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Supportive Care

Brand names:

Kadian®, MS Contin®, Oramorph® 

Often used for:

Pain management

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What is morphine?

Morphine is an opioid medicine used to manage pain

Morphine has fast-acting and long-acting forms. Follow dosing instructions carefully. The care team may ask you to keep a record of the doses your child takes, so they can prescribe the best possible pain control.

This medicine may be given in the clinic, hospital, or at home. 

Morphine is a strong medicine. When used to treat pain over a long period of time it may cause physical dependence. Physical dependence is when the body starts to rely on the medicine and stopping the medicine too fast can result in unwanted side effects. Your care team will monitor for this and make a plan if the medicine must be stopped slowly. 

Your care team may talk to you about having a medicine called naloxone available while taking morphine. Naloxone is a rescue medicine that can reverse the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. Your care team may teach you and your family how to use this medicine in case an overdose of morphine ever happens. 

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May be given into a vein by IV

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May be given as a tablet by mouth

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May be given as a capsule by mouth

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May be given as a liquid by mouth

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Possible side effects

  • Drowsiness, feeling tired, or feeling weak
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mood changes, such as feeling sadder or happier than usual
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Problems urinating (peeing)

Allergic reaction – Call your care team right away if your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction. These may include: 

  • Rash, hives, or itching
  • Flu-like symptoms such as chills, aches, headache, or fever 
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, or tightness in the throat  
  • Swelling of the face or neck

This medicine can cause serious breathing and swallowing problems. If your child has slow, shallow breathing or trouble breathing or swallowing, call your care team right away. 

Side effects should decrease after taking morphine for a few days. Tell the doctor or pharmacist if side effects increase while taking this medicine.

Not all patients who take morphine will experience these side effects. Common side effects are bolded, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist. Find more information on side effects.

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Tips for patients and families

Be sure to discuss all questions and instructions with your doctor or pharmacist. 

  • Do not take this medicine more often or in greater amounts than recommended.  
  • Do not give your child other medicines that contain alcohol or allow your child to drink alcohol while they take this medicine. 
  • If taking this medicine regularly, increase fluid and fiber intake to help prevent constipation. Tell the care team if your child has not had a bowel movement (poop) in 3–5 days. They may need to take a stool softener or laxative to relieve constipation. 
  • This medicine may make your child dizzy or drowsy. Do not let your child do anything that could be dangerous until you see how this medicine affects them.
  • If your child is taking this medicine regularly or for a long time, they should not stop this medicine until the care provider instructs. Stopping morphine without slowly decreasing the dose can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These include diarrhea, headache, sweating, muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, or feeling restless. If these symptoms occur, call your doctor or pharmacist right away. It could mean the dose is being decreased too fast.
  • Certain medicines can interact with morphine. These include diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), promethazine, diazepam, lorazepam, antidepressants, and medicines to treat seizures. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all medicines your child takes.  
  • It is important that patients tell the care team if they are sexually active, pregnant, or breastfeeding. 

Morphine at home:

  • This medicine can be taken with or without food. Take with food if stomach upset occurs. Taking the medicine with meals may lessen stomach problems.
  • Tablets: Swallow tablets whole. Do not crush, chew, or break the tablet unless the pharmacist tells you the tablet can be cut in half.  
  • Capsules: Swallow capsules whole. Do not crush, chew, or break before swallowing.
  • If your child is unable to swallow the capsules, break open the capsule and add the contents to a small amount of pudding, applesauce, or other soft food. Have your child swallow the mixture right away without chewing.  Rinse mouth and swallow after eating the small amount of food.
  • If your child has a G-Tube, the contents from the capsules can be given in the G-Tube medicine port. Break open the capsule and add the contents to the medicine port with a small amount of water. Allow the medicine to flow into the G-Tube medicine port by gravity. Then flush your child's G-Tube as directed by the care team.
  • Liquid: Use the measuring device that comes with the medicine. Throw away syringes for liquid medicine after each use. Do not reuse.
  • Store morphine at room temperature. Some formulations may need to be protected from light. Follow instructions from the pharmacy.
  • In case of a missed dose, give the missed dose as soon as possible. If it is near the time for the next dose, skip the missed dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time.  
  • Do not share this medicine with anyone or give for reasons other than prescribed.
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.
  • Get medical help right away if your child does not respond, answer, or react like normal. If your child feels very sleepy or dizzy; passes out; or will not wake up.
  • Follow instructions for safe storage and disposal.

This drug may be habit forming when used long term. Watch for signs of misuse. Signs of misuse can be:

  • Taking the medicine in a way that is different than prescribed 
  • Taking more medicine than is prescribed
  • Taking the medicine “just in case,” even when not in pain
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Poor or risky decision-making
  • Saying they have lost this medicine to get another prescription written