Morphine is one of the oldest sources of pain treatment, and its origin is opium; the earliest method of treating pain in human history. Opium was used as surgical analgesia for centuries, and there is even proof of its existence in a Sumerian clay tablet which is said to be from 2100 BC. This has been reported to be one of the oldest medical prescriptions on record. The scientists who have studied the tablet believe that the opium poppy is used in reference on the tablet.
It adds evidence to the theories of opium substances were used in the early times of human civilization and how opium use was widespread in ancient Mesopotamia.
The drug has been used recreationally for thousands of years but has never been much of a problem. Today, the United States is facing the worst opioid epidemic in history.
The derivatives of opium such as morphine became the go-to pain relievers, specifically for back pain in the late 1800s. The drug was prescribed with little pullback due to the little research on the effects of opioid abuse. Other illicit opioid drugs like heroin were also created for medical use. The technology to study opioid effects was not nearly as technologically advanced, and perhaps if they knew then what we know now these drugs would have never been used as freely as they were. It was difficult to understand how widespread the effects could be from opioid drugs.
Opium became popular in the United States around 1849 during the American gold rush. Thousands of Chinese immigrants came over to take advantage of the work in the California gold fields, but they also chose to bring their habit of smoking opium with them. During this time, they began establishing opium dens like the ones they had at home. They called the areas Chinatown and were places that you could buy, sell, and smoke opium. Opium smoking had exploded in popularity by 1870 becoming a favorite activity for many American’s, but by 1875 San Francisco was the first city to ban opium use. Those who possessed the drug or spent time near an opium den would be charged with a misdemeanor.
Morphine is an opioid pain reliever that can only be legally obtained with a prescription or in a hospital setting. The drug is naturally derived from the opium poppy plant, and the active chemical is found in many plants and animals. Opium has a wide range of functionality from defense mechanisms to natural painkillers. Other types of drugs such as benzodiazepines or cocaine indirectly affect the central nervous system (CNS), while morphine affects it directly by binding to and activating opioid receptors. Humans have natural receptors that are specifically designed to attach to opioids due to the naturally occuring endorphins in the body. The endorphins are a mix of the words endogenous and morphine.
Endorphins manage pain responses in the body from the site of pain from the spine to the brain. Opioid receptors are found all over the body in bone, soft tissue, and organs. When pain signals are sent through the nervous system to warn you of a problem, they pass through nerves to signal the body quickly until endorphins are released to calm the pain. This happens through a process of binding to both the nerve cells that send and receive the pain signal and block the signal from continuing. This is a phenomenon that is typically experienced after rigorous exercise.
Most addictions are harder to determine in the earlier stages of a substance use disorder. It is not typical for someone that is deep into a drug habit to suddenly stop on their own; however, and the signs will become more pronounced over time. There are a few telltale signs that someone who knows what to look for can identify in someone abusing morphine.
The first sign of a growing substance use disorder is tolerance. Tolerance is when the body gets used to the drug it is using. You will begin to notice that the effects have become weaker than it used to be, and the nervous system will counteract the drug to balance the brain chemistry. Over time, a growing tolerance can eventually lead to a dependence which is when the body will rely on the substance to maintain normalcy.
When someone is dependent on a drug like morphine, cutting back or abrupt cessation will cause you to feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal often shows up in the form of flu-like symptoms that include nausea, body aches, vomiting, and sweating.
The last and final stage of a substance use disorder is an addiction. Addiction is much broader than a chemical imbalance in the brain, and it affects the limbic system significantly. Addiction is defined as the compulsive use of a drug despite consequences. In a few cases, a person can understand that an opioid use disorder is related directly to health problems, financial issues, or legal problems but are unable to quit.
If you are becoming increasingly worried that you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to morphine, there are signs and symptoms you could decipher.
Behavioral signs of opioid addiction include:
If any of these symptoms describe what you or someone else is currently struggling with, it is essential to get treatment as soon as possible. Addiction is a disease, and like any disease, early detection is the key to a long healthy future.
While addiction to morphine may not cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates, there is still a cause for concern. Those dealing with opioid dependence can experience extremely uncomfortable symptoms that will require them to begin treatment at the highest level of care. This intensive level of care will be ideal for someone dealing with a morphine addiction.
The first level of care is known as medical detoxification, and its sole purpose is to make the detox process as comfortable as possible. Depending on the severity of the addiction, this process could last anywhere from three to seven days. In some more extreme cases, it could be longer. During the stint in detox, there will be 24-hour medical supervision of addiction specialists that can offer medication to alleviate symptoms and act quickly in case anything unexpected occurs.
During the time in detox, the team will assess you to find out how long you have been using, the amount of drugs, if you use other drugs, and find out if there are other medical conditions you’re experiencing. These factors will dictate the next level of care. If the team determines the addiction is severe, they will place you into a residential treatment facility. You will receive up to 90 days of care living on-site that will consist of therapies and various other activities to help treat the addiction.
If the team finds that this is an early stage of addiction and that your home environment is safe, they will place you into an outpatient treatment center. You will experience the same therapy sessions as you would in residential, but the only difference is you will be able to leave upon completion of therapy and go home. You will be regularly drug tested and examined to ensure you’ve stopped using drugs. This setting is ideal for those who may use work or school as a barrier to getting treatment. Get the help you need today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis