What is morphine used for?

Morphine is used for relief of pain, specifically severe or excruciating acute pain. But morphine can also be abused. More on the recreational and medical uses of morphine, as well as laws regulating the use of morphine, here.

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Morphine, an incredibly helpful pain reliever, has become a drug of abuse. Here, we explore what makes morphine addictive, morphine’s medicinal and recreational uses, as well as its negative side effects (such as dependence on morphine or morphine addiction). As always, your questions about morphine, abuse, or symptoms of morphine addiction are invited at the end.

Morphine uses

Morphine belongs to the group of pain medications called “opioids”. Opioids are synthetic medicines that alter the way the brain perceives pain, and as a side effect, affect the areas in the brain that control emotions. This is why people who take morphine can experience euphoria, or a sense of extreme well-being. But exactly how morphine affects the brain is still not completely understood. The white crystalline powder is marketed under generic and brand name products MS-Contin, Oramorph SR, MSiR,Roxanol, Kadian and RMS.

The main medical use of morphine is for relief of moderate to severe pain. Patients treated with morphine are diagnosed with either acute or chronic pain. Acute pain is considered pain that emerges suddenly and is severe and/or surprising. This includes anything from a broken bone to a respiratory attack. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is defined as a long-lasting syndrome or health condition, such as osteoporosis or asthma. Chronic conditions can cause acute pain, and vica versa. But in both cases, morphine is prescribed for extreme cases of pain management.

Main medical uses of morphine include:

  • Relief of pain caused by heart attack. This pain is often described as severe and excruciating chest pain in the areas from the inner side of the left arm, the neck, the back and strong headache. The feeling is as if something heavy was placed on the chest of the patient. Heart attack pain is often accompanied by stress and fear of dying that can easily cause damage to the heart, but morphine can help decrease the intensity of these symptoms.
  • Before and after surgery, morphine can be administered to patients to relieve acute pain, especially when bigger organs are removed or treated.
  • Car accidents victims are treated with morphine at the scene of the accident. But, injuries in the head areas can not be treated in these cases because morphine can decrease pain caused by injury in the respiratory center in the brain and depress breathing.
  • Morphine can be used as a cough suppressant in cases of severe cough, or to relieve strong diarrhea. Yes, morphine has also unexpected medicinal uses, however there may be more suitable and less addictive opioids that can be used for the same purpose.
  • Morphine is used to address rheumatic pain in the extremities.
  • Morphine is used to sedate patients prior to surgery, with local epidural and spinal injection.
  • Terminal cancer patients under on-going morphine therapy over a longer period of time, face immense pain on a daily basis. End-of-life cases luckily find some comfort and calmness thanks to morphine.
  • Treatment of acute pain caused by broken bone(s) and/or twisted joint(s).
  • Treatment of kidney stones through the urinary pathways is described as sharp and disabling pain in the lower back area. Doses of morphine are prescribed to decrease the strong pain.
  • Treatment of water collected in the lungs can lead to highly controlled morphine therapy to deal with the striking pain.

Morphine uses and side effects

Short or long term adverse effects of morphine can occur during prescription dosing. Whether symptoms appear after recommended use or are present during morphine abuse, these effects may be very serious and trigger permanent illnesses and symptoms. The most common side effects of morphine include:

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  • abnormal movement of muscles in the abdomen
  • constricted pupils
  • dry mouth
  • gastrointestinal effects that include nausea, vomiting, cramps and constipation.
  • hallucination, delirium and dizziness
  • heavy sedation, which is the reason why morphine is not prescribed to patients operating heavy machinery
  • physical dependence
  • potential transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C among those injecting morphine
  • psychological urges, cravings and addiction
  • respiratory depression in higher doses of morphine
  • skin changes, such as flushing, allergies and warmth
  • tolerance developed in the system

Morphine use and side effects

Morphine can change the way your brain functions so that you will be more prone to addiction. The rewarding sensation that morphine causes after administration, tends to lead the user towards loss of control over intake as well as committing crime in order to get access to the drug. The body may also develop a certain level of tolerance, a point where your system is no longer responding to the drug. In such cases, morphine users are most likely to go for a higher dose of morphine in order to trigger the wanted pleasure effect.

Problems with morphine

Unfortunately morphine, as with any other highly addict narcotic drug, can become a drug of abuse. Morphine has a high risk of causing physical dependence and can cause overdose. If you suspect that someone you care for is a morphine addict, start observing her/his living habits and you will easily notice huge differences. Make sure you do not enable morphine addiction and consult an interventionist in order to properly address morphine addiction. And most important of all, apply tough love to your friend or relative, because support, honesty and faith can be a life saver for people who have a problem with morphine.

Illegal morphine use

What are the non-medical or recreational uses of morphine…and the penalties of illegal morphine use? One of the most common recreational uses of morphine is for causing sedation or triggering euphoria. However, any use of morphine OUTSIDE OF PRESCRIPTION DOSING is considered illegal.

Morphine belongs to the Schedule II class of drugs according to the Controlled Substances Act, together with cocaine and methadone. Morphine is viewed to have a high potential for abuse but is currently allowed for strict medicinal uses in the U.S. The law also defines the rule that morphine cannot be administered, if not medically prescribed, except in cases of emergency. Federal drug possession penalties vary from state to state, but you can end up going to jail somewhere between 1 year and 10 years, or paying fees up to $2,500 for illegal use of morphine.

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Questions about the use of morphine

Do you still have questions about what morphine is used for? We’ve tried to cover the key points about morphine use and addiction risk factors. But if you want to know more, contact us in the comments section below and we will try to respond to you with a personal and prompt answer.

Reference Sources: The Catholic University of America: Federal drug penalties
U.S Food and Drug Administration: Morphine Sulfate
MedLine Plus: Morphine Oral
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. When under morphine is it possible that a victim of an assualt with head trauma such as 3 lacerations to head about 2cm each stapled with 16 staples possibly not be able to properly comprehend what officers are asking when questing tge victim while seeking treatment for heavy bleeding from head? Is it possible the victim be confused and not understand what it is being asked by an offucer?

    1. Hi Diana. Many types of head traumas may cause confusion, and disorientation. I suggest that you consult with a doctor about your concerns.

  2. I have read many of your articles and really appreciate the information you have on any topic. My doctor I had was both a pharmacist and internal m.d. and was wonderful but she is no longer in my area. Im having a very hard time finding either a internist or pain clinic to continue my morphine treatment. Many pain clinics have gone to doing injections and prescribing antidepressants for chronic pain. I have a rare illness called takayasus arteritis and have had severe pain. I started at a pain clinic 10 years ago because I was constantly being admitted for weeks at a time to get pain under control. It took 2 years to find the right med and dose to get pain under control. I take an extended morphine and an immediate morphine. I cannot take antidepressants as I have had horrific allergic reactions. When I was going thru chemotherapy I went into a bad depression and I tried 7 different antidepressants with awful results. I just continued with a therapist working thru the depression and am happy to say i overcame the depression. I know that after this long my body is dependent on the morphine. So here is my question, (sorry to take so long) what other options besides injections and antidepressants can I do for pain control? Injections would not work with type of pain I have. Im now concerned with what I read about the damage that can be caused from long term use of morphine but not sure what I can do to help with pain and your information on other pain meds have similar negative effects. Is there anything I can try that is effective to help with pain that doesn’t have such negative long term effects? I will be honest that it scares me to discontinue the morphine for a couple reasons: 1. My quality of life was greatly affected being in constant pain and don’t want to experience that again. 2. Withdrawal sounds awful and fear after this long that i would need to do some type of professional help to stop this med. I don’t know if you can answer my questions but I would appreciate any information you can give me.

    1. Hello Tina. Has the search for morphine doctor that will prescribe your medication been successful? I’d suggest you talk to a pharmacist or a pain specialist in your area. They may refer you to a doctor that may help or offer you useful alternatives that will help manage your pain.

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