How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?

Dangerous Interactions Are Possible

Morphine detection

 Verywell / Gary Ferster  

Morphine is in a class of medications known as opiate (narcotic) analgesics. It works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It is prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain, especially for around-the-clock relief of pain that cannot be controlled by other pain medications.

Brand names for morphine include Avinza, Kadian, Morphabond, MS Contin, Oramorph SR, and Roxanol-T.

Most workplaces rely on SAMHSA's 5-panel urine test which can detect the presence of morphine used within the last four days.

Knowing how long the effects of morphine last, can help prevent accidental overdose or dangerous interactions with other medications or alcohol.

How Long Does Morphine Stay In Your System?

Blood: Up to 3 days

Urine: Up to 4 days

Saliva: Up to 3 days

Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

Morphine is prescribed in several different forms, including a liquid solution and extended-release tablets and capsules. The timing of dosage is important for it to reach therapeutic levels but not cause it to reach a level that could cause an overdose.

Different formulations of morphine have different onset times and durations:

  • Extended-release morphine delivers the dosage in stages, the effects lasting for 12-24 hours
  • Instant-release morphine's effects begin within 15 to 60 minutes and last 4 to 6 hours

Other effects of morphine besides pain suppression include:

  • Euphoria,
  • Depressing breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Reducing gastrointestinal activity
  • Drowsiness
  • Dysphoria
  • Altered mental status.

The body becomes tolerant when morphine is used over time and dosage may need to be adjusted to provide the desired effects. Morphine also leads to dependence and the body can have withdrawal symptoms if it is stopped. For this reason, it is important to follow the schedule provided by your doctor when it is decided to stop morphine.

How Long Does Morphine Last?

Morphine has a short half-life, with half of it metabolized in 1.5 to 7 hours. Most of a single dose of morphine has been eliminated in the urine within 72 hours.

Morphine is broken down in the body by glucurodination and sulfation. According to a 2014 study, Morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G) are the main metabolites of morphine that may also show up on a drug test.

Brand name products such as MS CONTIN can also contain lactose, polysorbate, black iron oxide, and colored dyes.

If the drug test yields a positive test result, a physician at a medical review office will review the results and you will be contacted to determine if there is a good reason. If the results are negative, employers are told by the medical reviewer within 24 hours. Types of tests that can be used include blood, urine, hair, and saliva.

There are not really good breath tests for detecting morphine. Hair and blood tests are use less often. Saliva-based drug testing is not approved by the FDA or SAMHSA for Federal Mandated Drug Testing and so is not likely to be used.

Urine

Urinalysis is the most commonly used method for testing for morphine and typically involves the enzyme-multiplied immune test. If morphine or any of the tested metabolites are present in the urine specimen in sufficient amounts, a visible colored line will show up in the test line region of the drug strip.

The urine sample you provide will go through a secure chain of custody to end up at a testing laboratory to be screened, often with the SAMHSA 5 panel. The specimen will be tested for adulterants and the presence of the drug. Presence of the drug will be confirmed by a second test using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

Morphine is metabolized at different rates and can vary in how long it takes to show up in urine based on factors such as:

  • Dosage
  • Presence of other drugs in the body
  • Age
  • Medical conditions affecting drug elimination
  • Body weight

According to a 2009 review, there is no difference in metabolism amongst sexes. People with hepatic or renal impairments may eliminate morphine more slowly, as may older patients. If the pathways involved in opioid metabolism are busy breaking down other substances, it will also take longer for the drug to leave the body.

Ultimately, exercising, drinking a lot of water, and other myths people might have about how to flush your system before a drug test are likely not going to work.

How to Get Morphine Out of Your System

Morphine is broken down by the body and excreted in the urine, with most of a single dose gone after 72 hours. However, with longer use or heavier doses, the time it takes to clear out of the body can be longer.

The only way to avoid having morphine show up on a drug test is to not take morphine within the window of time that the drug can be detected. Although, in the case of hair tests, morphine taken right before the test is less likely to show up because it takes time for hair to grow.

If you have been prescribed morphine, be aware that it can be detected on a urine drug screen such as given for employment. Disclose your prescription to the testing lab so they can interpret your test accurately. Understand that using doses of morphine close together can increase the risk of overdose.

Symptoms of Overdose

A morphine overdose can happen when it interacts with other medications, when doses are given too close together, or too much morphine is given. Don't crush or cut an extended-release tablet or capsule as that may deliver too much morphine at one time.

Some symptoms of morphine overdose include:

Bystander training to reverse an opiate overdose with naloxone is available in your area. By administering naloxone, sometimes referred to by the brand name Narcan, someone experiencing a morphine overdose may regain consciousness and the ability to breath, and will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Taking additional opiates at this point will cause a second overdose and is not recommended. Naloxone available over the counter many places and from the local health department.

In case of a morphine overdose, call 9-1-1 or the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. First-responders should be able to revive the victim with Narcan but only if they are notified soon enough.

Interactions That Increase the Risk of Morphine Overdose

Morphine depresses the respiratory system and slows the heart rate. As a 2018 review explains, when morphine is combined with these drugs, there is an increased risk of low blood pressure, sedation, and potentially fatal respiratory depression:

  • Benzodiazepines and other CNS depressants
  • Anesthetics
  • Barbiturates
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Other opioids
  • Alcohol
  • Antihistamines
  • Baclofen
  • Cimetidine
  • P-glicoprotein inhibitors such as quinidine

A previous history of breathing problems, including asthma and COPD, are reasons to be even more cautious with the use of morphine.

Getting Help

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include muscle aches, insomnia, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting, and can begin as early as 6 hours after the last dose. Some people compare the symptoms to the those of the flu. Symptom severity varies according to frequency of use, tolerance, and overall health and metabolism.

The acute physical effects of morphine withdrawal last for three to five days, but the psychological effects may persist for several weeks. Persisting patterns of binge and withdrawal can exacerbate problematic substance use. If you think you may be at risk for a substance use disorder, contact your doctor. There are many treatments available, including medication-assisted methods such as methadone treatment or buprenorphine, which can help with withdrawal. A 2017 review details the efficacy of MAT in the treatment of opioid use disorder.

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, discuss this with your doctor as there is a risk of withdrawal in newborns of mothers who have prolonged use of morphine. Don't breastfeed while you are taking morphine. According to the NIH, morphine will pass through your milk to your child and you child can also become dependent.

If You Think You Are At Risk of Substance Use Disorder

Treatment providers can be found using the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

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Article Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. World Health Organization; 2009.

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