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What are the Different Types of Morphine Treatments?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Morphine, a drug that blocks pain signals in the brain, is used to treat moderate to severe pain and can be administered in several forms. The most common form of morphine treatment is morphine tablets, which contain from 5 milligrams (mg) to 200 mg of morphine per tablet and are swallowed whole. Morphine also comes in liquid form, as a suppository, and in injection form. Morphine treatments can be short- or long-acting.

Part of the popularity of morphine tablets is that they can be used for either short- or long-acting treatment. Short-acting tablets have a painkilling effect for up to four hours, whereas long-acting tablets can have an effect for 12 to 24 hours. The primary prescription for morphine is generally for a short-acting form, because the dosage can be adjusted by the patient to give a suitably analgesic effect. Short-acting morphine treatments can take up to 48 hours to give a steady painkilling effect.

Morphine in liquid form may come already dissolved in a pre-prepared solution. It may also come in a powder form for patients to mix themselves. Liquid morphine should be taken with a glass of water to prevent constipation.

Morphine suppositories are also available. This form of morphine is designed to be placed into the rectum. The morphine is then absorbed through the lining of the rectum to provide pain relief.

Another form of treatment is by injection. Injection is practical for people who are feeling nauseated or cannot swallow. The injection can be given in a patient's fatty tissue, muscle or vein. Injectable morphine can also be delivered through a syringe pump placed under a patient's skin. This form of injectable morphine delivers a steady, continual dose and only needs to be replaced every 24 to 48 hours.

Morphine treatments' dosages depend on the level of pain a patient is suffering. The patient should be able to judge when to take another dose of morphine after his initial prescription of short-acting tablets. The patient can then be prescribed long-acting tablets of a suitable dose, because these need to be taken less often than the short-acting tablets. Short-acting tablets may also be prescribed alongside long-acting tablets in case the patient has any breakthrough pain that needs to be controlled.

Other morphine treatments available include tablets that are designed to be dissolved under the tongue, called transmucosal tablets, and skin patches, also known as transdermal patches. Treatments can have common side effects such as constipation, nausea or drowsiness. Less common side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, extreme moods, headaches, confusion, reduced libido, stomach pain, confusion or contracted pupils of the eyes. Rare side effects are rash, difficulty urinating, slowed breathing, slowed heartbeat and a drop in blood pressure.

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