Morphine Uses

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Morphine is an analgesic opioid and is one of the most potent pain relievers. It has been used for pain relief and other indications for years. Morphine is highly addictive and its use is associated with significant physical and psychological dependence.

Some of the major uses of morphine in clinical practice include:

  • Relief of pain caused by heart attack or myocardial infarction:

    This pain is usually a severe and excruciating chest pain that often radiates to the inner side of the left arm, neck, back and head. This pain causes excessive apprehension, a feeling of "something heavy" placed over the chest and a sense of imminent death, which in turn, may cause further stress and damage to the heart. Morphine helps to ease the pain and relieve these symptoms. This is one of the most important uses of morphine in today's clinical practice.

  • Relief of the severe bone and joint pain associated with sickle cell crisis.
  • Pain relief before, during and after surgery, especially major surgeries that may involve the bones and large organs.
  • General anesthsia to sedate a patient.
  • Regional anesthesia such as spinal or epidural anesthesia.
  • Relief of pain caused by severe injuries such as those caused by road traffic accidents. Head injuries, however, cannot be treated with morphine since it may exacerbate damage caused to the respiratory centre in the brain and depress breathing.
  • Pain relief for renal colic or kidney stones as they pass and obstruct the urinary pathway.
  • Pain relief in pulmonary edema or water collected in the lungs, as seen in acute left ventricular failure or severe acute heart failure.
  • Relief of severe joint pain caused by disabling diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • Pain relief in terminal cancer patients. This is part of the palliative care or end-of-life care given to cancer patients with advanced disease.
  • A cough suppressant in cases where cough is severe enough. However, there are other more suitable and less addictive opioids that can be used for this purpose.
  • To relieve the severe diarrhea. However, again there are more suitable and less addictive opioids that can be used for this purpose.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2013

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