Morphine is an opiate analgesic drug which is synthesized from opium that is obtained from the poppy plant. It is prescribed for the treatment of moderate to acute pain because of its potent analgesic properties. It is often used for relieving pain prior to, during or after surgeries. Morphine is highly addictive, but it is safe to use if the dosage prescribed by the doctor is strictly adhered to. However, an individual who takes the drug in doses exceeding the prescribed limits or for non-medical purposes will get addicted to it.
Morphine's addictive characteristics activate the brain's reward systems and as the anticipation of the reward intensifies an individual starts craving for the drug, making it the focus of life. Morphine's capacity to alter the functioning of the brain by activating the reward systems is what is responsible for causing addiction to the drug. Further, morphine impairs an individual's consciousness level and hampers his/her ability to think properly and be aware of the surroundings.
As the body gets used to the drug, higher amounts will be required to experience the same effects. Tolerance to morphine can develop in a matter of a few weeks or sometimes in a few days. An individual who has developed tolerance to morphine will experience withdrawal symptoms if the quantity of the drug taken falls below a certain level. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the duration of use of the drug. They generally include a range of physical sensations. Some of them are uneasiness, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, insomnia, chills, vomiting, coryza rhinorrhea, lacrimation, severe bouts of sneezing, perspiration, twitching muscular spasms, involuntary kicking, hot and cold flashes, goose flesh, restless sleep, mydriasis, increased blood pressure, raised heart rate, increased respiratory rate, and higher body temperature.
Morphine withdrawal symptoms pass through a number of stages. The withdrawal symptoms for other opioids may be different in terms of intensity and duration. Withdrawal symptoms may be acute and do not reach the peak levels in the case of weak opioids as well as mixed agonist-antagonists. The commonly cited stages of withdrawal are as follows:
The withdrawal symptoms experienced by a person after six to fourteen hours of taking the last dose include drug craving, irritability, mild to moderate dysphoria, anxiety and perspiration.
In this stage - fourteen to eighteen hours after using the last dose - the symptoms that show up may include heavy perspiration, yawning, mild depression, lacrimation, dysphoria and running nose. The symptoms mentioned above may also intensify.
This stage comes up after sixteen to twenty-four hours following the use of the last dose of morphine. Morphine withdrawal symptoms experienced in this stage most often an aggravation of the symptoms explained above and may also include rhinorrhea or runny nose, dilated pupils, muscle twitches, piloerection or gooseflesh, hot and cold flashes, loss of appetite, bone and muscle aches and starting of intestinal cramps.
Symptoms of the fourth stage show up after twenty-four to thirty-six hours after an individual has taken the last dose. The individual may experience an increase in the intensity of the symptoms explained above. In addition, he/she experience involuntary leg movements and severe cramping, a moderate body temperature elevation, tachycardia, nausea, restlessness and increased breathing frequency.
In the fifth stage which occurs thirty-six to seventy-two hours after the last dose was taken, a person might lie in the fetal position, vomit, have frequent liquid diarrhea which may speed up the passage of food from the mouth to outside to around a hour, involuntarily ejaculate, saturate bed with body fluids, lose weight and experience blood changes including an increase in white cell count.
Once a person passes through the fifth stage, he/she will start experiencing a recovery in appetite and normal bowel functioning. This may mark the transition to the psychological recovery stage following the acute and chronic symptoms stage. However, an individual may experience such morphine withdrawal symptoms as increased sensitivity to pain, colitis, hypertension, motility-related gastrointestinal afflictions and problems associated with weight control.
The psychological dependence related to morphine addiction is not only complex, but also protracted. Even if the physical requirement for morphine has been overcome, an addict will keep thinking and talking about the drug's use. Psychological withdrawal from the drug is a long drawn and painful process. This is because an addict suffers severe depression, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, low self-esteem, paranoia, amnesia, confusion and other psychological disorders. If the physical environment or the behavioral contributors that caused a person to abuse morphine is not changed, the probability of a relapse is very high. The relapse rate ranges up to 98% in the case of morphine addicts and bears testimony to the drug's reinforcing and addictive nature.