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Misusing Morphine: Ways to Abuse Morphine & the Dangers

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Aug 14, 2023 • 7 cited sources

Morphine may be misused by swallowing, snorting, smoking, injecting or plugging the drug. Each method comes with specific dangers in addition to the risks already associated with morphine misuse.

This opioid painkiller comes in pills, tablets, liquids and suppositories. Each formulation has explicit directions designed to help people properly use their medication. But sometimes, people use morphine products not as prescribed, which can lead to additional risk. 

5 Common Morphine Misuse Methods

Morphine can be ingested by swallowing, snorting, inhaling, or even plugging. One way of defining opioid misuse is using the substance in any way other than prescribed.[1] These are the most common ways people use and misuse morphine products:


Morphine pills, capsules and tablets are designed for oral administration. Some morphine products, including MS Contin, are made to release active ingredients over time. Some people chew these tablets to get the power of the dose all at once. Chewing and swallowing these extended-release tablets can lead to a life-threatening overdose.[2] Even if a substance is ingested orally as designed, it is still being misused or abused if it is taken in higher doses than prescribed or by an individual for whom it was not intended. 


Plugging, bumping or “booty bumping” involves inserting morphine suppositories or a morphine solution into the rectum where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream. People worried about visible drug use signs like needle marks may prefer the privacy of this method. This can be dangerous for several reasons – it’s easy to insert the drugs too far, resulting in rapid uptake and increased risk of overdose. [3] This method can also put you at risk for rectal injuries, tissue damage, urinary or fecal incontinence, or rectal infections. 


Many drug users crush their pills and snort them into nasal cavities. Drug manufacturers respond by coating their drugs with strong polymers that make crushing difficult.[4] But creative drug users continue to snort, and the consequences can be serious. Snorting causes rapid ingestion of the drug through the nasal mucosa and into the bloodstream, which can lead to accidental overdose. In addition, polymer coatings aren’t meant to enter your nose, and they can cause tissue damage, perforation, nosebleeds, structural damage to the nasal cavity or septum, and even serious nasal or cerebral infections.


Some people smoke their opioids, including morphine, although this is a less commonly employed method of ingestion. [5] Smoking any opioid poses unique risks: It is hard to know the dose you are inhaling by smoking, which can lead to risk of overdose. In addition, contaminants in pills, powders and liquids could damage tissues in the mouth or lungs. Long term inhalation/smoking of any substance can lead to lung damage and respiratory complications. 


Injecting opioids also has a unique set of additional risks. Injection delivers more of the drug more quickly to the bloodstream, leading to risk of overdose or death. 

Most users start injecting in their forearms initially, but as that tissue becomes scarred or swollen, it is no longer usable for injection and they switch to other sites. It’s common for drug injectors to use veins in their neck, groin, hands or feet. [6] This can lead to infections at the site of the injection or, more concerningly, into the bloodstream itself, leading to sepsis, heart infections, stroke or death.  Injection drug use also carries the increased risk of infectious disease transmission, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, all of which can be lethal. [7] 

Getting Help for OUD With MAT

OUD is hard to overcome without professional help. When you try to quit, withdrawal symptoms may make you sick enough to relapse back to opioid misuse. A Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) could be the game-changer you need. 

MAT is the use of medications like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) to abate withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings for opioids, allowing people to work toward recovery. 

MAT can be prescribed either in person or, more and more frequently, via telemedicine. 

Telemedicine allows you to get the help you need from qualified providers without leaving your house. Your doctor can have a visit with you virtually online and then send an electronic prescription for MAT to your pharmacy. Therapy and behavioral counseling can also be accessed virtually. 

Bicycle Health is a leading provider of telemedicine-based MAT. Contact us to find out if our approach is 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. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Morphine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. February 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  3. Physiological and Pharmaceutical Considerations for Rectal Drug Formulations. Frontiers in Pharmacology. October 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Human Abuse Potential of an Abuse-Deterrent (AD), Extended-Release (ER) Morphine Product Candidate (Morphine-ADER Injection-Molded Tablets) vs. Extended-Release Morphine Administered Intranasally in Nondependent Recreational Opioid Users. Pain Medicine. September 2017. Accessed April 2023.
  5. Morphine Sulphate Consumption by French Drug Users. National Health Directorate. July 2014. Accessed April 2023.
  6. Opioids and Injection Drug Use. Minnesota Department of Health. October 2022. Accessed April 2023.
  7. The Physical Health of People Who Inject Drugs: Complexities, Challenges, and Continuity. British Journal of General Practice. June 2016. Accessed April 2023.

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