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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Morphine Use?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Sep 25, 2023 • 6 cited sources

Long-term morphine use can have significant consequences, including physical dependence and the development of opioid use disorder (OUD). In addition, long-term effects include risks to respiratory function, hormonal balance and cognitive abilities.[1] 

One of the biggest risks of long-term use and misuse of morphine is overdose. Signs of morphine overdose include slowed breathing, extreme drowsiness, confusion, pinpoint pupils, lips turning bluish-white and unresponsiveness.[2] 

If you believe that you or someone you love is experiencing an overdose, call 911. If there is a risk of overdose due to long-term use of morphine, don’t wait to reach out for help. Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) can reduce and even eliminate the risk of overdose.

What Is Morphine?

Morphine, an opioid poppy plant derivative, is an extremely potent pain relief medicine prescribed by healthcare professionals to relieve severe discomfort after surgery or otherwise manage pain.[1] 

Though it is effective for this purpose, it also creates a high in users that is very addictive. Many people find that they start craving the drug soon after they start taking it. Continued use can mean that more and more of the drug is needed to experience the original high. Taking higher doses can more quickly lead to OUD and an increased risk of overdose.

Opioids like morphine are responsible for over 70% of global drug overdose deaths each year.[2] Due to the high risk of overdose when taking the drug, doctors only prescribe extended-release tablets of morphine to manage pain when other treatments have not proven to be successful or suitable.[3]

Morphine is a Schedule II narcotic.[4] While it is legal for medicinal use, it is highly controlled by the government. It is only legal for use with a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional, and it is illegal to sell your prescription, buy pills from someone else or take more than prescribed. 

Long-Term Side Effects of Morphine

The long-term side effects of morphine include physical, behavioral and psychological effects.[1,3-5]

Physical EffectsBehavioral EffectsPsychological Effects
ConstipationDrug-seeking behaviorDependence and OUD
ToleranceSocial withdrawalMood swings and emotional changes
Hormonal imbalancesIsolation from family and friendsAnxiety
Weakened immune systemNeglecting responsibilitiesDepression
Sleep disturbancesChanges in sleep patternsPsychological dependence 
Respiratory depressionImpaired judgmentIrritability
Sexual dysfunctionRisky behaviorsCognitive impairment
Muscle weakness and atrophyMemory problems
Bone density lossHallucinations 
Increased pain sensitivityDelusions

Signs of Morphine Overdose

If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following symptoms of an overdose, don’t delay in calling for emergency medical assistance. Dial 911 immediately and stay with the affected individual until help arrives. Your prompt action could save a life.

Signs of morphine overdose include the following:[2,4]

  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness or difficulty staying awake
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Bluish tint to lips or fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Pinpoint pupils (pupils becoming very small)
  • Weakness or limp muscles
  • Cold, clammy skin 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unresponsiveness or inability to wake up
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat

Morphine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from opioids like morphine can be challenging and uncomfortable, especially without the care of a medical professional. Without medical support, relapse is very likely.

Common signs and symptoms associated with morphine withdrawal include the following:[1,5]

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Sweating and chills
  • Muscle aches and pains 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Yawning and insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings

How to Stop Morphine Misuse

Learning to manage OUD may seem out of reach, but with appropriate support and treatment, it’s entirely achievable. Here are a few strategies to help you stop misusing morphine:[2]

Take Advantage of MAT

This is an innovative combination of behavioral therapy and medications (such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone) that are designed to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms and promote long-term recovery.

Patients taking these medications can concentrate more on the rest of the healing process. They are much less likely to relapse back to morphine misuse.

Limit Exposure to Triggers

Identify the triggers that encourage you to relapse. Then, avoid those situations as much as possible. If you can’t avoid them, aim to limit your exposure and have a plan for how you will react.

Play an Active Role in Counseling & Therapy

Engage in individual or group therapy sessions actively in order to identify factors that contribute to substance misuse. In therapy, you’ll learn effective coping mechanisms to manage cravings and triggers for substance misuse.

Join Support Groups

Participating in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, can provide invaluable connections with people who understand your struggles. Meetings can also give you an opportunity to give back to the recovery community and support newcomers later on when you are feeling more stable. 

Form a Support Network

Surround yourself with people who can offer comfort and guidance during challenging times. You aren’t alone, and the stronger your support system, the better your chances of long-term success.

Create a Relapse Plan

Recognize that relapses may happen and create a plan to limit their scope. Relapse is not a sign of failure.[6] It is simply a sign that treatment must be adjusted.

Getting Addiction Treatment With Bicycle Health 

Bicycle Health provides accessible and comprehensive care for morphine addiction and abuse. We offer MAT programs with Suboxone, so withdrawal symptoms and cravings are managed. 

You’ll work to build healthy habits and learn how to respond to relapse triggers in therapy, as you build the foundation of a life in recovery. And this is all available via telehealth platforms, making MAT accessible to anyone who needs it. 

Seeking help is an act of strength. If you or anyone close to you is struggling with substances like morphine, reach out to us today. We can help you take the first steps on the road to a lasting recovery.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Murphy PB, Bechmann S, Barrett MJ. Morphine. [Updated 2023 May 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Opioid overdose. World Health Organization. Published August 4, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2023.
  3. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 1, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2023.
  4. Drug fact sheet: Morphine. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published April 2020. Accessed August 5, 2023.
  5. Morphine sulfate tablet, extended release. National Institutes of Health. Published January 30, 2023. Accessed August 5, 2023.
  6. DiClemente CC, Crisafulli MA. Relapse on the road to recovery: Learning the lessons of failure on the way to successful behavior change. J Health Serv Psychol. 2022;48(2):59-68. doi:10.1007/s42843-022-00058-5

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