Morphine is an opioid used primarily for pain control. It works on receptors in the brain and spinal cord to decrease pain sensations as well as to decrease the emotional response to pain. When used for a long period of time, people can become psychologically and physically dependent on the drug. If stopped suddenly, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur. Tolerance develops relatively quickly, meaning more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect. Since it is relatively easy to obtain and inexpensive, it is frequently abused. Among similar drugs used to treat chronic and severe pain, morphine has one of the highest addiction and abuse rates. The frequency of overdose from morphine is also the highest among the opiates.
Common disorders which co-occur with Morphine Use Disorder include:
- Other Substance Use Disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
Genetic: Morphine, like all the opioids, have a high heritability. Those with first degree relatives who experienced a morphine use disorder are significantly more likely to develop the same disorder or another opioid use disorder than individuals without a similar family history.
Brain Chemicals and Brain Structures: Morphine effects the amount of certain pleasure inducing chemicals in the brain. By stimulating the structures that release these chemicals, morphine acts to increase the amount circulating in the brain. In addition, there are naturally occurring opioids produced in the brain, called endogenous opioids. Morphine binds to the receptor sites for endogenous opioids and reduces the excitability of neurons. It is believed that this contributes to the euphoria experienced when using morphine.
Environment: Everyone feels overwhelmed by stress at one time or another. When overwhelmed by stress over the long term however, our bodies remain tense producing muscle and joint pain, and we experience anxiety regarding what the future holds. In addition to producing euphoria, morphine relieves pain and reduces fear and anxiety. If an individual has been exposed to morphine and their usual coping mechanisms aren’t decreasing the distress, the person may turn to this opiate knowing its effects on mood, anxiety and pain.
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.