What is Morphine?
Morphine Sulfate is a narcotic opioid analgesic, which means that it provides pain relief and is made from the poppy plant. Morphine is a powerful pain reliever used for both acute (short term) and chronic pain. It is also used, much less frequently, as a cough suppressant, for difficulty breathing and to stop diarrhea.
Morphine is the first known painkiller. It was discovered in the early 1800s and was distributed under the name Laudanum. But poppy-based medicines similar to morphine were used as early as the 1500s.
Names For Morphine
Morphine is prescribed under a variety of names, abbreviations and both brand and generic names. Those names include MS Contin, Avinza, Kadian, Oramorph, MOS, Duramorph, Morphitec, MS, Roxanol, and epidural morphine.
How Is Morphine Given?
Morphine is available in a variety of forms, and it can be given as an injection, pill, epidural, oral solution, suppository or sublingually (under the tongue).
Morphine Side Effects
Common side effects of morphine include:
- Constipation: After surgery, it is important to prevent constipation, which can become a major complication.
- Decreased coughing
- Loss of appetite
Risks of Morphine
Every drug has risks, and morphine is no exception. Risks are increased with higher doses, long-term use and especially inappropriate use without a prescription. To minimize these risks, follow the instructions on your prescription and only take the medication when appropriate for pain control.
- Depressed breathing (breathing too slowly or too shallowly)
- Memory problems
- Severe constipation
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
Patients who are nursing should consult their physician before taking morphine, as it may be expressed in breast milk. In pregnant women, prolonged use of morphine may result in the baby experiencing morphine withdrawal shortly after birth.
Patients with constipation may experience a worsening of symptoms. Those with other intestine conditions should use morphine with caution as it can slow digestion and result in a worsening condition. Morphine should also be used with caution in people with respiratory conditions including COPD or asthma.
The elderly may be more sensitive to morphine. Their dosages may need to be adjusted to prevent an overdose or pronounced side effects.
Morphine Tolerance, Addiction and Abuse
Morphine, like many prescription drugs, may require larger doses for pain control when used for extended periods of time. Over time, the body can develop a tolerance for the medication and will require more medication to experience the same level of effectiveness.
When used according to your doctor’s directions, morphine, like all prescription drugs, carries a low risk of addiction. People with chronic pain who use morphine for long periods of time may become physically addicted to the medication, meaning that they will experience signs and symptoms of withdrawal when they do not take the drug. Physical addiction does not necessarily mean the drug is a problem. For example, a cancer patient could become physically addicted to the medication. However, the drug will continue to be given as need for pain relief.
Physical addiction is not the same as mental addiction. When people use the drug inappropriately (seeking a “high” or euphoria instead of pain relief), they can become emotionally dependent on the drug. Misuse of morphine can take on a number of forms including mixing it with other drugs such as alcohol and taking larger or more frequent doses than necessary for pain management.
Morphine. University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed July, 2009. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/drugs/morphine-sulfate-088500.htm