Morphine was named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, because of the euphoric side effects and dream-like state it produces. Generally, opioids are related in chemical structure to the natural plant alkaloids in opium, which are derived from the resin of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. These natural alkaloids are also referred to as opioids like codeine and morphine. The abuse of morphine has become such a problem that it’s being sold in deterrent coding to help prevent tablets from being crushed, snorted, or injected. While this has greatly reduced the potential to abuse prescription morphine, it doesn’t eliminate the problem. As a result of the opioid epidemic, it’s important to understand the effects of morphine on the brain and the risks associated with morphine addiction.
Like heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and other opioids, morphine has the potential to be highly addictive as tolerance develops rapidly with continuous use. As a Schedule II drug, morphine’s medical purpose is to treat moderate, severe, and chronic pain. It’s also used to treat pain after surgery, cancer-related pain, and pain or shortness of breath at the end of a patient’s life. However, morphine also produces a pleasurable and euphoric high, making it highly addictive. Whether it’s obtained through prescription or on the streets, this drug is abused for the high it produces. Some common morphine street names include M, Miss Emma, Monkey, Roxanol, and White Stuff.
Morphine affects the brain by attaching itself to opioid receptors on cells located in the central nervous system, brain, spinal cord, and other areas to block pain signals from the body. Like other opioids, morphine can influence the release of chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine from the brain’s reward system, calming one's emotions and producing a sense of pleasure. Morphine reduces automatic functions, such as breathing and heart rate, which can also reduce pain.
Some common side effects of morphine on the brain include:
The long-term effects of morphine include slowed or ineffective breathing, otherwise known as respiratory depression, which can cause hypoxia, or when too little oxygen reaches the brain. Hypoxia can have both immediate and long-term repercussions, including a coma, permanent brain damage, and death. Slowed breathing and reduced oxygen to the brain also occur when a person overdoses on morphine, leading to permanent opioid brain damage.
Because morphine is so potent, repeated use can also increase your body’s tolerance to the drug, meaning you’d have to take more of it to experience the same relief or feeling. Then physical dependence develops, during which stopped or reduced use of morphine can cause withdrawal symptoms. In order to avoid these symptoms, you may continue using this drug, eventually leading to addiction. If you’re currently in this situation, we recommend visiting Banyan Palm Springs for a clinical assessment and possible medical detox to start your recovery.
How morphine affects the brain and how long it lasts largely depends on how much of it you take. Even so, because it’s fast-acting, morphine can last anywhere between 4 to 6 hours. This drug is usually eliminated from the body in about 15 hours, but certain drug tests can detect it for longer periods of time. Although it can take up to three days for the body to eliminate morphine, “morphine brain” or the high it produces doesn’t last that long. Because the effects of morphine may only last up to 6 hours, a person who has become physically dependent on the drug for pain relief or to get high may consider this to be too short-lived, causing them to use the drug repeatedly in a short period.
Whether they’re prescription or illicit drugs, they can still be misused. If you’ve been prescribed morphine for your condition and begin to experience side effects like shortness of breath or hives, speak to your doctor immediately. Those who are abusing this drug may need opioid addiction treatment to physically recover and overcome their addiction.