Palliative Care – Morphine

Palliative Care – Morphine

The truth about morphine

Myth: “My doctor has prescribed me morphine; this means he has given up on me to die.”

According to the World Health Organisation’s stepwise ladder for treating pain, low dosages of morphine can be prescribed for moderate pain. It is not only a treatment for severe pain at the end of life. In fact, it can be a more cost-effective pain treatment, if you have a life limiting illness, compared to other opioid treatments.

Myth: “Being on morphine will turn me into a druggie.”

There is a big difference between being addiction and needing a drug for pain relief. When you are addicted to a drug you display certain behaviour which we call “drug seeking behaviour”. You constantly crave your next dose of your drug and thoughts of using it or “getting high” dominate your thoughts. You will steal from others to get money to buy your drug. Your behaviour will have a negative effect on your relationship with others and your job/studies.
If you are being described morphine to manage your pain, being on medication allows you to be pain free so that you still have a quality of life. Being on treatment helps you to maintain your relationships, job etc because you are not in pain. You can’t suddenly stop your morphine because you will experience withdrawal symptoms, but your medication can be slowly decreased and stopped under the guidance of your doctor if you need to.

Myth: “If I am on morphine, I will be too drugged to do anything”

When morphine is initially prescribed, it can make you feel “out of it” for the first few days, this affect will go away. Other symptoms which can frequently occur are nausea and constipation. Your doctor should prescribe medication together with your morphine to manage these symptoms.

Myth: “my doctor has made the dose of my morphine higher; he is trying to speed up my death.”

Needing higher dosages of morphine could mean that your cancer is spreading and as a result you will need higher dosages to manage your pain. It does not mean that your doctor is trying to hasten your death.