the pain and misery of morphine addiction? Call and speak with one of our addiction experts today.

Need help?
Call us confidentially at any time to speak to a member of our team.

Call us now: 0330 111 2015


  1. CQC Controlled drugs report 2018/19 Safer Prescribing of Controlled Drugs
  2. “Morphine sulfate”. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.



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