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How Many People Die From Morphine?

In 2014, there were an estimated 4,022 morphine-related deaths. Approximately 1,090 of these cases involved mixing morphine with either heroin or oxycodone.

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is potent pain reliever used legally in the clinical setting, most notably in people with terminal cancer.

Morphine is an opioid agonist. This means it blocks pain signals to the brain. It also activates the pleasure center of the brain.

It is highly effective in managing severe pain, but it has a high potential for abuse. Specific brain patterns may develop, causing you to compulsively seek it out.

A number of studies have provided an improved understanding of morphine addiction. 1,2,3

Can Morphine Cause Death?

Excessive doses of morphine or combining it with other drugs can have fatal consequences. 3

Alcohol increases effects of morphine such as sedation, drowsiness and decreased motor skills.

Concurrent use with other depressant drugs increases the risk of respiratory depression, low blood pressure, profound sedation or coma. Morphine overdose can result in any of the following symptoms: 4

  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Convulsions
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Severe respiratory depression
  • Cessation of breathing
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma
  • Death

What Is a Lethal Dose of Morphine?

Morphine overdose is most commonly associated with abuse (e.g. crushing pills and injecting the drug). People with a high tolerance who increase doses may suffer accidental overdoses. Death from morphine often results from pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs).8

Which Celebrities Died of Morphine Overdoses?

Throughout history, several well-known people have died from morphine overdoses, some of whom had a terminal illness. 7

Lenny Bruce: The comedian died of acute morphine poisoning caused by accidental overdose. He was 40 years old and had been arrested several times in the early 1960s for drug possession.

Tim Buckley: One of the many singers who died from substance abuse in the 1970s. Buckley was 28 when he died. The official cause of death was heroin/morphine and ethanol intoxication. This was due to inhalation and ingestion of overdose.

Chris Farley: The actor, comedian and Saturday Night Live alum died at age 33. An autopsy revealed Farley had died of an overdose of cocaine and morphine. Advanced atherosclerosis was cited as a significant contributing factor.

Sigmund Freud: The father of psychiatry died of physician-assisted morphine overdose at age 83. He was suffering from extremely painful, inoperable cancer of the jaw.

Brad Renfro: The actor and musician died at the age of 25 from accidental acute heroin/morphine intoxication.

King George V: King George was in severe pain from complications related to an unresolved case of septicemia. His physician rushed the king’s death by giving him with two lethal injections. He received 750 mg morphine followed by a gram of cocaine shortly afterward and succumbed at age 70.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6450a3.htm Published 2016. Accessed March 16, 2019

Posted on June 1, 2017 and modified on April 29, 2019

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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