What Is Morphine Sulfate? Side Effects, Dosage, and Uses


What is morphine sulfate? How is it different from other types of morphine? Who takes this drug? In this guide, we’ll answer all your questions about morphine sulfate including what it’s used for, how it’s taken, the average morphine sulfate dosage, morphine sulfate side effects, risks of taking this drug, and how morphine sulfate differs from other strong painkillers.


What Is Morphine Sulfate? What Is It Used For?

Morphine sulfate is a narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe long-term pain. While morphine in general can be used for both short and long-term pain, morphine sulfate is an extended-release form of the drug meant for people who need constant and long-term pain relief. It’s often used by cancer patients and those suffering from chronic severe pain.

Morphine sulfate works by binding to certain central nervous system proteins which block the transmission of pain receptors to the brain. It’s an extremely strong narcotic with a high risk of addiction. It’s generally only prescribed after other painkillers have been tried but haven’t provided enough pain relief. Common brands of the morphine sulfate generic name include Avinza, Kadian, Oramorph SR, DepoDur, Roxanol, and Ms Contin.


How Is Morphine Sulfate Administered? What’s the Morphine Sulfate Dosage?

Morphine sulfate can come in tablet form that is swallowed or a liquid form that is injected with a needle or administered through a catheter (a small tube). If you take morphine sulfate in pill form, swallow the pill whole without chewing, dissolving, or crushing it. If you’re taking the liquid form of morphine sulfate, it may be administered under your skin, into a muscle, into a vein, or into your back.

Many people who take morphine sulfate are ill enough that they’re in the hospital, but if you recover enough to live at home but still need to take morphine sulfate, it’s possible to administer morphine sulfate yourself, in either pill or injectable form. Your nurses or doctors will explain how to do this, and it’s important to follow their instructions exactly and take your morphine sulfate at the correct times. If you feel nauseous when you take morphine sulfate, it can help to take it with food.

Morphine sulfate works in a different way than other types of morphine, so even if you’ve taken immediate-release morphine before and know your dosage for that, your morphine sulfate dosage will likely be different.

Morphine sulfate tablets come in doses ranging from 15 mg to 200 mg. If you’re taking the injectable liquid form of morphine sulfate, the syringes will either already be filled with the dose your doctor prescribed, or you’ll be taught how to properly fill them with the correct dose yourself. Your doctor will likely start you on 15mg of morphine every 12 hours and gradually increase the amount if that isn’t providing enough pain relief.

It’s very important to only take the amount of morphine sulfate your doctor prescribes, even if your pain is severe. Taking a large amount of morphine when you haven’t taken opioids before can cause you to stop breathing. If you’re still suffering from pain even with morphine sulfate, your doctor may give you other types of pain medication, including immediate-release morphine, to help you manage the pain while you gradually increase your morphine sulfate dosage.




What Are Morphine Sulfate Side Effects?

Morphine sulfate has the same side effects as other types of morphine. Constipation is the most common side effect of morphine sulfate, and nearly everyone who takes the drug will experience it. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any serious side effects or side effects that affect your day-to-day life. Below are some of the more common side effects of this drug.

  • Blurred vision
  • Burning or tingling feeling
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Cramps
  • Decreased urination
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Itching or rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Morphine sulfate can also cause severe side effects or reactions in the people taking it. Contact a doctor or 911 immediately if you or another person taking morphine sulfate experiences any of the side effects below.

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion
  • Severe weakness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Very slow breathing


Who Shouldn’t Take Morphine Sulfate?

Morphine sulfate can interact with many drugs (over 200 different kinds) and cause complications in people with a variety of other medical issues. The most serious interaction morphine sulfate has with other drugs is the possibility of slowed or stopped breathing, which can lead to death. This happens most often with drugs that, like morphine sulfate, are central nervous system depressants. These interactions can be fatal, so you should always tell your doctor every medication (both prescription and over-the-counter) that you’re taking as well as any medical conditions you have. Below are five groups of people who shouldn’t take morphine sulfate, but, again, this isn’t a complete list.


People With Asthma

If you have asthma, that can increase the possibility of serious, and sometimes fatal, breathing difficulties caused by morphine sulfate.


People Who Drink Alcohol Regularly

You should not drink alcohol while you are taking morphine sulfate. Both alcohol and morphine sulfate are central nervous system depressants, and mixing them can cause respiratory failure, seizures, coma, and death.


People Taking Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants and morphine sulfate also both depress the central nervous system, and taking them together can cause slowed or difficult breathing, coma, and death.


People Taking MAOIs

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a type of antidepressant. Taking morphine sulfate with MAOIs can cause a toxic reaction as well as breathing difficulties (which can lead to death) as well as severe confusion and anxiety. If you’re taking MAOIs, you should stop at least 14 days before you begin taking morphine sulfate and not begin taking them again until it’s been another 14 days since you last took morphine sulfate.


People Taking Cimetidine (Tagamet)

Cimetidine is a drug used for heartburn relief. Taking it with morphine sulfate can cause breathing difficulties (which can lead to death) as well as confusion and muscle twitching.




How Does Morphine Sulfate Compare to Similar Drugs?

As mentioned above, morphine sulfate is generally only used when other pain treatments haven’t worked and the patient is suffering from severe, long-term pain. Morphine sulfate can be highly addictive and has the risk of serious, and even fatal, side effects, more so than other painkillers, so it is typically used as a last option when the patient can’t get pain relief from other drugs.

Morphine sulfate is effective at relieving pain when other drugs have failed, and many people who take morphine sulfate hadn’t gotten significant pain relief until they began taking it.

Compared to other types of morphine, morphine sulfate is meant for long-term use and around-the-clock pain relief. Other types of morphine are often meant to be used only for the short term, such as immediately after surgery.


Summary: What Is Morphine Sulfate?

Morphine sulfate is a powerful narcotic used to help patients suffering from severe and long-term pain. Morphine sulfate can be administered in either pill form or as an injectable liquid. Your morphine sulfate dosage will depend on numerous factors, such as your history of opioid use and pain levels, but your doctor will likely start you with two morphine sulfate 15mg pills a day and make changes from there.

Morphine sulfate side effects include constipation, blurred vision, cramps, and, more seriously, confusion, slowed breathing, and difficulty breathing. Morphine sulfate can have dangerous interactions with numerous other drugs and medical issues, and you shouldn’t take it if you have asthma, are a heavy drinker, or take MAOIs, muscle relaxants, or cimetidine.