Morphine and Pain Management

pain-managementMorphine is a strong pain reliever that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It comes in different forms, such as short-acting liquids or tablets, and long-acting (sustained-release) tablets or capsules.

Short and long-acting pain medicines are often used together for severe chronic (long-term) pain.

A long-acting pain medicine is given at regular times to provide continuous pain relief for chronic pain, and a quick, short-acting medicine is given when pain “breaks through” the longer-acting medicine. The fast-acting drug is sometimes called a “rescue” medicine.

Morphine is an opioid pain reliever. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system (CNS), reducing the perception of pain as well as the emotional response to pain.

Problems that Arise from Morphine Use

Some major issues that come from using morphine as pain management are tolerance, dependence and addiction. While, they may be confused as being the same, they are actually quite different.

Tolerance is common in people using opioids (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) for chronic pain. It means the body has become used to the drug, and it has less effect at a given dose. As higher and higher doses are regularly taken, the chances of addiction increase.

Dependence means that there are unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if a person abruptly stops taking a drug.

Addiction means the individual has lost control over the use of the drug. They’re using it compulsively, there are consequences to using the drug, and they continue to use it anyway. Addiction is far more than a craving. Morphine activates the brain’s “pleasure centers,” which means that taking the drug is can be considered highly enjoyable by the user, causing him or her to focus all energies and efforts on securing morphine. This can often lead to dangerous and even illegal behaviors. It also means there are troubling consequences that can often disrupt someone’s personal life or job.

People who aren’t addicted can develop drug tolerance or dependence. And both can be absent in people who are addicted to certain drugs.

How Morphine Gets Abused

Patients who incorrectly use their prescription and go beyond the course of their treatment to seek the same high and sense of relief as they did when they were in severe pain. The cycle of morphine addiction starts when they increase the frequency and amount of their use each time to feel that rush.

While morphine is technically only available through prescription, people find multiple ways to circumvent the law in its pursuit. Its high level of addictiveness mandates that it only be taken under the express supervision of a qualified physician.

Sometimes Morphine Can Make Pain Worse

There is also a condition in which morphine can make pain worse, which can lead to the seeking of even more drugs, or overuse of Morphine. When morphine doesn’t reduce pain adequately the tendency is to increase the dosage. If a higher dosage produces pain relief, this is the classic picture of morphine tolerance. But sometimes increasing the morphine dose can, in contradiction, make the pain worse.

Pain experts had thought that tolerance of and hypersensitivity to morphine were different reflections of the same response, but in a Canadian research study,1 it was indicated that the opposite may be true. They found that the cellular and signaling processes for morphine tolerance are different from those for morphine-induced pain, and they identified special cells in the spinal cord that act as the “culprit” behind morphine-induced pain hypersensitivity.

When morphine acts on certain receptors in [the spinal cord], it triggers the cascade of events that ultimately increase, rather than decrease, activity of the pain-transmitting nerve cells.

Abnormal Pain Perception

The researchers also found that morphine can inhibit the activity of a protein that controls sensory signals to the brain. When the protein is inhibited, it can cause abnormal pain perception

It is suggested that if you of someone you know experience pain, the first step to appropriate treatment is figuring out what kind of pain you have, and then work with your doctor to determine the best pain management strategy. It is also wise to take into account any past issues with addiction as well as any possible addictive tendencies in hopes of avoiding falling into the trap of addiction to a pain reliever.

It is also imperative that the person being prescribed the morphine uses it according exactly to their doctor’s specifications, especially as it relates to the dosage.

Lindsay Ensor
BS Psychology and Counseling
Member of National Alliance on Mental Illness