Morphine is primarily used in many different prescription pain medications. It can be used for both short-term or long-term pain control. However, because morphine is a narcotic, many healthcare providers like to limit morphine use to the shortest period of time possible. On occasion, morphine may be prescribed for other uses. Morphine is sometimes used "off-label" to treat pain in children, shortness of breath, or to hasten death (such as for "assisted suicide").
What Is Morphine Used For?Morphine is an active ingredient in many different prescription medications. It is most often used to treat pain, although it is sometimes also used for other reasons (such as for anesthesia during surgeries or other procedures or for treating shortness of breath).
For pain control, morphine is used both for short-term pain (such as after a surgery) and for long-term pain. Because it is a narcotic, many healthcare providers like to limit the use of morphine to the shortest period of time possible (see Morphine Addiction for more information).
Morphine is especially useful for "palliative care" (pain relief for people who are dying), as it helps relieve shortness of breath often experienced near the end of life, in addition to relieving pain, helping the patient sleep, and providing some anxiety relief. Morphine is also commonly used to treat pain during a heart attack (especially if nitroglycerin does not adequately relieve the pain).
Morphine comes in several different forms, reflecting the many different ways the drug can be used. Short-acting tablets or oral solution are the most useful for treating temporary pain or breakthrough pain (occasional pain that occurs despite treatment with longer-acting pain medications). Long-acting tablets and capsules are generally used when continuous, around-the-clock use of potent opioid medication is necessary for an extended period of time (for more than a few days). Injectable forms can be given by IV, in an "epidural," or even in an implanted pump.