This is how morphine actually works on a wounded warfighter

Ruddy Cano Avatar
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

When soldiers are deployed on field missions, especially the high-risk ones, they stand a high chance of getting injured while on duty. Some even succumb to adverse injuries that lead to death or permanent conditions that cannot be reversed. The thought of war itself is terrifying enough and considering its consequences is even worse. This is why some soldiers end up with PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent negative psychological impact among severely wounded civilians and military people. 

Too much exposure to traumatic events may result in serious effects, which is why measures are taken to mitigate the possible outcomes. According to specialists, injecting wounded soldiers with morphine one hour within the first hour of injury reduces the chances of experiencing PTSD. However, the painkiller injection does not guarantee that the wounded soldier will not have PTSD. There is no certain proven method of preventing the debilitating psychic strain of combat.

This is because health experts are unsure whether the good results come from pain reduction or morphine’s effect on the brain. Or perhaps, both are working together to foresee the best results. Flashbacks, agitation and feelings of helplessness are all symptoms of PTSD. Every soldier’s risk is determined by the types of traumatic events they are subjected to. According to a 1995 survey, 7.8% of the US citizenry has experienced PTSD at some point. The statistics show that soldiers are even more likely to experience PTSD because of the disturbing scenes they come across every day.

(U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Uriel Ramirez)

How does morphine work?

Morphine is one of the many crucial alkaloids extracted from the poppy plant. Like most products from the poppy plant, excessive use of morphine leads to addition, explaining why the medication is only administered by authorized persons and to specific patients. Morphine is one of the best pain relief drugs used to control moderate to severe pain not only for wounded soldiers but also for common citizens experiencing pain. While morphine is popularly known for its pain relief properties, it is also used intra-operatively to bring down anxiety, bring about sedation and lessen the anesthetic dose. This is why it is used during operations that take long hours. 

The pain reliever works by preventing pain waves from traveling to the brain via the nerves. After administering morphine injections, patients feel relieved of their pain immediately because the drug works instantly. Some experts claim that morphine uses the same mechanism to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. It blocks nerves from sending traumatic signals to the brain, but only when administered within an hour of injury.

Like most strong painkillers, morphine has side effects, including constipation, drowsiness, and feeling sickly. These side effects are controllable and are most severe to those injected with morphine for the first time. The chances of getting obsessive over morphine are so high that the injection is only administered in hospitals. Injured soldiers are only injected with the drug by a qualified physician to prevent addiction. For at-home doses, patients are provided with capsules or tablets that are only given with a prescription. If you are on morphine drugs, it is best not to consume alcoholic drinks because they accelerate the side effects.

It is important to deal with post-traumatic stress before it gets out of hand, especially for wounded warfighters who have seen a lot of disturbing scenes while on duty. Experts claim that morphine even helps deal with trauma from childhood experiences, therefore one of the best solutions for PTSD. Preventing PTSD is better than dealing with it months later. Warfighters are thus encouraged to take the necessary measures if they experience any traumatic events while on missions.