Morphine –

Poppies in a field

Morphine is the most abundant analgesic opiate found in opium and is a potent pain reliever. The drug is used in clinical pain relief but is also used illicitly for recreational purposes among drug users. It is potentially highly addictive and can cause intense physical dependence that leads to abuse of the substance.

Morphine is obtained from the seedpod extract or opium found in the poppy plant, Papaver somniferum.

Morphine is sold clinically under brand names MSiR®, MS-Contin®, Roxanol®, RMS®, Kadian® and oramorph SR®.

Morphine use and abuse

In previous decades, the injectable form of morphine was most commonly used. However, today it is taken in the form of a pill, a drinkable solution or a suppository.

Once injected or ingested, morphine enters the blood stream which carries it to the brain and other parts of the body where it activates opioid receptors to exert the effects of the drug. Activation of the μ1 receptor subtype leads to pain relief, while activation of the μ2 receptor can cause effects such as respiratory depression and addiction. Sedation or sleepiness is caused by morphine’s activation of the κ receptor subtype.

Repeated use of morphine can lead to individuals developing tolerance of the drug and a physical and psychological dependence on it. Tolerance describes when an increased dose of the drug is needed if a person is to expereince the same pleasurable effects as they expereinced with a previous smaller dose because the effects have become blunted when this same smaller dose is used.

Legal status

Worldwide, morphine is a Schedule I drug under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In the Unites Sates, morphine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act and in the UK, it is a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and a Schedule 2 controlled Drug under The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. In Australia, it is classified as a Schedule 8 drug under State and Territory Poisons Acts.

How Is It Used

Morphine is often used before or after surgery to alleviate severe pain. Morphine and other opioids act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. When these compounds attach to certain opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, they can effectively change the way a person experiences pain. Morphine is commonly available in the form of a tablet, syrup, injection or as a suppository. Depending on its form, morphine may be injected, swallowed, or even smoked.

Street Names/Slang Terms

Duramorph, M, Miss Emma, Monkey, Roxanol, White Stuff, God’s Drug, MS, Morf, Morpho, Dreamer, First Line, Emsel, Unkie and Mister Blue.

 Short-Term Effects

Morphine affects regions of the brain that mediate what we perceive as pleasure, resulting in initial feelings of euphoria. Morphine can also produce drowsiness, can cause constipation, and, depending upon the amount taken, can depress breathing. Taking a large single dose could cause severe respiratory depression, coma or death.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term use of morphine also can lead to physical dependence. This can also include tolerance and addiction. Individuals taking prescribed opioid medications should be given these medications under appropriate medical supervision and should be supervised when discontinuing use to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

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