We're all familiar with the common painkillers or an analgesic given to us for immediate pain relief from an intense chronic pain. Now haven’t we all enjoyed that light headed euphoric state of mind when our wisdom tooth was extracted? Don’t we just love the hypnotic, tranquil slumber we slip into after popping a simple painkiller? Now there are several kinds of pain medication depending on the severity of our ache and discomfort, but the most customary medication includes the use of morphine, which in all honesty is a hella ecstatic escapade! With all due consideration to the pain, the hurt simply love the kick they get out of it.
Why is Morphine used?
Pain is a powerful motivator. Physicians explain how distressed a patient can feel while experiencing any sort and degree of pain, an unfortunate consequence of most illness. Opiates, derived from the opium poppy, is by far the most primary drug that has been used for thousands of years for both recreational and medicinal purposes. The most active substance present in opium is morphine named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.
Morphine comes under the category of opioid medication. Opioid, sometimes also called a narcotic, is a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, prescribed by doctors to treat persistent or severe pain. They are used by people with chronic headaches and backaches for pain management, by a patient recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer, and by adults and children who have gotten hurt playing sports or who have been seriously injured in falls, auto accidents or other incidents. Synthetic opioids by the names of Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone and Morphine are available legally by a doctor's prescription. However, the ill effects of morphine are only recently coming to light.
How does this medication work?
According to an article by American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA), opioids attach to proteins called opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gut and other aching parts of the body. This allows the opioid consumed to block acute pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain. Depending on the patient, the situation and the type and level of pain, different types of opioids are prescribed by doctors in different strengths. They can be taken in different forms like in pill form, but they can also be taken as lozenges or lollipops. Some are administered through a vein, by injection or through an Intravenous therapy (IV). Some can be delivered through a patch placed on the skin or with a suppository. While they can give instant and effective pain relief, opioids carry some risks and can be highly addictive when used for a long period of time to manage chronic pain.
Morphine is a very powerful painkiller, but it is also very addictive as tolerance to it develops rapidly. The drug can be taken in the form of a tablet, syrup, or injection. In some cases, it can even be smoked. According to latest studies, morphine has a high potential of abuse because of its pleasurable effects and relative accessibility. "In recent years, the drug pills have added abuse deterrent coding so that they cannot be crushed, snorted, or injected. While this has reduced the addictive potential of prescribed morphine, it has not eliminated its potential and it has not impacted illicitly manufactured morphine", states the study. Once the common pleasurable effects of morphine like euphoria, pain relief, induced sleepiness or unusual drowsiness, reduced anxiety, false or unusual sense of well being and a relaxed or calm feeling have been discovered by a patient who has a valid prescription, they have a high potential of misusing this medication. Morphine addiction is similar to heroin addiction (an illegal and highly addictive form of opioid with no sanctioned medical use), and is a very difficult addiction to overcome. Sudden withdrawal from morphine can be extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant and therefore, a medically managed detoxification is the best way to rid the body of the substance.
How does one detect morphine addiction?
The abuse of the morphine drug has concerning implications on the human body regardless of whether it is taken as pain medication or illegally for drug use. The use of strong opioids can cause any analgesic effect like constipation, dizziness, upset stomach, ringing in your ears, itching or rash on the skin, dry mouth and more. Some of the signs of addiction are :-
- Having cravings and strong urges to take morphine
- Neglecting responsibilities at work and/or home
- Becoming isolated and withdrawn from their family and friends
- Putting themselves and others in risky or even dangerous situations to obtain or take morphine
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to cut down on or stop taking morphine
Some of the opioid withdrawal signs seen in a person wearing off the pain reliever drug may be :-
- Fever, Sweating, Chills
- Watery eyes and a running nose
- Restlessness, Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Irritability and agitation
- Confusion and disorientation
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps
As the person consumes more and more amounts of the drug, they develop a resistance to it. Due to this resistance, they may start to consume larger proportions of morphine to derive its effects. This precarious use of the drug can lead to respiratory depression, causing their breathing to become very slow and shallow. Respiratory depression can easily cause respiratory failure where a person starts to lose consciousness, may slip into a coma or stop breathing, as they become too sedated by the drug. Opioid dependence and opioid overdose causes multiple fatalities every year. According to data released by Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, 67,367 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States. Opioids were involved in 46,802 overdose deaths in 2018 (69.5% of all drug overdose deaths). Two out of three (67.0%) opioid-involved overdose deaths involve synthetic opioids.
In a recent study conducted by scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the Beckley Foundation in the UK, it was found that microdosing LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), also known colloquially as 'acid' works as an effective, non addictive method of pain relief. It was found that small, non psychedelic doses of the drug increased the level of pain control among subjects by up to 20 percent, a significant effect compared to an opioid analgesic such as oxycodone and morphine. It is the very first study to revisit the analgesic effect of LSD for pain relief since policies were set up to prohibit its use as it is one of the most powerful hallucinogen there is. Researchers believe further studies could lead to the possible use of this substance as a non addictive pain medication in place of opioid analgesia options that can cause malefic consequences like opioid induced hyperalgesia.
Lead researcher of the study, Jan Ramaekers, a professor of Psychopharmacology and Behavioral Toxicology at Maastricht University stated,"This study in healthy volunteers shows that a low dose of LSD produces an analgesic effect in the absence of a psychedelic effect. The magnitude of the analgesic effect appears comparable to analgesic effects of opioids in the same pain model." The research examined twenty four healthy volunteers each receiving a single dose of 5, 10 or 20 micrograms of LSD, or a placebo. Among other measures collected throughout the trial, pain tolerance levels were assessed using a Cold Pressor Test (volunteers are asked to submerge their hands in the cold water for as long as they could manage), a valid and low-risk test for evaluating individual pain thresholds. The factors analysed during the Cold Pressor Test include pain tolerance (the duration for which participants can hold their hand in the tank filled with 3°C-cold water) and subjective ratings of pain felt, unpleasant behaviour and stress. The study consistently indicated that a 20 microgram dose of LSD significantly reduced the pain perception as compared to the placebo, even though lower doses did not have the same effect.
Subsequently, the overall pain tolerance on 20 micrograms dose increased by 20%, indicated by the volunteers who were able to keep their hand immersed in the cold water for substantially longer with a 20 microgram dose of LSD as compared to those on a placebo. Subjects also reported a decrease in the subjective experience of painfulness and unpleasantness. The nonopioid analgesics effects observed were equally strong at 1.5 and 5 hours after LSD administration, indicating that a dose as small as 20 micrograms of LSD may have a longer lasting 'halo effect' on pain management.
Amanda Feilding, Founder and Director of the Beckley Foundation and co-director of the Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme commented on the study saying,"The present data suggests low doses of LSD could constitute a useful pain management treatment option that is not only effective in patients but is also devoid of the problematic consequences associated with current mainstay drugs, such as opioids. Over 16 million people worldwide are currently suffering from Opioid Use Disorder and many more will become hooked as a result of oversubscription of pain medication. I am encouraged by these results as I have long believed that LSD may not only change the sensations of pain but also our subjective relationship with it. We must continue to explore this with the aim of providing safer, non-addictive alternatives to pain management, and to bring people in pain a step closer to living happier, healthier and fully expressed lives."
For all those curious souls out there that are dying to experience the rhapsodic ‘acid’ high that many junkies tell tales about, this promising study may just have opened doors for your experimental psyche! Granted that you’re willing to withstand a painful injury for it ;)