Morphine is an opioid painkiller often prescribed to relieve pain after surgery or in cancer patients. The drug is also used in other cases to address moderate to severe pain.
Though morphine is effective, it has a number of side effects. Some are harmless, but when taking the drug for a sustained period, they can turn more serious.
What are these side effects? Read on and find out more.
How does morphine work?
Morphine molecules bind to parts of the brain called opioid receptors. In effect, the drug blocks pain signals from being transmitted. This is how morphine works to relieve pain.
In moderate doses, the drug only has a pain killing effect. But at higher doses, morphine can make you sedated. In other words, the drug can induce you to sleep and feel very calm.
Aside from sedation, morphine produces a host of other side effects as well.
What are the side effects of morphine?
Morphine is generally safe when you take it while strictly following your prescription. Still, you may feel the following side effects:
- small pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)
- difficulty urinating or pain when urinating
- dry mouth
- mood changes
- stomach pain and cramps
These side effects are mild and should go away after a while. If not, talk to your doctor. It might be a sign of an underlying complication.
Other side effects are more serious and should not be brushed aside. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these:
- blue or purple skin
- changes in heartbeat
- fast heartbeat
- loss of appetite
- severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- loss of coordination
- weakness or dizziness
- swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, lips or throat
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- extreme drowsiness
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
The last one, in particular, can turn fatal if your breathing stops or slows down too much.
Aside from these, morphine is also potentially addictive. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) even classifies this drug as a Schedule II controlled substance. That’s the second highest substance classification in terms of addictive potential and threat to health.
Why is morphine addictive?
Morphine is capable of producing euphoric effects. Many people have described this as being in a dream-like state. This dreamy, calm feeling is what causes the drug to be addictive.
Even if you’re under a legitimate morphine prescription, abusing the drug is possible. Let’s say your prescription says take one tablet a day, and you take two tablets. That’s considered misuse of the drug. Taking higher doses than prescribed often leads to drug dependence, then addiction.
For this reason, you should never increase your dose without informing your doctor first. If you feel that your prescribed dose no longer relieves your pain, tell your doctor immediately. He may advise you to switch to a different medication.
What happens when I get addicted to morphine?
Morphine addiction will change your patterns of behavior. For one, you will spend more of your time and money on taking morphine. Since you cannot buy the drug without a prescription, you may resort to illegal versions sold on the black market. These drugs are more dangerous since you never fully know what ingredients are in there. They could have poisonous components.
The compulsion to find morphine may also lead you to do “doctor shopping.” Here, you would go to different doctors pretending to be sick. The goal is to get more prescriptions for morphine.
Addiction to this drug will affect your performance at work or school. More often than not, you’ll find yourself skipping classes or ditching work to attend to your drug cravings. The desire to take morphine will overpower your sense of fulfilling your responsibilities.
Relationships with friends and family would also be affected badly. It may start with them showing concern and encouraging you to quit morphine. The more they do so, the more you would shun them or get mad at them. Eventually, the people you value the most may no longer want to interact with you anymore because of the negative behavior.
In a nutshell, morphine addiction will take over your life. You can no longer live normally without the drug.
How can I reduce the side effects of morphine?
The best way to avoid the side effects of morphine is to strictly follow your doctor’s orders. Do not go beyond your prescribed dose, and inform your doctor right away if you don’t feel enough pain relief.
Better yet, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a different painkiller in the first place. Mention your concerns about the side effects of morphine, especially its addictive properties.
If you’re taking these precautions and still experience side effects, it’s okay. If the side effects are mild, they would go away soon. But if they get troublesome, tell your doctor the soonest time possible.
Can morphine addiction be treated?
In the event that you do get addicted to morphine, don’t worry. You can recover from it. You will need professional help, so talk to a certified addiction professional. Each case of addiction is different, so working with a professional ensures that you will go through a personalized treatment plan.
Usually, the first step of recovering from morphine addiction is detox. This process may be medically assisted, and you may be given medicines to counter the effects of morphine. Once detox is done, you will be able to go on without taking morphine at all.
Afterwards, you will go through a series of behavioral therapies. These are designed to take your mind off the drug for good. Each therapy will reduce your drug cravings, help you build healthy habits, and reduce your chances of relapsing. Some therapies will help you find the root causes of your morphine addiction as well.
Eventually, you will regain control of your life, and you can live clean again.