Morphine sulfate


Generic Name Brand Name
morphine sulfate Avinza, MS Contin, Oramorph SR

Morphine is available in oral preparations and as rectal suppositories. It may also be given as subcutaneous injections (SQ), intramuscular injections (IM), or intravenous injections (IV). MS Contin, Oramorph SR, and Avinza are pills that supply a controlled release of morphine.

How It Works

Morphine is an opioid. It acts upon specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord to decrease the feeling of pain and to reduce the emotional response to pain.

Why It Is Used

Morphine is used to relieve severe pain caused by surgery, accident or injury, or chronic illness such as cancer. For a heart attack, morphine is used in the emergency setting to lower pain and workload on the heart.

How Well It Works

Morphine effectively treats moderate to severe pain.

Side Effects

Morphine causes many side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Feelings of elation (euphoria).
  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Constipation, which may be severe.
    • Talk with your doctor about using a laxative to prevent constipation.
    • You can prevent constipation at home. Make sure you drink enough fluids. Most adults should drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water, or noncaffeinated beverages each day. Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day.
  • Skin reactions, such as irritation, itching, or hives.

Morphine affects breathing and should be used with caution in older adults and those with lung disease, such as COPD or asthma.

Morphine can cause your body to expect this medicine daily (drug dependency) if it is used for longer than a week or so. Dependency is not the same as addiction, which is a behavioral disorder marked by craving a drug.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Morphine impairs balance, coordination, and your ability to think. Do not drive or operate any type of equipment if you are taking morphine.

By-products of the breakdown (metabolism) of morphine can build up in the body, especially in people who have kidney or liver disease. Adequate doses to control pain are usually lower in people with kidney or liver disease.

Do not drink alcohol or use other drugs while you are taking morphine.

Morphine can interact with many other medicines. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all of the medicines that you are taking.

Morphine should be used with caution following a head injury.

Morphine should be used during pregnancy only if the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the fetus. Talk to your doctor before using morphine if you are or may be pregnant.

This medicine can pass through your body in breast milk and should be avoided if you are breast-feeding your baby.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

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