The 4 Stages of Morphine Withdrawal: Symptoms & Detox | AspenRidge

The 4 Stages of Morphine Withdrawal: Symptoms & Detox


We’re not going to lie: morphine withdrawals can suck. Sure, the drug might have been a great pain reliever after you got that knee surgery, but once you’ve started abusing it and become addicted, your body and brain depend on the drug to function properly.

Like most other opioids, abusing morphine can lead the drug to become an integral part of your system. Your brain and central nervous system become rewired in such a way that, when you decide to quit, you’ll probably feel pretty uncomfortable for a few days.

Of course, detoxing is always the right choice. No matter how painful your morphine withdrawal symptoms are, they are a sign that you’re doing the right thing. Kicking your habit is only going to make your life better, so we’ve outlined some important information on the stages of withdrawal to help you make it through the process without relapsing.

But First…Some Signs That You Have a Morphine Addiction

How do you know if you’re actually addicted? Do you really even need to detox? I mean, the doctor prescribed you the medication after you were injured at work. You couldn’t be a real addict then, right?

Wrong. One of the driving factors behind the opioid crisis that the United States is currently going through is an overprescription of opiate pills by doctors. Sure, these drugs can help us get through tough times and treat pain in a way that is sometimes necessary, but these drugs are seriously addictive. Abusing prescription painkillers by taking too much or taking them for too long can lead to some much bigger problems down the road.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2 million Americans reported having a substance abuse disorder related to prescription painkillers in 2015 alone. A large portion of these individuals had started abusing opiates after being prescribed them by a doctor.

Even worse, the same study reported that 4 out of every 5 heroin users developed their addiction after abusing prescription opiates. It should be clear, therefore, why it’s important to keep your drug habit in-check.

We know that identifying a drug addiction can be difficult. If you’re worried that you might be abusing morphine, there are a few signs of addiction that you definitely want to look out for:

Increasing your dosage: After you are injured or get surgery, doctors usually prescribe the lowest possible dosage to relieve your pain while minimizing negative side effects. This dosage is intended to get lower over time, not higher. If you find yourself taking more than recommended, asking for higher dosages or obtaining the drug through illicit means, you might be showing some early signs of opiate addiction.

Doctor shopping: Due to the rise in opiate addictions among Americans, doctors are under close watch by the federal government. They aren’t capable of prescribing meds in the same quantities that they used to. As a result, many addicts will see multiple doctors (or even steal prescriptions) in order to get the dose that they want. If you’re doing this, you may be abusing your prescription meds.

Health problems: Opiates are designed for the treatment of pain, not to make it worse.  The side effects of morphine abuse include serious health risks like increased blood pressure, respiratory problems, and overdose. When your prescription evolves into something that makes your life worse, it’s probably a sign that you need to quit using.

Using with other substances: No opiate should ever be used with alcohol or other drugs. There are just too many dangerous interactions that can occur. If you drink with painkillers or combine them with other substances, it is probably because you’re using them recreationally. Using opiates recreationally, even just a few times, can evolve into a more serious addiction later on.

Thinking about heroin: At a certain point, many opiate addicts find that their drug of choice is just too expensive to continue using. Not to mention, obtaining a higher dose every time takes a lot of effort. As a result, many addicts transition to using heroin because it’s much cheaper than prescription painkillers. Once the thought of using heroin enters into your mind, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.

Are you addicted to your morphine prescription? Take our free online drug addiction quiz to get a better answer.

What Do Morphine Withdrawals Feel Like?

Once you commit to quitting, you’ll need to go through detox. Essentially, detox is the process in which you stop using and allow remaining traces of the drug to exit your body. If your body has become accustomed to having opioids in it, it’s not going to respond very kindly when you try to quit. Your brain will likely go a bit haywire and you’ll probably feel pretty sick for a few days. At the end of the whole process, though, you’ll be over the hurdle and ready to start living life as a drug-free individual.

Some common physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Aches in your muscles and bones
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

Opioid withdrawals may also affect you mentally. Some common psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

The 4 Stages of the Morphine Withdrawal Timeline

The detox process is different for everybody. There are a number of factors that can impact how long your withdrawals will last (see: “Factors that Influence the Withdrawal Timeline” below. However, withdrawing from opioids generally takes around 5-7 days for most people.

We like to think of the withdrawal timeline as a 4-stage process. These stages won’t be distinct while you’re withdrawing but are a way to keep track of where you are in the process.

Stage 1 (First 12 Hours after the last dose)

During the first day after you stop using, it’s likely that you’re going to experience strong cravings. These cravings will probably get worse as the day goes on. You may get extremely anxious or irritated due to the fact that your body is triggering cravings for the drug but you aren’t consuming it.

What is happening during this stage of the withdrawal timeline is that the half-life of morphine is dwindling down. Half-life is the term used to describe how long a drug stays in your body. The term gets its name from the fact that it accounts for how long it takes the user’s body to metabolize 50% of the total amount that they consumed.

This drug has a relatively short half-life (2-6 hours, depending on the individual). This means that, after 6 hours, your body will have broken down at least 50% of the amount you consumed. Your system will start to be confused about why it is not being fed the substance it depends on to function. You will be agitated as a result. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re on the right path and that detoxing is the best decision you’ve ever made.

Stage 2 (12 to 48 hours)

During the first two days after your last dose, you’ll begin to experience the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Most likely, you’ll start to feel sick. You’ll be nauseous and are likely to vomit and have diarrhea. Your bones and muscles will start to ache.

While these symptoms may be unpleasant, they are a sign that the drug is exiting your body. In order to flush all of the opioids out of your system, after all, your body needs a way to expel them. Vomit and diarrhea are two ways that your body cleanses you of the toxins that accumulated during your time as an addict. Additionally, you may find that you sweat profusely. This is also a sign of detoxification as our livers often flush out toxins through our pores.

It’s important that you avoid relapsing during this stage of the withdrawal timeline. If you can cope with the pain and make it through to the other side, you’ll be on your way to a life of sobriety.

Stage 3 (48 to 120 hours)

At some point after the first 48 hours, your withdrawal symptoms will “peak”. This means that they’ll get as bad as they’re going to get before you start feeling better. How long it takes for you to get to the peak stage on the withdrawal timeline will depend entirely on how severe your addiction is, how healthy your organs are and whether or not you are under the supervision of a doctor.

During the peak stage of detox, it is likely that you’ll get extremely emotional. Your physical symptoms will have eased up a bit by this point because the drug has finished exiting your system. However, during Stage 3, your brain will be working to recalibrate itself without the presence of opioids in it. The neurotransmitters in your brain will be bouncing all over the place as they try to figure out what the hell is going on.

During this stage, it is important that you attempt to eat or at least take vitamins. Once the vomiting and diarrhea have passed, you want to make sure that you replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to heal. Nutrients will also work to build up your endorphins which can be a way to manage the depression and anxiety that you feel.

Stage 4 (120 hours+)

Congratulations! After 120 hours, it is likely that you’ve successfully finished detoxing from morphine. The drug has been flushed out of your system and you’re ready to move forward with your life.

It is important to note here that you may still experience anxiety or depression after detox. Your brain needs time to adjust to functioning without opioids. Additionally, you will probably be more clear-headed than you have been in a while and may start to regret things you did while under the influence. It’s okay, we can work through that. What’s important is that you’ve overcome one of the hardest steps in the recovery process.

Remember, though, that detox is only one of the steps in addiction recovery. By completing detox, you’ve addressed the physical side of addiction. If you truly want to stay clean, however, you’ll probably want to attend a rehab program or at least some group support meetings. These resources will help you to understand why you became addicted in the first place and how you can avoid relapsing in the future.

Factors that Influence the Withdrawal Timeline

Age: Oftentimes, the morphine withdrawal timeline of older people is much longer. The symptoms they experience may also be more severe. This is likely due to the fact that an older addict has been using the drug for a longer period of time and probably has more of the substance built-up in the system. Because their brain has been dependent on the drug for much longer, they may experience higher levels of anxiety or depression once they quit.

Severity of addiction: Simply put, people who use large quantities of a substance are likely to have a more difficult time detoxing from it. When your body is accustomed to having large quantities of a drug in it, withdrawals can take longer or just be much more uncomfortable. When your body breaks down opioids, small byproducts are left behind in your liver and other organs. If a large amount of those chemical byproducts accumulate in the liver, it will take a longer period of time for your body to metabolize them.

Other drugs used: In certain cases, mixing morphine with other drugs will produce additional chemical byproducts. These can be very difficult for your body to metabolize. This is particularly true in cases where the addict was also taking street drugs like heroin, cocaine or even marijuana. Oftentimes, dealers will use cutting agents in the manufacture of those drugs in order to make more money. There are no clinical guidelines on such cutting agents but they are sure to create unhealthy interactions with prescription pills.

Co-occurring disorders: If you suffer from a mental health disorder in addition to a drug abuse problem, you may have a tougher time detoxing. Conditions like pre-existing anxiety, depression or trauma disorder can produce unpredictable withdrawal symptoms. This is likely due to the fact that the individual has been using opioids as a way to self-medicate. Once the drug is no longer in their system, they may experience an onset of psychological symptoms that prolong the detox process.

How Medical Detox Treatment Can Help

If you detox from morphine in a hospital or specialized addiction treatment center, the doctors on-staff may prescribe you medications to help alleviate your withdrawal symptoms. These drugs may include buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone.

Each doctor and facility holds a different philosophy about the efficacy of each of these substances. There is plenty of debate around opioid replacement therapy (ORT) and which drugs should actually be used to treat addictions, so we’re not advocating for any one specific drug.

Additionally, doctors may prescribe some basic anti-nausea medications or even anti-depressants as part of a medical detox program. These meds are known to alleviate some of the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

Where is the Best Place to Detox from Morphine?

If you’re struggling with an opioid addiction and considering treatment options, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to attend a professional detox program. Do you really have to spend all of that money and time at a facility? Can’t you just detox on your couch?

Well, technically yes. You can go through detox at home if you want to. However, home detox is not usually the best option. Addiction treatment facilities offer a number of unique benefits to patients going through detox.

The benefits of going through morphine withdrawals in a specialized detox facility include:

Distance from home: One of the biggest problems addicts have when they decide to quit is avoiding the friends that they used drugs with. After all, you don’t want that guy you used to take pills with to show up at your house while you’re just trying to get clean. Professional detox facilities help in this way, as you can go through withdrawals without worrying about being triggered to relapse.

Limited access to drugs: Remember, the withdrawal period can be quite difficult. Nothing is more likely to trigger a relapse than the anxiety of detox. If you’re truly committed to getting clean, you want to make sure that you’re far away from any potential source of opioids. Detoxing in a treatment center will limit your access to drugs and limit the likelihood that you’ll relapse during withdrawals.

Relaxation: Is your home too stressful for you to detox in? Is your family going to be running around screaming while you’re just trying to finish withdrawing? The last thing you want is to be in a hectic environment while you fight off the urge to grab a pill. In a hospital or detox facility, you’ll be able to focus on getting clean in a quiet environment.

Expert supervision: Most importantly, detox centers are staffed with doctors and specialists who can supervise you as you go through withdrawals. They’ll administer any medications that can ease your pain and monitor your progress to ensure that you are safe.

Are You Addicted to Morphine?

If you’ve read this far, it’s possible that you or someone you love is abusing or addicted to opioids. Luckily, there is still plenty of time to get help. There are a number of addiction resources designed to assist people just like you on the journey to live a healthier life.

If you want to talk about your drug habits or discuss potential treatment options, please reach out to us. We’ll help you to detox, overcome your withdrawal symptoms and get on the road to recovery in no time at all.

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