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Morphine and heroin are among the most abused drugs. The two substances are addictive and cause serious health complications to users. Owing to the adverse effects of using the addictive materials, people often make efforts to reduce their consumption. The current paper traces the history of the drugs before highlighting their physical and psychological effects.

Historical Background

In the middle of the 1800s, opium had become a relatively popular drug. This explains why opium and related substances are spread across many regions. The drug was brought to the United States by the Chinese immigrants who worked at the railroads. Famous persons such as Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickock frequented places where the supply of the drug was high. It is noted that at that time, alcoholism was a big problem that faced the society. The outcome of the widespread drug abuse was death and violence. By the late 1800s, opium use was promoted in an effort to cure the alcohol concern.

Morphine was produced from opium to serve as a painkiller by 1810. The substance was seen as a wonder drug given its swift effect in eliminating severe pain arising from intense and traumatic medical procedures. According to Kimber, Dolan and Wodak, the drug left victims in a numb euphoric state. The drug was got its name after Morpheus (the Greek god of dreams) because of its dream effect. By the turn of the 1850, morphine became popular in the US in the medical fraternity. The state of affairs was attributed to the miraculous role of the substance in eliminating pain. However, the negative effects were a notable concern although they were not detected until the end of the Civil War.

During the war times, a big number of individuals used morphine as part of the treatment for their war-related injuries. Thus, it was not surprising that thousands of Confederate and Northern soldiers became addicted to this drug. After a few years of entry to the United States, morphine had become a major plague owing to its adverse addictive effects. Despite the absence of official statistics on the levels of addiction, the concern had grown to an alarming rate. The medical profession could not figure how to handle the new problem.


In 1874, physicians’ efforts to mitigate the addiction problem led them to discovering a new drug – heroin. After its invention, heroin was exported from Germany to the US. Owing to the problem linked to morphine, there was a ready market in the US (both doctors and morphine addicts). However, both parties did not know that the new substance was also addictive. Given the insufficient knowledge, heroin addiction replaced morphine addiction.

The production companies dubbed the new substances as the cure for all ailments (ranging from mental to physical). Thus, victims of cancer, depression, alcohol withdrawal, sluggishness, coughs, tuberculosis, colds, and even old age were encouraged to try the drug. It had been sold freely for a long time until the authorities realized the grave dangers posed by its consumption. For example, in the US, it was not until 1920, that the Congress passed a law to regulate the use and distribution of the drug. However, by the time the authorities responded, a market for the commodity had already been created.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Morphine

As an opioid, morphine is primarily used to control pain. The substance influences receptors in the spinal cord and brain to lower the sensations of pain. Additionally, the drug reduces the emotional reaction to pain. If used for a long period, individuals become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. Whenever stopped suddenly, brutal withdrawal symptoms are likely to arise. The fact that levels of tolerance develop quickly imply that one needs more drug to attain the desired outcome. Given that the drug is easy to access as it is cheap, it is among the most abused substances. Research has found that in the category of drugs that treat severe pain, morphine is one of the most abused. Among opiates, morphine overdoes is also among the highest.

Wilhelm Sertürner, a German pharmacist, initially isolated the morphine drug from opium in 1805. Sertürner named it the Principium Somniferum although it later took the label morphium. The latter name is related to the Greek god of dreaming, Morpheus. Unlike in the past, currently, morphine is separated from opium in large volumes. A large quantity of opium is processed into codeine through methylation. In illicit markets, opium is converted into morphine before being synthesized to heroin.

Based on studies, genetics is a contributory factor. Like many opioids, morphine has a high heritability rate. Individuals with first-degree relatives who suffered morphine-use disorders face a bigger probability to develop the disorder compared to others without the same history. Another factor is the environment. In practice, people encounter stress at given times. If uncontrolled, victims become tense leading to joint and muscle pain. Experiencing anxiety about what the future holds is also possible when operating within stressful circumstances. Morphine is useful in these situations because it produces euphoria and relieves pain. Additionally, the drug reduces anxiety and fear. The downside is that when a person has used the substance, his/ her chances of abusing the drug increase because of its effects on mood, pain, and anxiety.

One of the most lethal effects of the substance is on the central nervous system. Parat observed that the influence of the drug are excitatory or depressant. Sometimes, excitatory symptoms are ignored because they are treated as side effects of morphine. Respiratory depression is among the severe consequences of the drug use. Patients who are under high doses of the drug may suffer renal dysfunction. Hyperalgesia is also a possible problem. Morphine can also cause the constriction of the spasm of the Oddi sphincter and bile duct leading to the increased intrabiliary pressure. This can also worsen biliary colic.

The long-term effects of morphine may include rashes, difficul urinating, fainting, seizures, a blue tinge of the skin, and difficul breathing. If the mentioned side effects happen, one should seek medical help; otherwise, this may become life-threatening if not addressed properly. Both short-term and long-term effects occur when one uses the substance. In the short run, morphine use reduces body pain, for example, in cases of broken bones and arthritis. Given that morphine is habit-forming, it should be taken only on a doctor’s prescriptions. Drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, dry mouth, lightheadedness, and weakness are some of the adverse effects of using the drug. Long-term effects might include difficulty in urinating, rashes, fainting, seizures, and breathing difficulty.

Withdrawal from the use of morphine is associated with a number of complications. However, the extent of the effects depend on the level of dosage that victims have been consuming. Too much morphine consumption distorts the functioning of the nervous system. Death is also an outcome in extreme circumstances. Withdrawal symptoms include irrationality, agitation, anxiety, and depression. Withdrawal is possible despite the adverse effects.

Apart from affecting the central nervous system, the narcotic significantly impairs an individual’s physical and mental performance. The drug lowers hunger feeling, inhibits cough reflexes, initiates constipation, and usually lowers sex drive. Among women, the substance interferes with the menstrual cycle.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Heroin

From the background information, it is apparent that heroin is a drug that is processed from opium which is a naturally occurring material. The substance is extracted from seeds of the opium poppy plant. The product is a black sticky substance or brown powder.

Heroin enters the human body through injection, inhalation, sniffing, or smoking. These forms of administration lead the substance to the brain rapidly. This poses health risks such as addiction. The continuous use of the drug exposes the user to chronic relapse diseases resulting from changes in the functioning of the brain.

Once the substance enters the brain, it reverts to morphine bounded in molecules of the cells called opioid receptors. The receptors are found across various parts of the body including brain. The most affected organs are those involved in perceiving rewards and pain. Opioid receptors in the brain stem control automatic responses that are connected to life functions such as arousal, respiration, and blood pressure.

Given the sensitivity of the parts affected by heroin use, Forbes and Henley noted that overdose of the drug causes serious ramifications for users. In practice, consuming a lot of heroin suppresses breathing. Such problems limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain leading to the hypoxia condition. The state has both short-term and long-term consequences. Additionally, heroin overdose has both neurological and psychological effects such as permanent brain damage.

Forbes and Henley also conceded that after the injection of heroin, consumers exhibit feelings of euphoria accompanied by a warm skin flushing, dry mouth, clouded mental functioning, and heavy extremities. From the initial euphoria, users become drowsy.
The effect of tolerance is the same to that of consuming morphine because the substances are similar. In this regard, reference is made to the idea that once one starts consuming the drug, he/she would need more substance as time progresses. When dependence sets in, a user must consume the drug to overcome withdrawal symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that the use of heroin leads to the deterioration of the white matter of the brain. Ultimately, the brain’s decision-making ability in terms of the capacity to control behavior and respond is greatly undermined.

The abuse of heroin has been linked to a number of health concerns. Such include spontaneous abortion, fatal overdose, and infectious diseases (HIV and hepatitis). Chronic users are likely to have collapsed veins. The same predisposes people to infections such as those of the heart valves and lining, abscesses, gastrointestinal cramping and constipation, as well as kidney or liver disease. Other notable impediments include pulmonary complications such as pneumonia, poor health, and difficulties in breathing. Besides the above effects, the use of street heroin predisposes individuals to additives and contaminants that present a danger to blood vessels leading to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Thus, the clogging of blood vessels are some of the effects of consuming heroin. The net effect is a permanent damage to the important body organs.

When the consumption of the drug becomes chronic, physical dependence emerges. In such a state, the organism adapts to the drug’s presence in the body. When the user lowers the volumes used or ceases to consume the drug, he/she is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. The signs are manifested few hours after the failure to continue the routine. The symptoms include bone and muscle pain, restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, insomnia, and cold flashes. Severe craving for the substance is also an outcome of dependence.

Effects on Family and Society

The society and family incurs physical costs of abusing the above-mentioned drugs. Apart from the threat of spontaneous abortion, the abuse of heroin during the period of pregnancy is linked to giving birth to low-weight children. However, the effect is not exclusive given that inadequate prenatal care and poor nutrition are contributing factors to the possibility of underweight births. Children of addicted mothers also stand a big chance of experiencing developmental problems later in life. In the worst scenarios, when the mother is extremely addicted, chances remain that the child would also be born dependent on the substance. Possibly, the child might experience the neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a withdrawal symptom among infants who require hospitalization. In this case, it is evident that heroin poses a danger not only to the consumer, but also to unborn children in instances where pregnant women are involved. Regardless of one’s perspective, such a scenario is devastating given the low capacity of infants to withstand adverse health complications.

Protracted drug abuse contributes to a high incidence of traffic accidents. A big proportion of individuals who run machines under the influence of such drugs harm themselves or those around them. From the outcomes of operating machinery, the society suffers losses due to the need for medical care as a result of the sustained injuries.

The effect of incarceration affects the family and society as well. Given that heroin use is illegal in many countries, spending time in jails is also a possibility. After being arrested, addicts are likely to be rehabilitated before being jailed for consuming illegal substances. Similarly, because of impaired judgment, engaging in crime is likely to expose the drug users to the problems with the law. Hence, it is observed that incarceration, spending time in mental health facilities, and deaths are the ultimate outcomes of abusing the discussed drugs.

Job loss associated with drug abuse affects both family and society. The drugs undermine the judgment of users that can result in job loss as those involved lack focus and begin valuing useless things in life. Consequently, users might lose jobs because of their skewed way of thinking. When money problems emerge, the possibility of engaging in crime increases significantly because users cannot live without the drugs. Thus, they consider any method to get money to buy the substances. It is observed that the effects transcend from physical and psychological to social issues and many others.


Many of the consumers of the addictive drugs rarely feel the adverse effects. The point at which they note that it is a problem is when they do not have access to the substance. The case is explained by the euphoric feeling that is associated with the use of the drugs. After withdrawal, the first symptom is a flu-like feeling, which brings misery to the user. To overcome the problem, one requires the administration of the substance. From the paper, it is acknowledged that the use of heroin and morphine have many adverse effects. For instance, addicts view life differently as they turn their priorities upside down. In a swift move, the users of the drugs divide the world into two groups – co-abusers and the rest. Such a shift alters the way they relate with people. Also, the effect of the drugs on the functioning of the brain is highly pronounced.

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