How to Stop Taking Morphine?

The safest way to stop using morphine is under medical supervision. If you’re interested to learn more about morphine withdrawal symptoms and how to treat them … this article is for you!

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Morphine withdrawal is safest when performed under medical supervision using tapering protocols and medications. We review the safe ways to quit using morphine here and explain the consequences of quitting morphine abruptly.


Predictable Effects

Morphine is a powerful opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It works by targeting the central nervous system directly, binding to brain receptors and changing the neurochemical activity within nerve synapses. In effect, it bring about pain relief by changing our perception of the pain.

However, there are predictable effects that occur when you take morphine daily for longer than a few weeks, or so. One effect is dependence. The other effect is tolerance.

Drug dependence is a chemical adaptation to a psychoactive drug like morphine in the brain. It is characterized by the appearance of withdrawal symptoms upon significant dose lowering or dose cessation.

Drug tolerance occurs at different stages for different people. It is characterized by a “dulling” of effect and manifests as the need for increasing doses or frequency of dosing in order to achieve the same initial effect.

Additionally, morphine is a highly addictive drug. Some people use morphine not only for managing their pain, but to feel better or to get high. According to 2011 HHS study, daily morphine use can cause regional neuroplastic changes in the human brain after only one month of daily administration. When abused, morphine can be a very difficult habit to quit…yet not impossible.

Are you worried for using morphine too long? Continue reading to learn more about help for quiting morphine. At the end, we invite you to post your questions or your personal experiences about getting off morphine. We try to respond to all real life situations with a personal reply.

What Withdrawal Is

When you stop taking morphine after a period of regular, daily dosing … expect to go through withdrawal. Withdrawal happens as a direct result of physical dependence on a drug. So, how did your body adapt to morphine so much that it rebels when you want to quit?

When you take a psychoactive drug like morphine over a period of weeks or months, your body seeks a way to live with it. It adapts chemically so that it can survive. This is why some functions of the brain and body “slow down” while others “speed up”. It’s the body’s way of seeking balance; it wants to compensate for the chemical reactions that are doping up the brain. Remove the drug…and those same processes (“slow down” and “speed up”) require time to balance out.

Physical dependence on morphine manifests as a set of symptoms when you quit. They are actually the “sped up” functions that morphine had been balancing out. Most people face a range of cognitive and physical symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur when a dependent user stops taking morphine completely or lower dose(s) significantly. Common symptoms that occur during morphine withdrawal include:

  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Moodiness
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Soreness
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

The Morphine Withdrawal Timeline

Moreover, morphine withdrawal has several stages. Each stage is characterized by different symptoms, or various levels of intensity of the symptoms.

The FIRST STAGE. The first symptoms of withdrawal usually occurs 6 – 14 hours after last dose. During this stage individuals usually experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Mild to moderate depression
  • Sweating

The SECOND STAGE occurs 14 – 18 hours after the last dose and is typically accompanied by:

  • Crying
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Headaches
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning

The THIRD STAGE is expected within 16 – 24 hours after the last dose administration and is followed by:

  • Aching bones and muscles
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle twitches

The FORTH STAGE –occurs about 2 days after the last taken dose of morphine and includes:

  • Elevation of blood pressure
  • Increase respiration and tidal volume
  • Insomnia
  • Loose stool
  • Moderate elevation in body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Severe cramping
  • Tachycardia

The FIFTH STAGE. This stage appears 36 – 72 hours since the last dose of morphine. The symptoms that you can expect during the fifth stage include:

  • Frequent liquid diarrhea
  • Increased white cell count and other blood changes
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss of 2 to 5 kg per 24 hours

The SIXTH STAGE. This stage of withdrawal manifests after you have successfully completed the previous five stages. During this period, you’ll start to deal with psychological symptoms of his/her addiction. This stage also includes the following symptoms:

  • Colitis or other GI afflictions related to motility
  • Hypertension
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Normalization of food appetite
  • Problems with weight control
  • Stabilization in bowel function

Can I Just Quit?

NO. It is not recommended that anyone go cold turkey off of morphine. Morphine detox is most successful when performed under doctor’s care. Further, medically supervised morphine detox can prevent dangerous withdrawal effects.

People who usually stop taking morphine on their own experience intense and unpleasant symptoms, which can discourage them from staying off morphine for good. Individuals who quit using morphine without the help of a doctor also have a higher risk of relapse and failure to reach long-term sobriety. Thus, it’s suggested that you seek help from a medical detox clinic when you decide to stop taking morphine… for safety AND efficacy.

Do I Have a Drug Problem?

To get clean and start over, you need to be honest with yourself about your morphine use. Start that by answering these questions:

  • Do you use morphine to get high?
  • Do you think about morphine constantly?
  • Are you using morphine to hide your emotional and/or mental problems?
  • Is taking morphine affecting your home, social, school, or work life?
  • Do you often find excuses for use?
  • Do you lie about your use?

If many answers are ‘yes’, it might be the right time to take a medical assessment for opioid dependence and addiction. Also, consult with a certified addiction professional to diagnose the severity of your addiction.

Being a highly-addictive medication, morphine use can lead directly to addiction. Even if it starts as a prescription. There is no enough place for guilt and shame in admitting that you have a problem. You are not alone!

In fact, the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that:

  • 6.8 million Americans used morphine in the past year.
  • 536,000 people misused of morphine in the past year.

Moreover, the American Society of Addiction Medicine claimed that in 2016 about 2 million Americans had a substance use disorder that involved a prescription painkiller.

Still think that you are alone?

Call us. We’re here to help.

How Do I Stop?

First, we recommend that you consider a medical detox. More details on the services and medications provided in such as setting are explained below. However, stopping morphine should not include drug detox only. It can also require physical, psychological, and emotional rehabilitation.

So, to stop morphine for good, you may need to go to a 30-60-90 day rehab. In these cases, 100% devotion to treatment can help you to successfully treat and recover from morphine addiction.

Structured rehabs provide doctors, counselors and therapists who assist you in the recovery process. During treatment, people have the chance to work on different aspects of a morphine addiction, which can be physical, mental, and even spiritual in nature. Individuals who go through a structured rehab program are invited to discover personal root causes for addictive behavior, work to resolve them, and reach sobriety over the long-term.

Medical Detox

Morphine can be difficult to quit, but medical help makes the process of detoxification more humane. If you choose to go to a medical detox, you can expect these steps:

1. Assessment

The first step is assessment and filling-up paper work. Also, you may be asked to take a drug test or undergo a physical exam. Often, you’ll be required to go through an interview process. Also expect to submit insurance or  payment information. This stage will help clinicians to create your therapy plan.

2. Evaluation

During this step, medical staff will examine your physical, as well as psychological state. Also, if there is a need for medications that will help you manage withdrawal, nurses will obtain prescription from licensed physician.

3. Tapering Protocols

Tapering protocols are different for each patient, and they are completed according to doctor’s orders. Doses are generally not reduced by more than 25% in one week. This is the time when you go through withdrawal. So, be prepared!

4. Transfer to Treatment

Medical detox is just the first stage of ending a drug problem. Once the drug is out of your system, you may need to learn how to live life without drugs. Treatment helps people stay sober, and maintain their sobriety. Taking this step is up to you. No one can force you go into rehab.

Tapering Guidelines

Doctors suggest following a tapering schedule and taking other medications to assist in the process. Your tapering schedule should be created along with your doctor, and with based on your health state, duration of morphine use, and your dose of morphine. Usually individuals require about 2 to 3 weeks to successfully taper doses down. Some general guidelines used in a morphine taper are:

  • 10% reduction in doses a day.
  • 20% reduction in doses every 3-5 days.
  • 25% reduction in doses per week.
  • Avoiding more than 50% reduction off the daily dose at any given interval.

You may find more specific tapering guidelines for morphine here:


Many medications are used to minimize the intensity of withdrawal. The World Health Organization stated that buprenorphine and methadone are key medicines if you want to have a successful opioid addiction treatment. Below is a list of the most commonly used medicines during a medical detox from morphine:

1. Antidepressants. Everyone who experience detox should be evaluated for mental health issues. In those cases, SSRIs or trazodone can help immensely.

2. Medicines that postpone withdrawal. Buprenorphine and methadone are widely used as replacement therapy, and to make detox less severe.

3. Medicines that prevent relapse. Naltrexone blunts the brain receptors that are affected by morphine. It is mostly used in combination with buprenorphine or methadone.

4. Medicines that treat certain symptoms as they occur.

  • Clonidine- treats anxiety, agitation, muscle pain, sweating, and runny nose.
  • Dicyclomine hydrochloride – treats abdominal cramps.
  • Diphenoxylate and Loperamide – treat diarrhea.
  • Hydroxyzine and Promethazine – prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Methocarbamol – treat joint pain and muscle cramps.

NOTE: Replacement therapy with opioids like methadone or buprenorphine may switch one addiction to another. Be careful with this one!

Home Detox

It is possible to detox at home, but it may be risky. You may need 24/7 medical supervision where doctors and nurses can offer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, if you detox at home you do not have access to medical staff  who can offer emotional and psychological support that will prevent relapse.

If you choose to detox at home, this requires permission and a tapering schedule from your prescribing doctor. This is important because mophine home detox is not for everyone. People who have severe addiction, certain medical condition, and/ or poor general health may not be eligible for this type of detox.

Cold Turkey

Doctors advise against going off morphine cold turkey. Due to the drug’s highly addictive properties, suddenly stopping morphine can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and provoke relapse. Going cold turkey off morphine might be very dangerous for people who have lung and heart problems. Another danger of stopping morphine abruptly is the intense experience of acute withdrawal symptoms.

An alternative for sudden discontinuation is a slow morphine taper. Talk to a medical professional, or look for a morphine addiction treatment facility for supervision. This will increase your chances of successful recovery.


The safest way to stop morphine is to seek morphine detox under medical supervision. A medical detox clinic can offer 24-7 medical supervision. Detox clinic staff help you by advising you, prescribing medications, assist your detox and withdrawal, and work with you resolving your psychological and behavioral issues. There is also an element of emotional support you can get at a detox center that may not be available at home.

If possible, round up the motivation and support coming from your family and friends. Long term recovery from a morphine problem requires help from multiple sources. And, stay committed to your recovery after leaving rehab by joining a support group, such as 12-step support groups. Some people stay in psychotherapy for a year or two after they quit using.


Where to Go for Help

Dealing with substance use disorder is a serious condition that may ruin your whole life. The sooner you admit that you have a problem, the better. This is not the time you to act like a hero, and do everything by yourself. This is the time to seek help. The main places to find addiction specialized services include:

  • Addiction rehabs
  • Licensed psychologists
  • Licensed psychiatrists
  • Medical detox clinics
  • Medical doctors
  • Pharmacists

If you are addicted to morphine, a rehab program can help you uncover all underlying issues to your problems. The are two types of rehab programs: inpatient and outpatient.

Inpatient programs offers constant medical care and supervision. Patients live in the facility during the whole program. The most common services provided include:

  • Individual counseling therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Educational classes about addiction and recovery
  • Medication management
  • Regular routine establishment

Outpatient programs provide similar counseling services that use both individual and group therapy, but there is no constant medical care since patients don’t live in the facility. Instead, people come and go for a few hours several days per week. This treatment is more flexible because it allows patients to continue with their daily responsibilities to home, work, or school.


Whether you are having problems with using morphine, or not, you deserve a substance-free life. But, you may not be able to quit it on your own. Using morphine for a longer period of time can cause dependence or even addiction.

So, are you ready to quit morphine for good?

If yes, then make sure to have these three supports:

1. Willingness to change. If you want to turn your life around, and start over, you really need to want it, and have the motivation to keep your going.

2. Medical resources. Get all education and medical resources that you need by contacting your prescribing doctor, a pharmacist, or medical detox staff. They will help you anytime.

3. Emotional support. Your family and friends need to be supportive of your change, and respect your choices. If people around you are not supportive, your recovery path will be more difficult.

Got Any Questions?

Still have questions about how you can quit morphine successfully and in a safe manner? We invite you to post them in the designated section below. We try to reply personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to your question, we will refer you to someone who can help.

Reference sources: CPSO: When and how to taper opioids 
NCBI: Neurotransmitter mechanisms of morphine withdrawal syndrome
NCBI: Immune cell activity during the initial stages of withdrawal from chronic exposure to cocaine or morphine 
NCBI: Prescription opioid analgesics rapidly change the human brain 
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Hi, see your GP. You are on a very small dose Andi can’t see why your doctor won’t either reduce the amount on a week by week basis, then prescribe you something different for your pain. I am going through the same process. 2 weeks ago I was taking 60mg twice a day for my back and after an op, which I have now recovered from. I have been taking morphine met for two and a half years but it’s not giving any pain relief so I asked to come off it. I am reducing 10mg each day and am down to 40 mg morning any 40mg at night. I could do it slower but I have up to now had occasional feelings of nauseau and yesterday I had stomach pain for hair an hour. I have also had some mild sweating. I might be lucky and I presume the side effects will be worse near the end. But don’t do it on your own . See your GP and get their advice. At least then if you struggle they can help with tablets for the cramps or whatever your worse side effects are until you have got off the morphine completely. Good look? june

  2. Hi , I am in the UK. I’ve been on mst for 5 years for a long term back condition . I was on 40mg twice a day and now I’ve got myself down to 5mg once a day . This has taken a couple of years, I want to come off completely but dont know if I should just stop now or if I should take one tablet every other day to start. Unfortunately my pain is getting worse but I can live on morphine anymore . Please help I have no professional support over here and I feel angry towards the doctors for putting me on it

    1. Hi Heather L. Tapering is the best way to quit morphine. That way you’ll reduce the chances for withdrawal symptoms and any possible complications. I suggest you consult a second opinion from another doctor. The doctors should draft a tapering schedule according to your individual needs.

  3. Several articles have been published on how to recover from morphine addiction. However NO information has been published on where a person can get help financially with over coming the addiction. Even with my insurance I gave a copay of $275. Per day x 7 days. This is so expensive that I dont know anyone that can afford it. I live in a rural area and travel would be 100 miles per day and at gas prices again is expensive. Where can I get financial help or get free help with my treatment?

  4. My doctor knows that I’ve been on morphine for about 8 years and now she makes me wait to refill it This time it’s been several days I save pills just for this reason But what can I do about this

  5. I just wanted to say thanks. I injured my back about 22 yrs ago and have been on Morphine at home for the last 19 almost 20yrs I have had all sorts of stuff done to my back at the Hospital including spinal cord stimulator implant which only worked for about a year anyway they put me on Morphine tablets and one day my doc talked to me about getting of them. So we started to lower the dose from 60 about 6 months ago down to 10 and then 3 days ago I stopped. The symptoms you have listed and the timing is perfect. Thank you so much for having this info on this site my Doc though he is good really didn’t help with this side of it I thought I was going crazy I really did. I am not putting down the medical but just to leave me on Morphine all those years was crazy and if I could tell anyone out there who is on Morphine be careful and get off it when you can. So thanks I still have some more days and maybe weeks to get thru this but I will and I will be a lot better off.
    Tanks and I really mean that.
    P.S I was Just reading Sandra May 25th 2017 My doc has put me on Panadol Osteo its only been a couple of days but I think its working.

  6. I have been tappering down off oramorph for anit 8 weeks and got down to 4 mls and just stopped ot went 3 days with nothing but then took a small dose to get some sleep, havent taken anymote but does this mean the withdraw cycle will start all over again, i have crohns disaese

  7. I’ve been on pain pills for close to 4 years due to a back injury. I have been to multiple Dr’s just to be told that there isn’t anything they can do! I have had 3 spinal fusion surgeries the last one in 2000 and I was good for 11 years and then moved to AZ where I was hit on 3 separate occasions by careless drivers and my pain was back in full swing. The Dr put me on methadone 10mg and morphine 30mgs that I take both pills 4 times a day since I’ve been on them I haven’t been the same person the med have totally rotted my teeth due to the dry mouth and has affected my family in a very negative way. I have alway just taken my prescribed dosage but I’m tired of what they are doing so I am quiting kinda cold turkey. I did go from taking them 4 time a day down to twice a day. I wouldn’t ever recommend taking these kind of pills unless your on your death bed! They have done more damage than good. Sorry so long and I’m hoping I get through this ok.

  8. Following 2 surgeries for knee replacement, I have been on 15 mg of Morphine which I take at 11 PM and 11 AM daily over the past 2 months. Now my doctor is telling me that they will not be refilling it and that I am to get off of it. I tried not taking the 11 PM dose, but was awake every half hour in pain, and tried supplementing it with Tylenol products. They suggested that I should have quit the 11 AM dose instead so I tried that, but I was in pain all day. I am also on hydrocodone (5 mg) which I have reduced to 2 tablets every 6 hours. Their only suggestion is to cut out the 11 AM dose and supplement with more oxycodone if needed, but at the same time they have been only prescribing enough oxycodone for 5 days at a time. Surely there must be a more logical way of going off of the Morphine. Please tell me what it is if you can. Thanks.

  9. I had a lumbar discectomy in 2004. It was not successful and I have been on prescription pain medicines since that time. I have always been under the supervision of a pain clinic. I am by nature a rule follower and as such I have followed my prescriptions, never missing a pill count. Not ever. My current regimen is 2 morphine sulfate, 30mg. 2 times/day. Oxycodone 10/325 mg. 2 times/day. I have just been reduced to this level from 3 morphine sulfate 30mg. per day. After 2 weeks of being on the edge of withdrawal, I am adjusting fairly well. I am determined to taper off opiates completely, trying to revert to managing the lower back and sciatic pain with NSAIDS. Do you have any suggestions as to a reduction timeline? I am going to involve my doctor and the pain clinic in my efforts, however I’m interested in a second opinion.

  10. I have been prescribed extended release morphine tablets 30 mg 2 x a day and a 15mg immediate release 1 x day . I have been taking this via a pain management doctor for a couple years for fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Prior to that I was taking hydrocodone every 5-8 hrs daily for a few years, but stopped helping with pain and was not able to function well on them. When I started taking the morphine it helped with the pain and I could function very well. Doctor then added 300mg Gabapentin 2x daily to help with pain, then upped dosage to 3 x daily a few week ago. I had some constipation problems and was taking otc stool softeners. With the change of Gabapentin to 3 x daily I started having severe constipation not going but every 7 days with lots of discomfort and straining and pulling stool out. Doctor prescribed Movantik 30 and have taken for 2 days making me feel sick, weak. I really feel that I need to stop the morphine before it causes me further problems. I am 58 and truly want to have quality of life without narcotics. Scared and worried. What do I do to get my life back?

  11. dr has now cut me down to 20 mg, but still the time release. wants me to take for 7 days then try to stretch the time by 4-5 hr intervals. for a few days, and increase the time by 1-2 hrs every 2 days. however, he also told me that the time release type is much harder to work with. an has had other patients who find it impossible to stop this way. He is a pain dr and I am not sure if he is telling me the right thing?? do you have any information on stopping time release morphine??

  12. Hi my mum has went through 6 chemo session and recently had pet scan while waiting on results her GP prescribed her 20mg or morphine sulfate twice a day.. after 2nd day she because confused , unable to hold conversation and unable to walk, the doctor told her to stop after 4days of morphine in which her symptoms got worse she was admitted to hospital 5days ago and has since became in incontinent, not able to recognise some of her family surely this can’t be the morphine can anybody help
    As doctors aren’t much help

  13. I have been on time release morphine for pain control for 10 years as am allergic to most other pain meds. I we pressed a desire to get off this drug because most of my pain is due to nerve damage and Dr said morphine really doesn’t do much for that pain. My Dr has reduced me over time from 45mg time release to 30mg. When I asked how to go down in dose again, he told me to take the 30mg dose every other day for 2 weeks then just stop it entirely. Have tryed his method, but am in withdrawal every other day. Another Dr told me to stretch the amount of time between doses a few hrs every time. Have been doing that. Withdrawal less severe. Am up to two days between doses. However try ed to go to 3 days but blood pressure and headache getting severe, what do I do now?

  14. I have been on mst continus 30mg for pain control.for the past 6 years, and Ive been tapering it down over the past 6 weeks as I’m on another drug called tapentadol. I’m down now to 5mg twice .a day but I’m scared of giving up this last 5mg as I don’t know how bad the withdrawal will be or for how long. I’ve suffered withdrawal all the way through the cutting down, but I know if I go an hour over due my dose I’m feeling faint. I’m in a lot of pain, My Dr says he can put up the tapentadol to the maximum dose when I stopped the 5mg .but I have a job as well and I don’t know how I will cope.please can you give me any advice or let me know what to expect?


  15. My mum has been dependent on morphine tablets to control back pain for years they no longer help with the pain and is looking for an alternative…her doctor has given no guidance in how to come off them, only to say stop taking them and take. Paracetamol….. Can anyone give guidance please. Thanks

    1. Hi Sandra. Professional claim that the best and safest way to quit opioid painkillers is by slowly tapering the daily dosage. The doctor should have made your mother an individualized tapering schedule. I suggest that she consults with another doctor. Moreover, download our free e-book ‘How To Quit Opioid Painkillers’ to learn more about the whole process of ending painkillers, here:

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