MS Contin, or morphine sulfate extended-release tablets, are potent opiate prescription drugs usually prescribed for the management of severe pain that occurs nonstop, 24 hours a day. Though effective for many patients who take the drug to manage chronic pain, some people develop an addiction to their medication, and others use the drugs to maintain an ongoing opiate addiction. Sold on the street under names that include MS, dreamer, morf, first line, Mr. blue and others, use of MS Contin can be dangerous whether used under a doctor’s care or recreationally.
For those who are struggling with an addiction to MS Contin, immediate treatment is recommended. As a medical disorder, addiction requires medical treatment to fully address the depth and breadth of associated symptoms.
Opioid Prescription Drugs
Opiate painkillers such as MS Contin are Schedule II drugs under the classification system defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that they are substances that are considered to have a high potential of abuse with high rates of psychological as well as physical dependence, or addiction, among users.
These drugs work by binding to opiate receptors in the brain and reducing the person’s perception of pain. In the process, the pleasure pathway is triggered, an event that causes a “high” in the user and a feeling that may become the focus of addiction. Some users begin to crave this feeling and seek to augment their prescription with the goal of creating a more intense high, putting themselves at risk of developing addiction and/or experiencing a fatal overdose.
Too often, patients are under the impression that because MS Contin and other opiate painkillers are prescribed by a doctor and manufactured in a controlled setting (as compared to illicit drugs that are manufactured and sold on the black market) they are inherently safe for use in any manner and combination. This is, in fact, not the case. Prescription painkillers should only be used as directed by the doctor, and no use without a prescription is safe.
The extended-release version of morphine is helpful for patients who struggle with intense chronic pain, but it is also exceedingly dangerous. Because MS Contin stays in the system for longer than shorter-acting opioid painkillers, it is possible to accidentally take the following doses too soon and/or use other drugs that have a similar sedative effect on the body, causing overdose.
Additionally, opioid drugs cause breathing to be depressed – that is, use can cause shallow, slowed breathing – and too much can cause breathing to stop entirely, especially with high doses, layered doses, when combining MS Contin with other substances, when first starting MS Contin use, after increasing the dose, or after a period of abstinence in which the body has had time to adjust its tolerance.
Signs of Overdose
There are a number of side effects that do not necessarily indicate overdose that can occur with use of MS Contin, including:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme fatigue
In most cases, if these side effects occur at a therapeutic dose, they will pass within a few days of use as the body adjusts to the drug. However, if they continue, worsen, or become severe, it is important to get emergency medical care and contact the prescribing physician immediately.
Signs of overdose indicate a serious medical emergency and require immediate medical intervention. Call 911 if any of the following signs develop in someone taking MS Contin:\
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, or other part of the face
- Feeling faint
- Feeling extremely tired and unable to stay awake
- Losing consciousness
Dependence vs. Addiction
It is worth noting that though it is common to develop a physical dependence on MS Contin with regular use of the drug, addiction is defined differently. Physical dependence is not a medical condition and does not require specialized treatment. Addiction, however, is potentially fatal and requires intensive medical and psychiatric care.
Physical dependence occurs when someone builds a tolerance to the drug, requiring increasingly larger doses in order to maintain the therapeutic effect. Additionally, physical withdrawal symptoms will be experienced when the person is without MS Contin; these can include bone and muscle pain, headaches, diarrhea, irritability, agitation, nausea and vomiting, and more.
When addiction to MS Contin is in evidence, a physical dependence occurs but a psychological dependence is also in effect. This can mean cravings for more MS Contin, a preoccupation with getting and staying high, sacrificing relationships and goals in order to maintain the addiction, and feeling as if it would be impossible to live without the drug.
Signs of MS Contin Abuse
- Crushing pills before snorting or swallowing them
- Dissolving crushed pills in water and injecting the solution
- Using alcohol or other drugs in combination with MS Contin
- Taking MS Contin in combination with alcohol, marijuana, and other substances with the goal of getting high
- Taking MS Contin without a prescription for any reason
- Seeking out multiple prescriptions for MS Contin and related drugs from different doctors
- Attempting to fill a prescription multiple times at different pharmacies
- Reporting loss of pills frequently or going to the ER and presenting with false symptoms in the hopes of getting more MS Contin or other painkillers
MS Contin abuse can be life-altering, causing overdose or accident under the influence, as well as creating problems in interpersonal relationships and at work. When continued, abuse of MS Contin can turn into addiction.
Signs of Addiction
- Changes in personality, such as increasing isolation and giving up hobbies that were once meaningful
- Ongoing problems with relationships due to behaviors under the influence
- Difficulty maintaining responsibilities at work or maintaining employment
- The experience of medical problems, accident, or health issues related to drug use
- An inability to stop using MS Contin or moderate use despite the continuation of negative consequences directly related to its use
When MS Contin addiction is an issue, immediate and comprehensive treatment is recommended.
Treatment for MS Contin Use Disorders
- Medical detox and medical monitoring
- Full medical evaluation and assessment to identify all co-occurring disorders
- Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
- Traditional therapies, such as personal therapy and support groups
- Alternative therapies, such as experiential therapies like artistic therapies and outdoors/sports therapies
- Holistic treatments designed to address the mind, body, and spirit, such as meditation and yoga
- Aftercare that provides long-term support in recovery