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How to Tell if Someone Is on Morphine

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated May 13, 2023 • 6 cited sources
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Morphine is a type of opioid. It comes in both pill and injectable forms. Morphine is a legal substance that can be used to treat severe pain. [1] However, it can also be misused or overused. 

If someone is misusing or overusing morphine, you may notice that they seem sedated, euphoric or sleepy. Over time, you may notice other changes in their behavior that might be concerning for an addiction disorder such as social isolation, decline in performance at school or work, or a general decline in hygiene.

While morphine may be indicated for long term use in individuals with certain pain conditions, any long term opioid therapy does come with risks. 

Common Signs of Morphine Use

Morphine, like any opioid, can cause physical, behavioral or mental health changes.

Physical Changes

Morphine is a central nervous system depressant, and it often causes sedation. A common concerning sign of morphine overuse or misuse is being chronically sedated or drowsy. It may also lead to other noticeable physical changes such as constipation, weight loss or weight gain, etc. 

The way a person takes morphine can also cause physical changes, including the following:[2]

  • Snorting: People who crush pills and snort them may sniffle, sneeze or struggle with nosebleeds. They may also experience structural damage to the nasal passages. They may develop infections of the upper respiratory tract.
  • Injecting: People who shoot morphine may have needle marks on their arms. Infections in these spots can spread and lead to complicated infections, loss of limbs or even sepsis and death. 

Behavioral Changes

Opioid addiction can cause changes in behavior. Individuals misusing opioids may spend more time isolated from others. They may drastically change who they spend time with – abandoning old relationships/friendships suddenly. If asked about changes, they react secretively or combatively. As the problem deepens, people may miss work or start to perform poorly in their jobs or at school. These behavioral changes may be a sign of an opioid use disorder. 

Mental Health Changes

People who misuse morphine may experience euphoria due to the drug’s chemical impact. Frequent use can deplete the body’s neurotransmitters, leading to periods of dysphoria and poor mood. As doses wear off, these same people may become anxious and restless. Over time these fluctuations in neurotransmitters can lead to chronic depression, anxiety, or even more severe mental health disorders such as psychosis, schizophrenia or mania. 

Is Morphine Dangerous?

Morphine is an opioid drug, and like every medication in this class, it has some serious risks. 


People who use morphine or other opioids regularly develop physical tolerance.[4] Their brain cells become accustomed to morphine and they need stronger/higher doses to feel the same effects that a smaller one once delivered. 

Tolerance means people need larger and larger morphine doses. Sometimes, people solve this problem by switching to stronger opioids like heroin. This can lead to further risks. 

Physical Dependence 

Physical dependence is defined as the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is abruptly discontinued. Morphine withdrawal produces similar symptoms as withdrawal from any other opioid – often compared to a bad case of the flu. Symptoms include sweating, shakiness or tremulousness, anxiety, agitation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea/vomiting. 


Opioid use disorder (OUD) is another term for “addiction”. People who misuse morphine can develop OUD. An opioid “use disorder” is defined as continued use of morphine despite negative social or health consequences. 

People with OUD may desperately want to quit using morphine, but they feel physically or mentally unable to do so. Despite the risks and consequences, they will keep using morphine. [5] 


Morphine and opioid use always carry the risk of overdose.[6] Opioids are respiratory suppressants. Taking too much can lead to oversedation and cessation of respiration. This can rapidly lead to death. 

Getting Help with MAT

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs offer medications to help people combat the acute withdrawal symptoms and the more long term cravings associated with opioid use disorder, allowing for recovery. 

Prescriptions like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) can reduce drug cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. 

Bicycle Health brings the power of MAT to your home through telemedicine. Meet with a doctor online/virtually and pick up a prescription at a pharmacy near you. 

In the past, you might have felt like recovery from morphine misuse was impossible, but MAT can help to make it a reality for you. Contact us to find out if virtual treatment might be right for you.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

  1. Stop Persecuting Doctors for Legitimately Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. Stat. June 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Prescription Opioids Drug Facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  3. How People Obtain the Prescription Pain Relievers They Misuse. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. January 2017. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Stabilization of Morphine Tolerance with Long-Term Dosing: Association with Selective Upregulation of Mu-Opioid Receptor Splice Variant mRNAs. PNAS. December 2014. Accessed April 2023.
  5. Biological Sciences: Morphine Physical Dependence Unaltered by Previous Dependence on Morphine. Nature. August 1972. Accessed April 2023.
  6. Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns About Extreme Use and Questionable Prescribing. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 2017. Accessed April 2023.
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