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What are morphine withdrawal symptoms?

Here, we discuss withdrawal symptoms of morphine and why they occur. We’ll review what you can expect during morphine withdrawal and how long morphine withdrawal symptoms last. If you have any more questions about morphine withdrawal, how morphine addiction is treated or getting morphine addiction help, we invite you to ask us in the comments section below.

Why do morphine withdrawal symptoms occur?

Morphine is one of the most effective and frequently prescribed opioid analgesics to help manage extreme chronic pain. However, you can become physically and psychologically addicted to the drug quickly. Why?

Physical tolerance to and/or dependence on morphine can develop within a couple of weeks of using morphine regularly. Physical dependence occurs when the central nervous system normalizes to the presence of morphine and chemically compensates for the chemical in the brain. When you stop taking morphine, the central nervous system needs time to recalibrate its chemistry; this is why morphine withdrawal symptoms occur when you miss a dose or stop taking morphine after a period of dependency.

What are symptoms of morphine withdrawal?

Since morphine creates physical as well as psychological dependence, the user may exhibit both types of withdrawal symptoms. Not everyone displays all of the symptoms and some may even exhibit symptoms other than those listed below. Additionally, it is important not to confuse symptoms of morphine withdrawal with symptoms of morphine addiction.  The two sets of symptoms are distinct.

Psychological symptoms of morphine withdrawal

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep
  • dizziness
  • drug craving
  • feelings of being generally unwell (malaise)
  • panic attacks
  • restlessness
  • suicidal thoughts

Physical symptoms of morphine withdrawal

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • flu like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, weakness, body ache and chills
  • goose bumps
  • heightened sensitivity to pain
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • itching
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • restless legs syndrome
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • yawning

Morphine withdrawal symptoms: How long?

The duration of morphine withdrawal typically depends upon several factors: the reason for morphine use, the duration of use, its dose, and also the personality of the user and other psychosocial factors. The duration of withdrawal symptom for morphine will also depend upon whether the user is psychologically dependent upon the drug. The acuity of symptoms will also depend upon whether a user goes off it cold turkey or in a phased manner. But generally, morphine withdrawal resolves within 7-10 days after cessation of use. Post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can take weeks or months to resolve.

Morphine withdrawal symptoms treatment

Treatment for morphine withdrawal may require medical supervision; in some cases, even the care of an inpatient treatment center is recommended. It isn’t just about helping the user through the withdrawal phase but helping them take control of their life again and emerging as a productive, empowered and autonomous member of society once again. Some of the more medically-based morphine withdrawal symptom treatments include:

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Detox – It is recommended that users should go off any opiates in a phased manner (tapering). This helps to ease the withdrawal symptoms and also improves chances of preventing relapse. The important thing is to prevent abuse of morphine and to achieve abstinence. A detox clinic (outpatient) or an inpatient treatment facility (rehab center) will help a person who is severely addicted or who tried to kick their habit only to relapse.

Natural treatments – There is some anecdotal evidence that massage, yoga, acupuncture and other alternative therapies can help treat symptoms of morphine withdrawal. While this is not supported by adequate clinical evidence, these therapies could improve relaxation and lower stress, thereby contributing to treatment. Massage can also help to ease sore muscles and with pain management to an extent.

Medications – Medications such as buprenorphine (Subutex/Suboxone) or naltrexone can be prescribed during morphine withdrawal. Over the counter medications can help ease the flu like symptoms, pain and other discomforts of withdrawal.

Therapy – Behavioral therapy, group or family therapy can be very useful during and after the stages of morphine withdrawal. To begin with, the therapist can guide a user though detox and the initial stages of abstinence. Then, the therapist will uncover and try to resolve issues or mental conditions that trigger use and other dangerous behaviors. Therapy will also try and pinpoint codependent behavior within the family and help identify enabling influences. Therapy can help an addict develop healthy responses to stress so that triggering events don’t push the addict into a relapse.

Self help – Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous can be hugely beneficial for opiate addicts or people addicted to morphine. SMART Recovery (Self Management and Recovery Training) helps addicts abstain from addictive behaviors using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) techniques. Joining such self help groups helps in coping in cravings, building motivation, problems solving, stress management and lifestyle balance.

Morphine withdrawal symptoms questions

Still have questions about morphine withdrawal? Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: Abrupt Withdrawal from Pain Medication
NCBI: Morphine Dependence
NHTSA: Morphine fact sheet
NCBI: Effects of Enriched Environment on Morphine-Induced reward in Mice
NIH: Opiate Withdrawal

Photo credit: Daily Med

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19 Responses to “What are morphine withdrawal symptoms?
Dr. Lynn Webster
8:16 pm October 23rd, 2013

Thanks for the great post. I also have done tons of research on pain management. Keep up the great job!

12:33 pm October 1st, 2014

i have been taking morphine or other strong pain killers for migraines under a doctors care for many years. i was taking 300 mg per day. i asked to be weaned off the morphine but was not prepared for the withdrawal effects. how long can i expect the symptoms, like anxiety, sneezing, insomnia, freezing, sweating to continue after the last does? i am a 56 year old woman who is fairly active. the list of side effects of the withdrawal are more extensive than what i listed, but you get the point. how much longer can i expect the effects to continue?

8:29 am October 10th, 2014

Hello diane. Sorry for the late response. We already covered your question in the article “How long does morphine last?”. We refer you to check it on this link: http://drug.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-morphine-last/. Good luck!

1:15 pm October 10th, 2014

What are the post acute withdrawal symptoms-paws?

12:23 pm October 13th, 2014

Hello Diane. Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), or the terms post-withdrawal syndrome, protracted withdrawal syndrome, prolonged withdrawal syndromes describe a set of persistent impairments that occur after withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and other substances.

1:27 pm March 26th, 2015

I was using morphine slow release for just over a year for chronic pain, DDD and facet joints rubbing together. Even during use, particularly the last 6 months, some muscles would go into spasm along with joint pain, which was blamed on the morphine use. I have now weaned off morphine completely. My morphine dose crep up to 80-100 mg per day. Weaning was over a period of 6 weeks. Ayer 10 days clear, not only do I have severe joint pain, neck, shoulder,lower back, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees and feet, along with the original back pain I had in the beginning and have been told it’s due withdrawal. Could this be true ? I went to see a chiropractor privately, his thought were fibromyalgia adding to to the back pain. I am also hypersensitive and can’t be touched. I am in such agony. I would appreciate any help at all. Thank you for reading this.

12:06 pm March 27th, 2015

Hi Alex. I also believe the answer your doctor gave you, that these symptoms are due to withdrawal, can be true. I’ve witnessed this with many other prescription medications. During withdrawal they tend to produce the same symptoms you used to take the medication for. Luckily, it will be over soon. Do you have a plan what you’ll do now for the treatment and management of your chronic pain?

7:59 am March 31st, 2015

Been on 30 mg 3x day for over 3 1/2 years due to lower back injury, have tried on own reducing x day to 0. no psychological issue. Pain have learned some control; tingling in legs, thighs; skin sensitive to cold light touch; shortness of breath and always sleepy, tired ( should be effect on drug) ; sharp pain in toes and lower leg; no dizzy or disorientation or diarrhea or cramps. Lower back pain, both knees need replacement, triple bi-pass 16 months ago due to 95% blockage 2 sites. Goal- no morphine, meds for pain preferably non-narcotic how to handle tingling in legs. Other than behavioral health doctor what type of doctor to moderate all.

4:19 pm April 21st, 2015

Hi John. You can start your search here http://addictionblog.org/find-treatment/ or here https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. You can also call the helpline number you can see on our page or ask your doctor for a referral.

2:22 am September 3rd, 2015

I’ve been using 1mg iv morphine for 1 week now it is possible to become addicted that fast? I had my last dose yesterday at 7 and since I’ve had the worst symptoms ever cold, hot,extreme headache can barley move or eat did I get sick or am I withdrawal from morphine?

11:45 am September 9th, 2015

Hi Dawn. It is possible, but it will be over soon as your organism hasn’t had the time to become too dependent on morphine.

4:11 pm October 25th, 2015

Hey, so I am a 45 ur old female, I have had 5 serguries on my neck in the past 5 years and have been on all sorts of opioid meds, I am finally down to 1.25mg of morphine 4 x a day as I have been tapering slowly. I am having the worst withdrawl symptoms, like back at the beginning. How long wi these last I thought I was doing so good, is this just my body reacting to the last little bit of morphine coming out of my system?? The restless leg and arm muscles are driving me bonkers anyone know how long till they subside?? Ty in adavance! ?

4:04 pm October 26th, 2015

Hi Kerri. The duration of morphine withdrawal typically depends upon several factors: the reason for morphine use, the duration of use, its dose, and also the personality of the user and other psychosocial factors. The duration of withdrawal symptom for morphine will also depend upon whether the user is psychologically dependent upon the drug. But, morphine withdrawal resolves within 7-10 days after cessation of use, while post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can take weeks or months to resolve.

12:37 am November 17th, 2015

The short version, 10 weeks ago I underwent my 5th cervical surgery and it was major. Over the past 5 years I have taken opiods for pain off an on over the years for the pain. I have been taking morphin for the last 4months before and after. I tapered down to 1.25mg every four hours from 15mg every for hours and I was sick pretty much the whole time. I am now 21 days since my last dose but still have bad nausea, diareah, sadness, anxiety. I have read a lot about paws, and am wondering if I am almost through he worst of it? I am taking Tylenol extra strength for the pain, pantaloc for stomach issues due to surgery and gravol. I started walking for an hour at the gym, and taking krill oil and vitamins. I am VERY sensitive to opioids and had an awful time on them, will that prolong my recovery??? How would I know if I am physiologically dependant. I am healthy other than the neck issues, I do take an anti depressant anti anxiety prescription and have for 22 years? Thank you in advance for your help! ?

11:26 pm November 18th, 2015

Hello Kerri. You’re on the right track! Have on mind that withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, and there are other factors like duration and dosage, time of drug usage, etc. Keep up the great work, and if you have any concerns, consult your doctor.

5:33 pm November 28th, 2015

23 years of chronic opiate dosing for chronic pain condition. Equivalent of 540 mg’s of morphine every 24 hours.
I have been completely off of all opiates for one month. It took me about six weeks to taper off of my massive dosage regimen.
Extreme tingling in feet and legs is driving me crazy. Not thirsty, normal urination, and blood pressure. Is this PAWS related?
Thanks for all advice, and help.

8:20 pm December 2nd, 2015

Hi, Scott. Excellent work! I’m really glad that you’re off morphine. However, your extreme tingling in feet and legs may be one of morphine withdrawal symptoms known as restless leg syndrome. There are many home remedies that you might find useful, and also, check out this article: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000807.htm

2:29 pm July 30th, 2016

I have been on morphine for 16 months I went off cold turkey the 10 day was great but this 11day is like hell need help

3:20 am February 17th, 2017

I had a accident in 1982 both feet and legs were severely dammaged. Have been on morphine for a Ling time. I have tapered off slowly . All withdrawl symptoms are over .bur my legs cringing restless is driving me nuts. I’m being treated my a doctor for it with no success. . Any ideas.

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