Morphine. The word itself, can make people fearful. Isn't this used only when people are dying? Will I be addicted? Will it cause me to die sooner? Is it going to work for my pain? These are the typical questions most people have but often the questions are not asked. However, the fear and reluctance is visible when morphine is suggested to treat pain. You may want to take the morphine quiz and see how much you know about the world's most common opioid pain reliever.
In this article, morphine is referred to as an opioid, rather than a narcotic. The term "narcotic" is commonly used to mean a drug of abuse and adds to the attitude that these are dangerous drugs that inevitably result in addiction.
Morphine - what does it do?
Morphine is the natural derivative of the juice of the poppy. Since the 1800's, several synthesized opioids have been discovered. They all work on opioid receptors in the body. These receptors are in the brain, spinal cord, intestines, and tissues such as skin and muscles. When an opioid contacts a receptor it reduces the pain signals sent to the brain so the person feels less pain than they otherwise would. But this also causes side-effects - nausea, constipation, and drowsiness with reduced breathing.
When used as a recreational drug, (i.e., it is not being taken under medical supervision on a regular basis for pain) a large dose of morphine may reduce breathing to the point of causing death. This kind of event has created the perception that morphine can kill under any circumstances.
Some people also believe that morphine used for pain leads to an earlier death. There is no research to support this. In fact, studies have shown that pain relief leads to a better quality of life and preliminary research shows it may lead to longer survival.
Test your knowledge about morphine. Take our Morphine Quiz.