What Medications are Used in Morphine Detox?
According to the National Library of Medicine, although morphine is extremely beneficial in treating chronic pain in a variety of types, it is highly addictive and is only a last resort. It is only beneficial to those who do not misuse it. Because of its addictive properties, it is possible to become dependent on the drug. In order to break this dependence and addiction, doctors sometimes use medications during morphine detox to stop the withdrawal and help a person recover.
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What is Morphine?
Morphine is an opium derivative and an extremely effective painkiller. Unfortunately, it is also a highly addictive one. Although it is possible to take morphine for a very short time and not become addicted, anything longer is dangerous. Doctors still use morphine to treat pain from illnesses, such as cancer and long term injuries.
Why use Medication in Morphine Detox?
An addiction to morphine is extremely problematic. The symptoms are so very severe even if they are not life threatening. Many people who have experienced morphine withdrawal say that even though it does not kill you it might make you wish you were dead. The symptoms of morphine withdrawal are:
- severe abdominal cramping
- severe diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- rapid heart rate
Although most of these symptoms do not seem too terrible, but together all at once they can be very intense. Most of these symptoms are very severe even with moderate morphine use. The longer you are on morphine the more severe the symptoms.
The withdrawal symptoms are one of the number one reasons that people relapse after trying to quit using morphine. Without the withdrawal symptoms, many people are able to stop taking morphine with little or no physical issues. This is where the medications that are used in morphine detox come in.
Methadone is a popular drug for morphine withdrawal. Not only is it full opiate agonist it is a strong painkiller in its own right. Methadone treats chronic pain and withdrawal at the same time.
People use methadone to stop the symptoms of withdrawal. As an opioid blocker, methadone replaces the strong opiate at specific receptor sites. So instead of going into withdrawal a person taking methadone feels normal. The unpleasant side effects of opiate addiction are almost completely blocked.
Unfortunately, methadone is an opiate. This means that it is possible to be addicted to the methadone. You can also abuse it. When someone stops using methadone, they wind up going into almost the same withdrawal, as they would have on the original opiate. Most people who take methadone are on it for a long time. Doctors only use it when it is necessary.
Buprenorphine is very similar to methadone. The biggest difference is that it is a partial opioid agonist. Unlike methadone, it only partially blocks the opioid receptors. This makes it much safer and less addictive than methadone. Since it only partially blocks these receptors, it also makes it not as effective at stopping the withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms break through and some people experience a milder form of opiate withdrawal.
Buprenorphine works best at low doses where it blocks the withdrawal and stops people from misusing opiates. It also creates a ceiling effect. This means that there is a cap to the feelings that the drug produces. Buprenorphine does produce a euphoric effect but when the ceiling is reached it does not get any more pleasurable. This makes overdose much less likely.
Subutex and Suboxone
Subutex and Suboxone are medications that doctors use to complement each other. Subutex is straight Buprenorphine. It stops withdrawal and people use it to start their detox. Suboxone is actually a combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that doctors use to reverse opiate overdose. When someone is in critical overdose Naloxone also known as Narcan completely stops the euphoria, respiratory depression, and other dangerous effects of an opiate or opioid. When combine with Buprenorphine it stops a person from getting high off an opiate. Doctors use Suboxone as a maintenance treatment to stop a recovering addict from both craving the drug and relapsing into their addiction again.
Naloxone is a medication that completely reverses the effects of an opiate or opioid high. When someone overdoses it stops the overdose symptoms essentially making them suddenly sober or in complete withdrawal. This medication is used in combination with Buprenorphine or as an emergency medication to stop overdose. Many states now allow people who are likely to overdose or are near someone who is likely to overdose to carry Naloxone. The laws regarding access to Naloxone are different in each state.
Like Naloxone, Naltrexone stops opiate overdose and sends a person into withdrawal. Doctors primarily use it to treat opiate addiction and alcohol addiction. Unlike Naloxone, it is longer acting so it works better as a maintenance treatment rather than an emergency measure. It counteracts opiates and sends the user into immediate withdrawal. This is usually very unpleasant and therefore discourages opiate use.
According to the National Library of Medicine, methadone addiction is dangerous. There is the short term danger of overdose and psychosis and the long term dangers of addiction, risky behaviors, and permanent physical damage. It is important to use every tool in the arsenal against addiction and overdose. If you or someone you know is addicted or misusing morphine, there are medications that can help them before they suffer permanent harm.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Morphine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio).
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Methadone.