Morphine is used for pain relief. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Morphine is commonly called RA-Morph, m-Eslon SR and Sevredol.
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What is morphine?
Morphine is used for the relief of moderate to severe pain such as after an injury, or operation or pain caused by a terminal illness such as cancer. It is usually used when other milder painkillers such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) don’t work well enough.
- Morphine belongs to a group of medicines called opioid painkillers. They act on your brain and nervous system to reduce pain.
- Other pain relievers such as paracetamol and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen) may also be used with morphine.
- Morphine is not very effective for nerve pain.
- In New Zealand morphine is available as capsules, tablets, in a liquid form and as an injection.
- Read more about pain, pain-relief medication, opioid painkillers.
- The dose of morphine will be different for different people.
- Always take your morphine exactly as your doctor has told you. Depending on the reason you are taking it, your doctor may advise that you take regular doses or take morphine only when you need it for pain relief. Make sure you know which is right for you.
- The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much morphine to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
My dose is:
How to take morphine
- You can take morphine with or without food.
- Morphine is available as tablets and capsules. The oral liquid and injections are mostly used in hospital.
- Some types of morphine are short-acting or immediate release and others are long-acting or slow release. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure about the type you are taking.
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|Tablets||Morphine tablets are available as short-acting or immediate release and long-acting or slow release
Immediate release tablets
- Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking morphine. Taking morphine with alcohol can make you more sleepy, drowsy or dizzy.
- If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the amount.
Precautions before starting morphine
- Do you have breathing problems such as asthma, COPD or sleep apnoea?
- Have you had an accident or a head injury?
- Do you have low blood pressure or problems with your thyroid?
- Do you have problems with your bowel such as constipation?
- Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Are you taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start morphine. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
What are the side effects of morphine?
Like all medicines, morphine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
Addiction is an excessive craving. If you are addicted to morphine, it means you are not able to control your use of it. It is unusual for people who are prescribed morphine for a short time or for a terminal illness to become addicted to it.
Some people are more likely to develop addiction than others and seem to be very sensitive to the cravings. You may be at risk for addiction if you have mental health problems such as depression or a history of substance abuse, including alcohol and recreational drugs.
To reduce your risk of addiction, morphine for short-term pain relief should be used for the shortest possible time, at the lowest effective dose, with a plan in place to reduce and withdraw treatment.
Other side effects
|Side effects||What should I do?|
|Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product|
Morphine interacts with some other medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting morphine or before starting any new medicines. It may interact with medicines available without a prescription such as cough suppressants (such as Benadryl Dry Forte®, Duro-Tuss®) and sedating antihistamines (such as Phenergan®).
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet: Arrow-Morphine LA
New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: morphine (short acting) morphine (long acting)
- Morphine salts New Zealand Formulary
Additional resources for healthcare professionals
LA morph tablet Medsafe, NZ
m-eslon SR capsule Medsafe, NZ
RA-morph oral solution Medsafe, NZ
Sevredol tablet Medsafe, NZ
Strong opioids for pain management in adults in palliative care BPAC, NZ, 2012
When and how to use a syringe driver in palliative care BPAC, NZ, 2012
Safe prescribing of morphine in primary care BPAC, NZ, 2008
Learning sessions HQSC, NZ
Safe use of opioids collaborative newsletter – issue 3 HQSC, NZ, 2016
Safe use of opioids national collaborative national workshop HQSC, NZ, 2016
Palliative care – oral morphine initiation and dose titration guide for opioid naïve patient SafeRx, Waitematā DHB, NZ, 2017