Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox
Morphine has been used for over two hundred years as a strong opiate analgesic (painkiller). Although modern synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl have been developed to treat severe pain and chronic pain, morphine continues to be widely used in modern healthcare.
Causes Of Morphine Withdrawal
In the body, morphine quickly binds to opioid receptors located in the brain and central nervous system (CNS).
This slows down mental and physical activity and changes how the CNS reacts to pain. In higher doses, however, morphine can also trigger a significant release of dopamine, a highly pleasurable and habit-forming neurotransmitter.
Unfortunately, this ability to cause pleasure and take away pain, stress, and tension comes with severe risks and side-effects, including:
- opioid addiction
- morphine overdose
- gastrointestinal problems and constipation
- increased sensitivity to pain
- sleep problems
- dependence and tolerance
After dependence develops, lowering your dosage of morphine or quitting entirely will likely throw off your body’s internal chemistry for a period of time, causing an uncomfortable or possibly dangerous physical reaction known as opioid withdrawal syndrome.
Symptoms Of Morphine Withdrawal
Opioid/opiate withdrawal syndrome can provoke a wide-range of common and uncommon symptoms, including:
- belly cramps
- body aches
- dilated pupils
- elevated heart rate
- high blood pressure
- rapid breathing
- runny nose
- watery eyes
Whether you experience more mild or more severe withdrawal symptoms likely depends on:
- your overall health
- how long you’ve been using morphine
- your regular dosage
- if you quit morphine cold turkey
- if you taper your doses down slowly
- if you have access to opioid replacement therapy
In any case, morphine withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable but are rarely life-threatening when supportive care is on-hand.
Morphine Withdrawal Timeline
Early symptoms of morphine withdrawal may begin as soon as six hours after your last dose. Acute withdrawal symptoms likely last between 3-5 days before resolving.
Some psychological symptoms like cravings and difficulty sleeping can sometimes persist for weeks or even months after other acute symptoms have subsided. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and is more likely to occur in cases of severe opioid use disorder.
Thankfully, all symptoms of morphine withdrawal are temporary and will eventually resolve.
Medical detoxification is a professional service designed to help individuals through the drug discontinuation and withdrawal process, providing close medical supervision and support from start to finish.
Medical detox programs are available in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Healthcare providers and experts in addiction medicine will monitor the health and progress of participants, making sure that they receive proper hydration, nutrition, medication, and emotional support.
Medical detox services not only provide this necessary care and security, but also provide participants with emotional support and comfort in the first stage of their drug addiction recovery journey to reduce the likelihood of dangerous opioid relapses.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT medications approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder and morphine addiction include:
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioid drugs while naltrexone is active in the body. It can be taken by mouth or injected into the muscle or below the skin each month.
This partial opioid agonist can suppress morphine cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but not enough to get a person high if they are already opioid tolerant.
Buprenorphine is usually formulated with naloxone, a short-lived opioid antidote, to prevent abuse.
This long-acting opioid drug is only dispensed in special treatment centers but can effectively relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms while it is active in the body.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Prescription Opioids DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Morphine https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682133.html
- National Library of Medicine: StatPearls — Opioid Withdrawal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment