Morphine: Myths and Reality

February, 2008

The mere mention of “Morphine” can be enough to conjure up all sorts of negative thoughts in patients and their family members. Some people may be afraid of becoming a drug addict while others may think that only people who are ready to die should take Morphine. Doctors, too, can be afraid of using Morphine (and similar drugs), largely due to misinformation and lack of training.

The reality is that Morphine (and other opiates that work in the same way, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, etc.) is effective and safe for the treatment of pain.

Living with pain can take a toll on all aspects of your life. Fortunately, almost all pain can be alleviated with the drugs available today. No one should suffer because they (or their doctor) are afraid to use Morphine or other opiates.

Here are some common misunderstandings about Morphine and other opiates:

  1. “If I take Morphine I won’t be able to stop – I will become addicted.”
    Very few people who use opiates for pain relief ever become addicted or “psychologically dependent.” However, it is important to be aware that anyone taking opiates for more than 2 weeks should not stop taking them all at once. They should ask their doctor about weaning off so that their body is able to adjust.
  2. “If I take Morphine now, it won’t work later on when my pain is worse and I really need it.”
    There is no ceiling for the amount of morphine that can be used safely, and there is no reason to wait until your pain is unbearable. If your pain increases over time, your morphine dose can be increased as needed.
  3. “I’ve heard that Morphine has lots of side effects, and I feel bad enough already.”
    All opiates can cause nausea, drowsiness and constipation. However, all side effects will generally stop after a few days, as your body adjusts, and constipation can be easily treated.
  4. “My doctor recommended Morphine, but that was what my father took just before he died – is the doctor not telling me something?”
    Opiates are excellent drugs for treating moderate to severe pain. If you have an illness that is causing acute or chronic pain that is not adequately reduced by acetaminophen or ibuprofen, talk to your doctor about using opiates. Morphine (and other opiates) is NOT just for people who are dying.

If you are living with untreated pain, ask your doctor what more can be done.

For more information about morphine (and other opiates) and addiction, visit:

http://www.stoppain.org/pain_medicine/content/medication/opioids.asp

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/painrelievers.html

http://www.nationalpainfoundation.org/MyPain/default.asp