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What is Oral Morphine?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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Oral morphine is a potent prescription drug normally used in treating pain that is classified as moderate to severe. This medication is a narcotic drug and can be habit forming. As such, it is usually prescribed only for patients who cannot get adequate relief from other, less-addictive and potent drugs. In many cases, doctors prescribe oral morphine for patients who need to take pain medication all day and night for an extended period. It may be administered in tablet, capsule, or liquid form, and doses often last for about four hours each.

Oral morphine is a narcotic pain reliever that is taken by mouth; doctors may prescribe it as a liquid or in pill or tablet form. In most cases, oral morphine proves effective in controlling pain that is moderate to severe in intensity. It works by altering the way a patient senses pain as well as the manner in which his body responds to it. Usually, doctors are careful about how they prescribe this medication, as it can be habit forming. In many cases, they use it for patients who will need potent pain relief for a significant period of time.

Though oral morphine may be used for a range of conditions that cause pain, doctors often prescribe it for cancer patients. For example, this medication may be particularly helpful for treating patients who need palliative care. Palliative care is focused on improving the patient's quality of life and keeping him comfortable. Doctors may also prescribe it for keeping patients with terminal conditions comfortable for the final days, weeks, or months of the patient's life.

In most cases, doctors prefer to prescribe the lowest dose of morphine possible for controlling a patient’s pain. For this reason, they often start a patient out on a low dose of oral morphine and then gradually increase his dosage if his pain is not adequately controlled. Patients are typically advised against increasing their dosages without a doctor’s approval.

As is the case with many medications, oral morphine may cause side effects. For example, a person may experience dizziness, drowsiness, inability to focus, and anxiety while taking this medication. Some people may also develop headaches, chills, flu-like symptoms, mood changes, or double vision while they are taking it. Sleep difficulties, nausea, and vomiting are also among the possible side effects of oral morphine use. Additionally, some people lose interest in sex or develop sexual dysfunction symptoms while taking this drug.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By burcidi — On Jun 27, 2013

Does anyone have constipation on morphine extended release tablets? This drug is giving me severe constipation. I'm going to ask my doctor to prescribe me some laxatives or something.

By stoneMason — On Jun 26, 2013

@turquoise-- The time it takes to develop a morphine addiction depends on the individual. 20mg is not a lot and you just started taking it, but if you feel the need to keep increasing the dose to see the same effects, this means that you are becoming tolerant to the medication.

Long-term use and increasingly higher doses will lead to addiction. I recommend quitting the medication or switching to a milder, less addictive one as soon as your pain becomes bearable. Speak to your doctor about the best time to do this.

I became tolerant of my morphine dose very quickly and had to increase the dose every two weeks for pain relief. I think I was on the verge of addiction but my doctor helped me withdraw from it and switch to a milder pain reliever. I quit all pain relievers after a few months.

I realize that some people have chronic, unbearable pain and they don't have the luxury of quitting morphine so easily (like cancer patients on morphine). At the end of the day, the advantages and disadvantages have to be weighted for each individual with the help of their doctor to decide what's best for them.

By turquoise — On Jun 26, 2013

I had surgery last week and my doc prescribed me morphine sulfate tablets (20mg) for the pain. I've read terrible stories about morphine dependency and addiction. I've only been on it for five days, but how long does it take to get addicted?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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