Last updated: May 25, 2020
Doctors often prescribe morphine following major surgeries, to relieve the suffering of cancer patients, or to ease the pain of severe injuries. The DEA classed morphine as a Schedule 2 drug. This means that it is a drug used for medical purposes, but has a high potential for abuse. It can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. It can be detected in the system from three days up to 90 days.
The detection periods vary depending on the type of drug test that is administered.
Blood tests detect the parent drug rather than drug metabolites. This fact makes them extremely effective in detecting current impairment. However, the length of time drugs remain in the bloodstream is relatively short-lived. They are the most expensive of the testing methods. Consequently, they are rarely used by employers.
Morphine leaves the bloodstream in about 12 hours after the last dose is taken.
Urine tests are the most widely used form of employee drug testing. It is the drug test required by the DOT for all safety-sensitive employees. For that reason, many employers of the general workforce choose this type of employee drug testing as well.
They detect drug metabolites rather than the drug, itself. Once morphine is metabolized, it stores the drug metabolites throughout the body until they are fully cleared from the system. For this reason, morphine is detected in the urine up to three days after taking the last dose.
Saliva drug tests, otherwise known as mouth swab drug tests, are easy to administer. They can detect all types of drugs and are becoming more sophisticated due to evolving technology. In the past, they were rarely used, but are becoming more popular with employers. They are also used by law enforcement agencies if drug impairment is suspected during a traffic stop.
They are capable of detecting both the parent drug and its metabolites. Saliva tests detect morphine for up to four or five days after last use.
Hair follicle test
The hair follicle test also detects drug metabolites rather than the parent drug. However, it is unique in that it detects any and all drug use for a 90 day period. However, it takes a few days after the first use to show up. That’s because of the fact that drug metabolites store themselves in the hair follicle. Once the metabolites begin to grow out into the hair, they remain there indefinitely.
The normal length of hair used for drug testing is one and one-half inches. If the test requires a longer period of detection, increasing the length of hair is possible.
Why do detection times vary?
With the exception of the hair follicle test, the amount of time that morphine is detected has an “up to” clause. There are a number of things that affect the length of time that drug metabolites remain in the body.
- Body fat content
- Individual metabolism
- Length of time used
- Liver and kidney functions
- Other medications
Using alcohol while taking morphine, slows down the metabolization process, thereby increasing the length of detection time. Alcohol use is never a good idea when taking morphine. Alcohol increases the effects of the drug, but also leads to an increased risk of dangerous side effects or a fatal overdose. They work together and to suppress the central nervous system. This lowers the heart rate and strains the respiratory system.
Moreover, there are certain medications that interact with the drug.
- Other narcotics that include heroin, oxycodone, methadone, even prescription cough medicine
What’s the buzz?
Doctors prescribe morphine for pain relief. It’s possible for someone that is taking the drug only as prescribed to form an addiction. Drug abusers are usually seeking the feelings of euphoria and relaxation that the drug provides.
If someone is taking morphine orally, it takes about 30 to sixty minutes for the drug to enter the bloodstream. It reaches the peak concentration level around 60 minutes after taking the drug. If injecting the drug, users feel the effects much sooner.
Drug abusers use morphine orally in pill form, inject the drug directly into the bloodstream, or crush the tablets to snort them for a more intense high.
The effects of the drug last between four to six hours. Extended-release formulas produce effects for eight to 12 hours.
Why it’s dangerous
We mentioned above that morphine is a highly addictive drug. In addition to the pleasure-seeking factors of euphoria and relaxation, our bodies develop a tolerance to the drug. In other words, the brain actually changes over time to believe it feels “normal” when the drug is circulating through the body. After a time, it takes larger doses to achieve the same effect.
This greatly increases the risk of overdose.
Moreover, building up a tolerance to the drug makes it necessary to use more to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms.
Once the brain accepts the drug as part of feeling normal, discontinuing use can cause withdrawal. While withdrawing from the drug isn’t life-threatening, it does cause uncomfortable symptoms. For this reason, it makes it extremely hard for users to kick the habit.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
- Irritability or anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Dilated pupils
- Tearing eyes
The side effects
People that use morphine either under a doctor’s care or illegally experience side effects. They may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of memory
- Muscle tremors or seizures
- Vision problems
Extreme side effects include:
- Circulatory collapse
- Heart failure
- Decreased heart and breathing rate
- Loss of consciousness
There are also long term effects of this drug. We’ve mentioned drug tolerance. This leads to dependence and addiction. People also experience a disregard for their responsibilities, losing interest in work or school. The risk of respiratory distress increases over time.
Continued use of morphine decreases the quality of life. The physical effects of the drug are harmful to our health. In addition, addicts often lose interest in work, school, and family. However, discontinuing use is not easy. In fact, the danger of relapsing is very high. Statistics show that 96% of people that try to stop using opioids on their own fail.
If you suspect someone is using morphine, encourage them to seek professional help.
Rehabilitation is their greatest hope.