A naturally-occurring substance, it’s extracted from the poppy plant and has a similar chemical make-up to heroin.

It can be taken orally or injected and acts on the central nervous system to induce analgesia and alter perception and emotional response to pain.

The drug elicits a feeling of euphoria, often described as a dreamlike state. It has the potential to be highly addictive, as tolerance to it develops rapidly. It also has a high potential for abuse because of its pleasurable effects and relative accessibility.


Morphine elicits feelings of relaxation, euphoria and wellbeing; pleasurable effects that are tempting to recreate, time and time again.

Addiction to morphine often develops as a consequence of consistent abuse. Prolonged morphine use can lead to developing a tolerance. As such, you’ll need to take more and more of it to feel its effects.

Over time, the brain and body adapt to function with morphine in the system and if you try to stop using it, you’ll experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. A psychological dependence will develop soon after the physical one.

Morphine addiction is very difficult to overcome and many people will end up caught in a cycle of abuse trying to avoid the unpleasant symptoms and lows of non-use.

Someone addicted to morphine will compulsively seek it out and abuse it, while ignoring the negative consequences.

While morphine is illicitly manufactured and sold, as a prescribed drug, it is heavily regulated but still has the potential to be abused. Those suffering from chronic pain can misuse their medication to the point of developing a substance misuse disorder.

Addiction to morphine develops for a number of reasons and is often the consequence of consistent abuse.


While many cases of morphine addiction have occurred in people who are already dependent on illicit substances, dependence is rising in those without prior substance abuse history.

There are factors at play however, that may influence the likelihood of becoming addicted to morphine. Spending time around people who abuse drugs can be influential. Parental guidance also plays a big part in the likelihood of someone developing an addiction. Children who are exposed to drug abuse at a young age are more at risk of developing their own problem later in life.

Peer pressure can result in recreational drug use and teens are especially prone to engaging in risky behaviours, as the areas in their brains that control judgement and self-control are still developing.

Different psychological factors can increase the risk of substance misuse. Drugs are often used to suppress emotional stress and relieve the symptoms of a range of mental health issues. Repeatedly turning to morphine to ease emotional pain or trauma increases tolerance. Over time, self-medicating in this way can become habitual and co-occur with a mental health disorder or poly-substance abuse.

While some people may be able to use morphine therapeutically, others will feel a strong impulse to consume it to excess. Drugs from the opiate family in particular, induce feelings of pleasure which trigger the brain’s reward centre and encourage repetition of use.

Neuroscience has shown that people have varying levels of ability and brain function to control impulsive urges. If these genes are passed down through the generations, family members can be more prone to developing addiction problems.

Repeated use of morphine can lead to changes in the brain that challenge self-control.

Over time, the brain’s reward system becomes less responsive to the drug. This effect is known as tolerance. The high felt initially becomes much less intense and you’ll need to take more morphine to achieve the same feeling.

Long-term morphine abuse affects the brain’s chemical systems and functions, resulting in physical and psychological addiction.

Any time someone uses morphine without a prescription it is considered to be abuse. The term abuse means you are using morphine in a dangerous manner and potentially, without even realising.

While abuse is thought to be less severe than addiction, in reality, long-term abuse of controlled drugs can be equally harmful to your health.

The term addiction usually refers to a physical dependence but it generally means a psychological one too.

An inability to refrain from using morphine is the first symptom of addiction and sudden withdrawal can be intense and unpleasant. A medically-monitored detox and treatment programme offer the best solution to overcoming this difficult addiction.