Allergy is often confused with side effects. Since other opioids have slightly different chemical structure, they can be used for analgesia in the rare instances when morphine produces the hives and breathing difficulty of true allergy.
Morphine is an end-stage drug. However morphine is given to prevent the experience of severe pain, regardless of life expectancy. Its use does not mean that the person has ‘given up’ and will soon die. Due to persistent severe pain, some people are on regular doses of opioids for months or even years.
Tolerance is inevitable meaning that if you take morphine now, it will not be effective in the future. Fortunately this is not the case and the opioids remain effective over long periods of time.
Euphoria Morphine ‘high’ is rare when opioids are given in a specific manner to prevent the experience of pain.
Morphine causes respiratory depression. This can happen in cases of overdose, but is avoided in the medical setting by increasing the dose gradually to the level where pain is relieved.
Addicts cannot use morphine. Many addicts believe morphine will not be effective for pain relief. However, the right drug in the right dose can nearly always be found.
New Age concepts suggest that dying is a natural process and you should not take drugs for it. But morphine is given for severe, unrelenting, excruciating and exhausting pain; to deny a person relief from this is cruel and unkind. Pain relief allows a person to put their attention where they would benefit, such as family connections or spiritual issues.
All opioids are illegal. Morphine is legal when prescribed in the medical setting.
Side Effects of Morphine:
Always: Constipation. This should be prevented proactive, in the same way that morphine is given to prevent the experience of severe pain.
Often: Nausea and vomiting clears in 4-5 days
Often: Sedation/ lack of awareness clear in 3-4 days
Sometimes: Itching, hallucinations, muscle twitching, difficulty emptying the bladder can be experienced.
Side effects in the often/sometimes groups are often relieved by switching to another member of the morphine family.
Pain Control: A Guide for People with Cancer and Their Families:
BC Cancer Agency patient information including items on pain:
Canadian Cancer Society patient information about pain:
Cancer Supportive Care has good information about pain:
Cancer Links provides descriptions to several good links on pain issues:
Booklets to help parents understand pain and teach them how they can help their child deal with pain from cancer:
Pediatric Pain and Making Cancer Less Painful: A Handbook for Parents
The “Handbook for Mortals” includes a good section about pain.
Patient Resources living-lessons.org
An excellent on-line brochure outlining resources that are available.