Overload

Morphine

Category: Medicines

Type

Involuntary

Introduction and description

 

Morphine is the most abundant alkaloid found in Opium

Morphine has been extracted and used clinically for many years.  It was discovered in 1804, first distributed in 1817, and first commercially sold in 1827. It was more widely used after the invention of the hypodermic needle in 1857. It takes  its name from the Greek god of dreams Morpheus.

 In a clinical setting it is used for pain relief - severe or agonizing pain and suffering.  But even in this context it has produced quite a number of involuntary hallucinations.

More than 200 morphine derivatives have been developed since the last quarter of the 19th Century. These drugs range from a little over 2 percent of the strength of morphine, to several hundred times the strength of morphine.  Elements of the morphine structure have been used to create completely synthetic drugs such as the morphinan family that have morphine-like qualities.  None of these ultimately has the same effects as morphine itself, or more importantly morphine as a component of opium.

painting by Santiago Rusinol, 1814

For more details see  Analgesics - opioids.

Background

I have provided a detailed analysis of the effects Morphine has on receptors in Morphine receptor bindings for those interested.

 Morphine was at one time an over the counter medicine.  When the hypodermic syringe was introduced in mid-century by Dr. Alexander Wood,  the first known morphine needle addict was his wife. By the 1880s, hypodermic morphine was routinely prescribed for virtually all ailments common to women (especially mothers), including anaemia, angina, asthma, bronchitis, infant cholera, carcinoma, cystitis, continued fevers, hysterical convulsions, cardiac diseases, chorea, delirium tremens, dyspnea, diabetes, nervous dyspepsia, diarrhea, gastric catarrh, gastric ulcer, hepatic diseases, insomnia, incontinence of urine, itching, laryngitis, lumbago, mania and insanity, cerebral meningitis, muscle spasms, neuralgia, nymphomania, ovarian neuralgia, pleuritis, pneumonitis, pericarditis, peritonitis, renal diseases, rheumatism, shock, spinal irritation, sprains, tetanus, uremia, vaginismus, and vomiting of pregnancy. (Kane 1880, cited in Terry & Pellens 1928)”.

 

How it works

 

Despite all the complex analysis I have done in the detailed section Morphine receptor bindings, what is actually happening is that the parasympathetic nervous system is being stimulated in a major way.

All the opioids mimic what happens when the body perceives itself to have encountered a major threat.  If you turn for a moment to the description of overwhelming fear and terror, you will see that all truly major threats eventually cause endorphins to be released.  In effect, the ingestion or injection of any opioid is like throwing yourself off a cliff without the emotion of fear that precedes it!!    Morphine just happens to have similar though not identical actions to endorphins. 

Endorphins generate a feeling of total relaxation and by doing this, we have opened the door to the Composer.  The relief acts in much the same way as the Relaxation techniques. 

The only problem is that morphine is not endorphin.  It has kappa and other receptor effects and this means that the effects can be a good deal less pleasant than those produced by our own body.  Just some of the side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Miosis and Visual distortions
  • Hypothermia
  • Respiratory depression -   pulmonary edema, shortness of breath, pleural effusions - hypoxia
  • Itching
  • Heart problems - hypertension or hypotension, bradycardia, tachycardia
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Increase in urine production
  • Sexual depression
  • Hair thinning

According to the eHealthme web site long term use causes depression and anxiety, and may also cause aggression.

Furthermore, there is also a point where if the amount is at overdose proportions, the effects may actually be being obtained because we are being poisoned  - see poisoning

What is happening then is that the body finds itself being bombarded by a chemical it feels it doesn’t need, at very high levels.  Morphine is then treated as a threat to which the body needs to respond.  The itching shown in the list above as a side effect,  is probably a result of over stimulation of the immune system and the release of an excess of histamine.

There is no definition of ‘overdose’ as an absolute amount.  A specific amount may be overdose for one person and underdose for another.  Dosage needs to depend on age, weight and constitution.  Both old and young people need far far less, even if they are in great pain.

Be aware that morphine is highly addictive.  If taken regularly, our own endorphin receptors are destroyed to counteract the high amount of the endorphin look alike that appears to be flooding round our system.  If you then stop the morphine, you do not have enough receptors to support your own natural endorphin release.

There may be excruciating pain from only tiny wounds, and you will experience what is called dysphoria – despondency of a level you can not imagine without having been there – so low you are in an abyss of unfathomable horror.

References and further reading

 
  • This LINK takes you to EROWID and all the experiences from taking morphine on this site, both involuntary and voluntary.
  • This LINK takes you to the general desciption of morphine given in EROWID and any papers that have been produced.
  • This LINK provides an interesting list of known opiate addicts, where they could be laudanum, morphine, opium or another opium based drug.
  • This LINK takes you to the eHealthme web site for an up to date list of all the side effects that morphine has caused actual patients.  Note that these are only the ones that have been officially recorded by doctors, so there may be many never reported on this site. 
  • [Psychosis, visual hallucinations and worsening renal function due to a gabapentine-morphine interaction]. - Borobia-Perez AM, Fernandez-Capitan C, Carcas-Sansuan AJ.  Rev Neurol. 2008 Sep 16-30;47(6):332-3. Spanish. No abstract available.   PMID:  18803164

Observations

The trade names and the recent numbers of hallucinations derived from the eHealthme web site are -   

  • Morphine [228] ,
  • Morphine sulphate [169] with trade names - MS Contin [226] , MSIR, Avinza [228], Kadian [227], Oramorph, Roxanol, and Kapanol.

Jamie Lee Curtis was once an addict, see the observation below for her story.  Other famous morphine users or addicts include 

  • Herman Goering – the Nazi general .  “He was committed to a sanitarium as a raving addict in the 20's by his wife, after becoming a junkie as a pilot during WW1 thanks to an injury. Speer recalls him passing out with a map over his face at the end of the war, just before he left Der Führerbunker. He didn't properly kick his habit until his trial at Nuremburg” 
  • Bela Lugosi was a morphine addict.  He originally took the drug for pain relief. 
  • William Stewart Halsted - legendary surgeon and cofounder of John Hopkins who cured his coke habit by replacing it with a morphine habit 
  • Robert Louis Stevenson - took morphine for his lung disease problems

Albert Matignon’s Morphine,1905 a postcard from Russia

Related observations