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What is Morphine Most Commonly Cut With & Why?

Morphine is a prescription pain medication that is part of the opioid family. It is available as a capsule, tablet, or solution.

Illicit morphine may be cut with other substances, including the dangerous opioid fentanyl. Taking cut morphine may enhance the user’s high, but it can quickly result in overdose.

WHAT IS CUT WITH MORPHINE

Morphine that is purchased through dubious means is sometimes cut with other substances to make the high more intense, to make the drug stronger, or to increase dealer profits.

This is known as “speedballing.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse hosts information about cocaine combined with heroin, but mixing cocaine with morphine is also called speedballing, and has similar effects. This is dangerous because opiates are depressants and cocaine is a stimulant. Their opposing forces can put a strain on the body.
Speedballing is usually done on purpose. Some who mix cocaine and morphine, or who buy morphine tainted with cocaine and vice versa, believe that cocaine’s stimulating effects may counteract the effects of morphine. However, this mixture is known to cause respiratory issues because morphine’s effects last longer than those of cocaine.

More data is needed for morphine specifically, but an April 2018 report from The Gazette shows that counterfeit prescription opioids are becoming a public health concern. People dependent on it and choose to buy prescription pills online may wind up with drugs tainted with fentanyl, which can be between 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Counterfeit pills contaminated with this substance were linked to overdose deaths in 2016.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says carfentanil is anywhere from 100 times stronger than fentanyl to 10,000 times stronger than opioids like morphine. It must be handled with absolute care regardless of how it is used. Though more data is needed, carfentanil can sometimes be found in counterfeit pills, and it could turn up in tainted supplies of morphine.

DANGERS OF TAINTED MORPHINE

People who are prescribed morphine are warned that it has the potential for misuse. A person who takes morphine under the guidance of a physician must consult with them before quitting the drug.

Morphine purchased online or through other improper methods could expose users to drugs they are not ready for. Synthetic opioids like carfentanil and fentanyl are much stronger than morphine, and they are dangerous even in small amounts.

The DEA says that lethal levels for carfentanil are still not known for humans. Taking 2 mg of the opioid has led to fatalities.

Those who take morphine laced with cocaine or other stimulants run the risk of experiencing breathing problems when cocaine’s effects end. A 2013 study published in Life Sciences showed that combining morphine with cocaine did not change the effects of both drugs. The two substances did not counteract the negative effects of either.

The study was also unable to determine the types of damage the liver could experience as a result of trying to expel both drugs from the system at the same time.

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HOW TO KNOW YOUR MORPHINE HAS NOT BEEN COMPROMISED

Prevention is the key to avoiding counterfeit prescription painkillers. Do not buy or obtain morphine from:

  •  Unlicensed online or offline sellers.
  •  Friends or family members.
  •  Drug dealers.

The only surefire way to know if morphine has been cut or laced with other drugs is to test it. Fentanyl test kits are available that can detect the presence of fentanyl in batches of drugs. Since fentanyl leads to deadly overdose, it may be wise to use this kit.

Popular Science reports that there scanners that can check the purity of many prescription painkillers. However, these are usually only available to people who work in the sciences. Cities across the country and the world also offer testing, but these can only test for known substances — not unknown substances that could be lurking in counterfeit morphine.

Tests strips and mobile kits can provide some information, but taking a small sample to a reputable lab is the only way to know exactly what is in counterfeit morphine.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid taking cut morphine is to only procure the medication from a licensed pharmacy with a legitimate prescription.

MORPHINE SPECIFICS

Morphine treats severe pain and is only available through a prescription. Some people may know it through its brand names: MS Contin, Kadian, and Arymo ER.

MedlinePlus states that patients should carefully follow any directions their pharmacist or medic provides to ensure safety while taking morphine.

Morphine can be habit-forming. Patients should talk to their doctor if they want to stop taking it to minimize the possibility of experiencing withdrawal from the medication.

Even people who do not mean to become addicted to morphine may face obstacles.

A crushed pill on a plastic Tupperware lid with a knife next to it

Opioids cause dependency because they change the way the brain perceives pain.

A person with chronic pain may suddenly feel pleasure when taking morphine.

ABUSE OF MORPHINE

Despite labels, warnings, and instructions from doctors, some people take morphine recreationally.

Those who do not have access to morphine through a prescription may end up buying it illegally. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says an estimated 18 million Americans used painkillers for recreational purposes in 2017.

NIDA also estimates that up to 2 million Americans misused prescription painkillers for the first time in 2017. Using painkillers for longer periods or more often than prescribed could lead to tolerance, dependency, and addiction.

It is illegal to buy prescription medications unless you have a prescription, but people still do. Buying morphine from a dealer puts people at heightened risk for side effects, including the possibility of overdose.

This is because illicit sources of morphine may have higher doses of the drug, or they may be contaminated with other substances.

Sources

(August 2018) Laura Hope Laws, 17, Morphine and Cocaine. Get Smart About Drugs. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/consequences/true-stories/laura-hope-laws-17-morphine-and-cocaine

(January 2018) Police warning of dangerous substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl. AJC. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ajc.com/news/national/police-warning-dangerous-new-substances-used-lace-heroin-fentanyl/eRci9pY6ZzSSBubeWIYuUK/

(November 2018) How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System? Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-morphine-stay-in-your-system-80288

(December 2015) Postmortem Toxicology Findings of Acetyl Fentanyl, Fentanyl, and Morphine in Heroin Fatalities in Tampa, Florida. Academic Forensic Pathology. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5640434/

(January 2013) Real Teens Ask About Speedballs. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Retrieved January 2019 from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-about-speedballs

(March 2018) Morphine. MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682133.html

(December 2018) Misuse of Prescription Drug. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse

(July 2013) Acute effects of cocaine, morphine and their combination on bioenergetic function and susceptibility to oxidative stress of rat liver mitochondria. Life Sciences. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23680378

(April 2018) U.S. Attorney, law enforcement highlight dangers of counterfeit pills. The Gazette. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/health/us-attorney-law-enforcement-highlight-dangers-of-counterfeit-pills-20180426

(September 2016) DEA Issues Carfentanil Warning to Police and Public. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2016/09/22/dea-issues-carfentanil-warning-police-and-public

(June 2013) How to Detect Counterfeit Drugs. Popular Science. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-06/bad-medicine#page-3

(January 2011) Counterfeit Drugs. Government of Canada. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/counterfeit.html

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