Morphine: dispelling the myths and the misconceptions
The opioid, morphine, is very effective in the treatment of moderate to severe cancer pain and pain
experienced by patients with non-malignant conditions. Indeed, in the World Health Organization
analgesic ladder, morphine is cited as the main example of a strong opioid that should be used when
non-opioids (such as paracetamol) and weak opioids (such as codeine) fail to control pain. Morphine
can also relieve the sensation of breathlessness. However, many myths surround the use of morphine.
These include addiction, tolerance, sedation, respiratory depression and a shortened life. These
myths result in patients being reluctant to take their prescribed doses and those who prescribe
morphine setting inappropriate dose limits. There is no evidence to support the theory that opioids,
used in a carefully titrated way for the control of breathlessness in palliative care, increase the risk
of respiratory depression. This article aims to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding
morphine. It will answer the common questions associated with morphine use.