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Heroin vs. Morphine: What’s the Difference?

A close up of morphine vials, syringes and pills.
Learn about the differences between morphine and heroin today.

Opioid addiction isn’t a new phenomenon in America despite all the news of the recent opioid epidemic. If you wind back the clocks to the Civil War, morphine addiction had become a national crisis. Soldiers on both sides who were wounded or sick were treated with morphine at field hospitals. It wasn’t their intention, but after the war, many became addicted to morphine.

Take control of your life and break free from addiction: call us at (720) 891-4657.

Fast forward to the present day, and we’re faced with a new war. The opioid epidemic continues to grow in the country. And if you or a loved one is struggling with a heroin or opioid addiction, you know how serious the problem is. But history does not have to repeat itself.

Unlike the Civil War era, we have more opportunities today to understand and treat opioid addiction, and a great place to start is learning the difference between heroin and morphine.

Morphine vs. Heroin: Understanding Key Differences and Similarities

Morphine and heroin are opioids made from the poppy plant, but they have key differences. Morphine is a natural opioid usually used medically to relieve severe pain, while heroin is an illegal drug made by chemically modifying morphine. Heroin is stronger than morphine and can be more addictive.

Here, we break down each opioid in detail to compare differences and similarities.

What Is Morphine?

If you don’t work in the medical field or haven’t undergone a medical procedure, you may only know morphine from what you’ve seen on TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Morphine is made from the poppy plant and is used in medicine as a powerful pain reliever. The sap from the unripe poppy plant bulbs is extracted and then manufactured into opium

Morphine is usually only used for situations where a patient has severe pain. Why the hesitation? Well, morphine can have some serious side effects and is highly addictive. Like the Civil War example above, morphine has a history of being abused since it was first invented.

How Does Morphine Work?

When you take morphine, it first has to make its way into your bloodstream. From there, it crosses the blood-brain barrier to attach itself to the opioid receptors in your brain. These receptors make you feel an intense euphoria and work to help your body block out the pain.

As with heroin, morphine can result in respiratory depression since it affects the central nervous system.

As you continue to use morphine, your body becomes accustomed to that euphoric feeling and builds up tolerance. As the effects of morphine wear off, you have to take more and more to get the same effect.

While morphine is a Schedule II drug in the U.S. and has a variety of medical uses, it’s still considered a dangerous drug that can lead to addiction.

What Is Heroin and How Does It Work?

Heroin (diacetylmorphine) is an illegal opioid that is also created from poppy and is sometimes made from morphine. It is a semisynthetic product created by the acetylation of morphine, the natural product of opium.

Like morphine, heroin attaches to your brain’s opioid receptors, flooding your brain with unnatural dopamine levels to help you feel intense pleasure. Heroin can be smoked or injected and floods your reward pathways with dopamine.

This dopamine rush to your brain’s reward pathways encourages you to seek out more heroin after you use it, making it highly addictive.

This sensation is what people describe as a high when they use heroin. But it’s also what creates a heroin addiction over time. Your brain links heroin to that rewarding feeling, which is why it is highly addictive.

Heroin is a Schedule I substance in the U.S., which also bears a high likelihood for addiction but has no currently accepted medical use.

The Difference Between Heroin and Morphine

Now that you know the main differences, let’s answer the most commonly asked questions on the difference between heroin and morphine.

Which Drug is Stronger?

One of the biggest differences between morphine and heroin is their strength. Heroin is three times stronger than morphine, which makes it more dangerous and addictive. Part of the reason heroin is stronger is that the drug is semisynthetic. In other words, other chemicals are added to the poppy to make it stronger.

How Are These Drugs Taken?

Back in the days of the Civil War, morphine was injected into the body. But now, the drug often comes as a pill or suppository. On the other hand, heroin is still most commonly injected into the body. While both drugs contribute to the opioid epidemic, heroin addiction has caused an increase in transmitted diseases.

Which Drug Acts Faster?

Another key difference between morphine and heroin is how fast they take effect. Heroin and morphine both have to pass through the blood-brain barrier. It might not be surprising that heroin does it much faster than morphine.

Why does this matter? Because with drugs that are this powerful, acting faster means a higher propensity for addiction. Plus, getting into the brain quicker increases your risk of overdose.

The Cost Breakdown

Besides being stronger and faster acting than morphine, heroin is cheaper and easier to get your hands on. This is because morphine is closely regulated since it’s legal and used across the medical industry.

Heroin, on the other hand, isn’t regulated like morphine is. This means it can be bought easily on the street and mixed with dangerous substances like fentanyl.

Break Free From Heroin Addiction at The Raleigh House

Are morphine and heroin the same? No. But they’re both addictive and could lead to seeking treatment. At The Raleigh House, we provide an all-inclusive experience for you or your loved one. Our heroin addiction treatment allows you to heal and discover your true self.

It all starts with our scenic drug rehab facility in Denver. The open skies and breathtaking landscapes inspire the hope that change is possible. From detox and medication-assisted therapy to inpatient and outpatient addiction treatments and sober living options, we offer a full continuum of care for your recovery.

While it might feel like it at times, you’re not alone. We’re ready to hear your story and design a personalized treatment program with evidence-based practices.

Are You Ready to Heal From Heroin Addiction?

You have the potential to break free from heroin addiction and reach lasting recovery. If you’re ready to take an important step towards sobriety, don’t wait for help.

Contact our team and find hope for recovery today.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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