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How to Stop Morphine Cravings, Prevent Relapse and Find Help

Morphine is a potent opioid drug used to relieve pain before and after surgery and to otherwise treat severe pain conditions. However, many people misuse morphine and become addicted to the drug due to its euphoric effects. When someone who has become addicted to morphine tries to stop using it, they experience strong cravings.

Morphine Urges Signs and Symptoms

Morphine can be addictive for many people who use it. When people become addicted to morphine, they need increased amounts of it to achieve the same effects they experienced before. Once an opiate addiction has taken hold, these people may continue to use morphine even when it causes social, financial and health problems in their life.

Often, people who try to quit using morphine experience intense cravings during withdrawal. The symptoms of morphine withdrawal are usually unpleasant – especially if the person has been using heavily and for a long time – and someone in withdrawal may feel a strong urge to use morphine to alleviate the symptoms. This craving can continue even after the physical symptoms of withdrawal have subsided. 1 People in recovery can also experience cravings that are triggered by certain people, places or things, such as old friends, places where they used drugs, and seeing needles.

Symptoms of Cravings

The symptoms of cravings can include:

  • Strong urges to use morphine.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Drug-seeking behaviors.

The severity of the cravings, as well as how long the cravings last, vary a great deal from one person to another. However, many opiate-dependent people will begin to experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of their last use of morphine.

Treatments for Morphine Cravings

One of the most common therapies for treating morphine cravings and addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT helps to determine which thoughts and behaviors lead to continued drug use. One of the major maladaptive thought and behavioral patterns for addicts is to be triggered to use substances by certain events, people or places. In CBT, participants are taught a strategy to “recognize, avoid and cope” as a way to identify triggers, avoid them and find new coping skills to avoid relapse. 4

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques for Cravings

Teaching morphine users to avoid triggers is a vital part of helping them deal with morphine cravings. However, not all triggers can be avoided, so CBT uses techniques to help the recovering person cope with cravings when they are faced with unavoidable circumstances.

CBT uses a number of techniques to deal with cravings, such as:

  • Talking about cravings.Often, if an addict talks about their cravings, it can help reduce the urge to use. However, the recovering person must have a supportive system of people who are willing to talk them through these cravings.
  • Giving in to the cravings. This might sound counterintuitive, but this CBT technique encourages the person to experience the craving and learn to work through it. The therapist helps the user to find safe places to experience the craving and to concentrate on it. The user notes the things he or she notices about the craving, such as how strong it is. Usually, the craving lessens when the person focuses on it.
  • Recalling negative consequences of morphine use. When the user feels a craving, he or she recalls bad experiences with morphine use as a way to avoid using the drug. Some people write down these experiences so that they can re-read them when they crave drugs.
  • Practicing self-talk. Many users don’t realize it, but they often engage in self-talk that leads them to give in to cravings. Examples of this type of self-talk would be: “I have to use” or “I can’t take this feeling – I have to have morphine now.” CBT works to replace this self-talk with self-talk that normalizes the cravings. Examples of this kind of self-talk would be: “Cravings are normal. People get through them all the time. I can do it, too.” Challenging the thought also works. For example, someone might say to themselves: “I won’t really die if I don’t use morphine.” 2

Treatment Programs

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment for morphine addiction often involve dealing with cravings. Most rehab programs use the following types of treatment:

  • Group counseling has demonstrated benefits for people in recovery from drug abuse. Group therapy provides positive social interactions, as well as examples of people who are in the early stages of recovery from drug addiction. Being able to meet others who have survived withdrawal, cravings and the early stages of recovery can help inspire newcomers to achieve and maintain their own sobriety. 3
  • Individual counseling is used in some addiction treatment programs, though some programs rely more on group counseling. Individual therapy usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the user learn different patterns of thinking and behavior that do not involve drug use. Often, programs also use contingency management, which provides a person with rewards or other incentives for staying abstinent from using substances.
  • Dual diagnosis programs help people who need treatment for morphine addiction, but who also have a mental health diagnosis, such as depression, which needs to be addressed in treatment. Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder programs can treat both disorders at the same time and are available in many treatment programs.
  • 12-step programs offer daily meetingsthat are free and widely available for people recovering from addiction to morphine or to other drugs. These programs, which include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are a fundamental component of many structured rehabilitation efforts, and they help give the recovering person a supportive environment to work on achieving sobriety. Active attendance of 12-step meetings is also a very important component of aftercare following other forms of treatment, such as inpatient and outpatient.

Medications Used to Curb Morphine Urges

Some medications are used to help a person detox from morphine and prevent cravings. However, these medications have drawbacks as well as benefits in treating morphine addiction. Users can become dependent on some of them, and they have side effects of their own.
  • Buprenorphine can be used as a replacement medication for opioids to help people quit morphine and other opioids. It can help to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is also known by the brand names Suboxone (which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) and Subutex.
  • Methadone is another medication than can be used as a replacement for opioids such as morphine, and it can also reduce cravings. Methadone can only be given in specially licensed facilities, or if someone is in a hospital receiving care for another medical condition.

How to Stop Urges Naturally

No natural herbs or other treatments are known to help stop cravings for morphine. However, there are many ways to cope with cravings that don’t involve medications.

  • Exercise. Exercise is particularly helpful for managing cravings because it provides another form of release for tension and anxiety besides drug use. It can be as simple as going for a walk around the block or as intense as a high-energy workout.
  • Meditation. Some people also find meditation helpful. Meditation can teach you how to relax and focus on other things besides craving morphine. Start with focusing on your breathing for just a few minutes a day and gradually increase the amount of time as you get more comfortable. Plenty of resources are available online to teach you how to meditate and practice mindfulness.
  • Healthy habits. Getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet can leave you feeling rested and alert, which makes it easier to deal with cravings as well as other stressful events.

Cravings and Relapse

If morphine cravings are not managed, they can lead to relapse. Other behaviors and circumstances can also put a person at risk for a relapse, including:
  • Returning to old friends who also use drugs.Many people in recovery have difficulty letting go of old habits and friends. But friends who use can serve as triggers for relapse.
  • A crisis. Crises will happen, and they increase the risk of relapse. To avoid letting life events trigger a relapse, a person in recovery should work out a plan in case these types of situations occur. The plan could include reaching out to sponsors and other forms of action to prevent relapse under stress.
  • Apathy after a person has been sober for months or years. Sometimes, people who have been sober for a while begin to think that they’ll be fine without their 12-step program or other support group. When a person in recovery begins to believe that they can manage on their own, relapse often occurs. People in recovery from morphine addiction need to stay connected to other people who can support them in their recovery.
  • Being alone and isolated. Isolation is also a major trigger for relapse. The recovering person can begin to feel lonely and start using again as a way to fill the void. Staying connected with others reduces loneliness.

Using Aftercare to Prevent Relapse

Aftercare is follow-up care that a person receives after leaving morphine addiction treatment. Any aftercare plan should include ways for a recovering person to have ongoing support in the weeks, months and even years following treatment. Aftercare is very important to help avoid relapse, and it can help a person manage any cravings that arise.

  • 12-step programs. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous provide recovering persons with a program that offers support and peers the recovering person can turn to if they experience cravings or triggers. Many of the 12-step programs include sponsors, who are further along in their recovery and can help a newly sober person when they feel strong cravings to use. Sponsors make themselves available for phone calls and meetings when support is needed.
  • Halfway houses. Also known as sober living homes, halfway houses are another option for people who need structure and support after they leave a morphine rehab program. They offer a drug-free environment where a person will not be exposed to triggers, as well as a place to conduct a job search and attend recovery meetings. The recovering morphine user has an opportunity to get his or her life back on track while still being removed from the using environment.
  • Therapy. Individual or group counseling is yet another way for people to manage their cravings and prevent relapse once they leave formal treatment. A person can discuss cravings with a trained professional and continue to practice techniques to manage them.

Find a Recovery Center

Whether you have concerns about your own addiction to morphine or are seeking help for a family member or friend, call today. Our rehab support advisors will help you locate a treatment center in your area based on your insurance coverage.

If you do not have health insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to low-cost or free programs in your area.

[1]. Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S. and Wilson, W. (2014). Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: Treating Cocaine Addiction: Topic 1: Coping With Craving.

[3]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005.(Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment.

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.