Morphine is a non-synthetic opioid derived from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. The drug is often used in medical settings to treat severe pain, and is usually administered orally or via intravenous injection. Snorting morphine is suggestive of substance abuse and results in the rapid onset of effects.
Morphine is similar to powerful opioid drugs like heroin and oxycodone. As a schedule II controlled substance, morphine is very addictive with a high potential for abuse, especially when it’s not taken as directed.
Snorting morphine will not only damage nasal membranes, but may also lead to addiction, withdrawal, and lethal overdose.
Snorting Morphine Causes Nasal Damage
Only certain medications are designed for entering the nose. Morphine, which isn’t meant to be snorted by the nose, can cause severe damage along nasal passages. Morphine tablets are cut with various additives and do not contain morphine alone, resulting in additional materials entering the nasal cavity.
Snorting crushed morphine tablets over and over can be harmful to the nasal cavity and may cause:
- broken skin along nasal passages
- damaged nasal airways
- dry and bloody noses
- holes in the nasal septum
- nasal infections
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The air a person breathes is filtered through the nose, and snorting morphine for long periods of time can disrupt the filtration process. Damaged nasal airways can cause breathing problems in the lungs and may lead to infection.
Morphine is highly addictive any way it’s administered. Snorting morphine, however, increases the risk for addiction because of the fast onset of effects and limited duration. Orally ingesting morphine is likely to produce effects that last longer, whereas snorting morphine causes the drug to quickly wear off.
When the effects of morphine are short-lived, a person may be tempted to snort more. This can quickly lead to addiction, which changes brain chemistry and behavior. Morphine addiction is characterized by:
compulsive morphine use
lack of control over using morphine
intense morphine cravings or urges
continuing to use morphine despite harmful consequences
Once addicted to morphine, people may prioritize finding or taking the drug over everything else. This can negatively impact their lives, damaging personal relationships, careers, and overall health and well-being.
Morphine Dependence And Withdrawal
Dependence is different from addiction, and can occur not long after snorting morphine for the first time. Once a person becomes dependent to morphine, stopping use can be difficult because of uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. For relief, a person may continue to use morphine or other drugs to avoid withdrawal, worsening the cycle of addiction.
Symptoms can start in just a few hours after morphine wears off, starting with increased agitation and anxiety. Other symptoms of morphine withdrawal can include:
- back, muscle, or joint pain
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- fast heartbeat/breathing
- loss of appetite
- runny nose/teary eyes
- stomach cramps/diarrhea
It’s important to note that most people who die from an opioid overdose recently detoxed or experienced withdrawals. Going through withdrawal reduces the tolerance of the drug, so a smaller dose for the person can cause a fatal morphine overdose.
Morphine Overdose And Death
A morphine overdose occurs when too much is taken, either on purpose or by accident. When morphine is taken in ways other than directed, the risk for overdose increases. Snorting morphine results in the uncontrolled delivery of a powerful opioid, which can be deadly.
Crushing and snorting morphine tablets can cause the rapid release and absorption of a fatal dose. As a potent painkiller, morphine is designed to enter the body and brain slowly over time. Snorting morphine causes the drug to enter the bloodstream and brain rapidly, which can lead to serious breathing problems or death.
Symptoms of a morphine overdose include:
- blush-colored fingernails and lips
- clammy skin
- pinpoint pupils
- muscle damage
- slow pulse
A morphine overdose should be treated as a medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be called immediately. Naloxone, an opioid reversal medication, can reverse the effects of overdose if administered in enough time. The risk for fatal overdose is increased when snorting large amounts of morphine is combined with other substances, like alcohol and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin).
Morphine Addiction Treatment
As an opioid, morphine addiction is likely first addressed in a detox program, with additional treatment consisting of a combination of therapy and medications. Following treatment, an ongoing network of support is crucial for avoiding relapse and overdose. Inpatient rehab programs can be effective because they offer the multiple components needed to overcome opioid dependence and addiction.
When withdrawal symptoms are several and persistent, a medically supervised detox program can help ensure safety and comfort during the worst of withdrawal. A person snorting morphine may struggle with other substances as well, and detox programs offer additional support to help a person refrain from substance use and prepare for further addiction treatment.
Behavioral therapy works to change attitudes about drugs by developing coping skills and healthy habits for daily living. Therapy sessions can be both group or individual, and focus on personal growth and development.
Two effective therapies used to treat morphine addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These therapies target problematic patterns of behavior and emotion and teach people how to develop confidence in their own abilities.
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There are three effective medications currently used for treating opioid addiction and dependence: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is usually combined with behavioral therapy and can be effective for:
- alleviating symptoms of withdrawal
- decreasing opioid-related overdose
- helping people engage in and complete treatment
- lessening dependence
- reducing drug cravings
While some of these medications can be addictive when they’re taken in ways other than directed, they do not substitute one addiction for another. Opioid medications simply restore the balance in the brain that was thrown out-of-whack by morphine addiction.
For opioid addiction, ongoing support from friends and family is crucial for living a balanced life in recovery. Besides family and friends, many inpatient rehab programs offer aftercare services that enlist the help of community-based organizations.
Services like peer-to-peer recovery support groups (Narcotics Anonymous), faith-based organizations, government agencies and community support programs can help aid a person on their difficult and challenging path towards recovery.