What are Morphine and Heroin?
Morphine and Heroin are part of the Opioid class of drugs. Morphine is a naturally occurring opiate derived from the resin of the Opium Poppy. Heroin is a chemically processed derivative of Morphine and is classified as semi-synthetic.
Opioids are depressant drugs; this does not imply they make a user depressed, but rather they act on the central nervous system by slowing its activity and consequently slowing messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Opioids also impact receptors in the brain by blocking pain and inducing euphoric feelings. (1)
As opposed to some other countries, use of Heroin for any purpose in Australia is illegal. Morphine, when used legally, is a prescribed drug used to treat severe pain such as that endured after surgery, childbirth, or cancer treatment. Morphine is also often used illegally, or recreationally. (2)
Even short-term use of these drugs can quickly lead to dependence. Long term usage can lead to severe heart and lung issues, changes in brain function that may or may not be reversible, and an increased risk of bacterial infections, blood poisoning, and skin infections. (3)
Common street names include:
Morphine: God’s Drug, M, Miss Emma, Monkey, Morpho, White Stuff (4)
Heroin: Black, Black Tar, Black Pearl, Black Stuff, Black Eagle, Boy, Brown, Brown Crystal, Brown Rhine, Brown Sugar, Brown Tape, China White, Dope, Dope, Dragon, The Dragon, H, He, Horse, Junk, Mexican Brown, Mexican Mud, Mexican Horse, Mud, Number 3, Number 4, Number 8, Sack, Scat, Skag, Skunk, Smack, Snow, Snowball, Tar, White, White Nurse, White Lady, White Horse, White Girl, White Boy, White Stuff (4)
Regular users of Heroin report that the availability, purity, and pricing of heroin in Australia has remained stable for several decades. However, the reality is that supply has been on a steady increase (Peacock et al. 2019b). Whilst the number of intercepted seizures at our borders has decreased (250 in 2009/10 vs. 184 in 2018/19), the weight of the drugs intercepted has increased by 141% (117.5 kgs in 2009/10 vs. 283.4 kilograms in 2018/19). (5)
Morphine whilst a legally prescriptible substance, is classified as a drug of dependence. As such, the supply of morphine to those that legitimately require it for treatment is stringently controlled. It is an offence for a medical professional to prescribe or supply morphine for a patient’s regular usage for a period longer than 2 months. There are exemptions to this where the patient meets certain criteria, such as old age, terminal illness, or where the user is/or has recently been an inpatient. However, even with these regulations in place, some of these prescriptions make their way onto the illicit drug market. (6)
In 2020, the main approach for arranging the purchase of any illicit or non-prescribed drugs by participants of the Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) in the previous 12 months was via social networking applications (such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Grindr, Tinder) (75%), followed by face-to-face (67%). (7)
How Morphine and Heroin are used and how to identify them
Morphine can be taken orally as a tablet or liquid or injected. In some cases, morphine can be smoked. As the drug is both legally and illegally attainable, how it presents is also variable: (8)
- Tablets are the most common delivery method for Morphine. These come in several sizes and colours, with ID numbers stamped on the external surface.
- It may be packaged in pill bottles or blister strips if sourced legally, and small plastic sachets, balloons, or household aluminium foil if sourced illegally. Powdered or ground Morphine pills may also be packaged similarly.
- Where the drug is being administered intravenously, it is found as a clear liquid packaged in a medical-type bottle. (9)
Heroin is usually injected, smoked, ingested orally, snorted, or “chased” (heating and inhaling the fumes).
- Heroin usually comes in powder form which can be different colours based upon the level of refinement (which, and in what quantity of the other chemicals it has been “cut” with).
- It is generally packaged in small plastic sachets, balloons, or household aluminium foil.
What are the symptoms of somebody who is under the influence?
The following symptoms are known behaviours associated with systematic drug use. They should not be used as definitive confirmation that a person is drug affected or struggling with substance abuse.
Users may exhibit the following behaviours whilst under the influence of Opioids:
- Extreme feelings of comfortability and relaxedness. The term used for this physical and mental state is “the rush”.
- An inability to feel pain, or reduced response to such stimuli.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- A slow heartbeat and breathing.
- Dry mouth and teeth grinding
- Reduced alertness
- Low blood pressure (10)
The following symptoms are associated with long term use of Opioids:
- Increasing prevalence and severity of withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
- Increased risk of overdose
- Loss of appetite
- Reproductive issues in both sexes
- Various Heart and Lung issues due to the increased risk of contracting infections and blood borne viruses.
- Collapsed Veins
- Skin abscesses (10)
What are the symptoms of somebody who is coming down?
Users may exhibit the following behaviours for up to 24 hours whilst coming down from a drug induced high:
- Runny nose and weeping eyes
- Frequent sneezing
- Tiredness and yawning
- Hot and cold flushes accompanied by bouts of profuse sweating and/or goosebumps.
- Agitation and irritability
- Loss of appetite (2)
Whilst under the influence of Opioids, many of the symptoms associated with the drugs consumption are likely to cause hazardous behaviours in the user. These actions may not only affect the user personally, but also; the safety of co-workers, a greater risk of damage to plant and equipment, and in the event of an accident, ongoing commercial impacts such as increased insurance premiums, costs associated with injury management, and the potential for costly legal action.
Quick facts about usage
- Heroin and Morphine are part of the Opioid family of drugs. “Opioid drugs include opium, morphine and codeine. There are other human-made opioid drugs, such as oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone. These drugs can all be used legally, when prescribed for medical reasons, but heroin is not legal in Australia”. (10)
- Opioids are depressant drugs; this does not imply they make a user depressed, but rather they act on the central nervous system by slowing its activity and consequently slowing messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Opioids also impact receptors in the brain by blocking pain and inducing euphoric feelings. (1)
- Over the period 2007-2017, there was a 25% increase in hospitalisations due to Opioid poisoning. Of these hospitalisations, the principal drug in use was more likely to be a pharmaceutical-type Opioid, rather than Heroin. (5)
- “Opioid use was responsible for 1.0% of the total burden of disease and injuries in Australia in 2015 and 37% of the total burden due to illicit drug use” (5)
- For the last two decades, Opioids have been the predominant drug present in drug related deaths in Australia. Opioid-induced death was more likely to occur in regional areas, whereas heroin-induced death was more likely to occur in metropolitan locations.
- Whilst deaths attributable to heroin fell markedly in the early 2000’s, they have been steadily increasing again since then to just below the peaks experienced in the late 1990’s. This upward trend is caused by the increase in supply, incremental increases in purity, and the aging demographic of long-term users who now suffer from physical and mental problems associated with chronic use of the drug. (5)
What does a Morphine or Heroin Overdose look like?
Overdoses caused by taking too much of a drug are common due to the strength of most Opioids, be they pharmaceutically attained or illegally so. Some signs of an Opioid-type drug overdose are:
- Extremely low breathing and heart rate
- Low body temperature
- Extreme fatigue or an insatiable need to sleep.
- Muscular spasms or twitching
- Gurgling sounds emanating from the throat (choking on un-expelled vomit or saliva)
- Low oxygen (visibly blue tinge to extremities)
- Dilated pupils (10)
A Drug Detection Window is the period of time after a drugs ingestion by a user during which a drug or its metabolites remain present in the user’s system and can be detected through various drug testing protocols.
The “period of time” can vary depending on several factors including but not limited to:
- Amount and frequency of use
- Metabolic Rate
- Body Mass
- Overall Health
- Drug Tolerance Level
- Urine Ph Level
- Type of specimen, testing method, and Cut-off Level(11)
|Amphetamine||1-3 days||1-4 days||12 hours||2 days|
|Methamphetamine||1-3 days||1-4 days||1 day||2 days|
|MDMA||1-3 days||1-4 days||1 day||1 day|
|THC||1-30 days||1-4 days||12-24 hours||2-3 days|
|Cocaine||1-3 days||1-4 days||1 day||2 days|
|Heroin||1-3 days||1-4 days||1 day||2 days|
What to do in the event of an overdose.
If someone looks like they are in trouble and there is a suspicion that they may have been using drugs, it’s very important that they get medical help quickly. A quick response can save their life.
- Call an ambulance by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers are not required to involve the police unless they feel in danger.
- Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives. Find out if anyone at the scene knows CPR in case the person stops breathing.
- Ensure the person has enough air by keeping crowds back and opening windows or taking them outside. Loosen tight clothing.
- If the person is unconscious or wants to lie down, put them in the recovery position. This involves gently rolling them onto their side and slightly tilting their head back. This stops them choking if they vomit and allows them to breath easily.
- Provide ambulance officers with as much information as you can, such as how much of the drug was used, how long ago and any pre-existing medical conditions. If they have taken a drug that came in a packet, give the packet to the ambulance officers.
- If you can’t get a response from someone, don’t assume they’re asleep. Not all overdoses happen quickly and sometimes it can take hours for someone to die. Doing something early could save a life.
- Update your Incident and/or Injury Register with all required details(12)
Help with developing a Workplace Alcohol and Drug Policy
Alcohol and drugs—including medicines prescribed by a doctor or available from a pharmacy—can affect a person’s ability to work safely. Whilst all workers have a personal responsibility to ensure their own health and safety is not compromised in the workplace, or may unduly affect their co-workers, there is also an onus on employers to reduce the risk associated with drug and alcohol impairment where an employee fails in their own duty of care. Among other measures, Employers should develop a Workplace Alcohol and Drug Policy to set forth the principles under which a safe and drug-free working environment is governed. Following are the state-based organisations who can help employers with developing a Workplace Alcohol and Drug Policy.
Australian Capital Territory – https://www.worksafe.act.gov.au/health-and-safety-portal/safety-by-industry/building-and-construction/alcohol-and-drugs
Northern Territory – https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/home
Western Australia – https://www.workcover.wa.gov.au/
- Government of South Australia. Opioids. SA Health. [Online] Government of South Australia, 2021. [Cited: March 11, 2021.] https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/clinical+resources/clinical+programs+and+practice+guidelines/medicines+and+drugs/opioids/opioids.
- State Library of NSW. Heroin. Drug Info. [Online] State Library of NSW, December 24, 2020. [Cited: March 11, 2021.] https://druginfo.sl.nsw.gov.au/drugs/z-drugs/heroin#:~:text=Heroin%20was%20banned%20from%20legal,activities%20associated%20with%20heroin%20use..
- CAMH. Heroin. CAMH. [Online] CAMH. [Cited: March 11, 2021.] https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/heroin.
- Addiction Center. Drug Street Names. Addiction Center. [Online] March 03, 2021. https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/drug-street-names/.
- AIHW. Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drugs in Australia. Canberra : AIHW, 2020.
- SA Health. Prescribing Drugs of Dependance. SA Health. [Online] Government of South Australia. [Cited: March 15, 2021.] https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/clinical+resources/clinical+programs+and+practice+guidelines/medicines+and+drugs/prescribing+medicines+regulations+and+requirements/prescribing+drugs+of+dependence/prescribin.
- ACIC 2020A. Illicit Drug Data Report 2018-19. Canberra : ACIC, 2019.
- Addiction Centre. Morphine Addiction and Abuse. Addiction Centre. [Online] Addiction Centre. [Cited: March 16, 2021.] https://www.addictioncenter.com/opiates/morphine/.
- Christiansen, Thomas. Morphine. The Recovery Village. [Online] The Recovery Village, August 15, 2020. [Cited: March 16, 2021.] https://www.floridarehab.com/drugs/morphine/#:~:text=The%20appearance%20of%20morphine%20depends,%2C%20brown%2C%20orange%20or%20grey..
- Your Room. Heroin. Your Room. [Online] NSW State Government. [Cited: March 18, 2021.] https://yourroom.health.nsw.gov.au/a-z-of-drugs/Pages/heroin.aspx.
- Urine Drug Screening: Practical Gude for Clinicians. Karen E. Moeller, Pharmd, BCPP, Kelly C. Lee. Pharmd, BCPP and Julie C. Kissack. Pharmd, BCPP. 1, s.l. : Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2008, Vol. 83. P66-76.
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation. Overdose. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. [Online] February 16, 2017. https://adf.org.au/insights/overdose/.
- —. Amphetamine Fact Sheet. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. [Online] January 11, 2021. [Cited: January 19, 2021.] https://cdn.adf.org.au/media/documents/Amphetamine-Fact-Sheet-FINAL.pdf.
- Better Health . Amphetamines. Better Health . [Online] Victoria State Government, November 2018. [Cited: January 19, 2021.] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/amphetamines.
- ABS. 1248.0 – Australian Standard Classification of Drugs of Concern, 2011 . Australian Bureau of Staistics. [Online] July 6, 2011. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1248.0.
- AIHW. Australian burden of disease study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Canberra : Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019.
- American Addiction Centers. Amphetamine Overdose. American Addiction Centers. [Online] American Addiction Centers, August 19, 2020. [Cited: January 19, 2021.] https://www.recovery.org/amphetamine/overdose/.
- Peacock, A. Australian Drug Trends 2019: Key findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Interviews. Sydney : National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW, 2019.
- —. Australian Drug Trends 2020: Key Findings from the National Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) Interviews. Sydney : National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney., 2020.
- Addiction Centre. Drug Street Names. Addiction Centre. [Online] Addiction Centre, December 2, 2020. https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/drug-street-names/.
The information on this website is presented by APAC Diagnostic and is intended as an educational and research tool to aid businesses in creating safe and drug free workplaces.
Whilst all due care has been undertaken to ensure the accuracy and currency of the material contained on this website, the information is made available on the understanding that APAC Diagnostic is not providing professional or medical advice on any particular matter.
APAC Diagnostic does not accept any legal liability or responsibility for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.
About APAC Diagnostic
APAC Diagnostic sponsors the No Drugs at Work campaign and also offers fully customisable drug testing solutions for your workplace. These include, but are not limited to: Onsite testing, alcohol testing, and drug testing. Our devices are designed to be user friendly and non-invasive.
APAC Diagnostic works with a broad spectrum of businesses in both the private and government sectors. Should you require a quotation on larger commercial quantities of our products or a tailored service solution, please contact our team on +61 2 9986 2252 or via email and we will be pleased to help you in working to create a safe and drug free workplace.