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Morphine molecule

Morphine (INN) (IPA: [ˈmɔ(ɹ)fin]) is a strong opiate pain killer drug. It is the principal active agent in opium and the prototypical opiate. Like other opioids, e.g. diacetylmorphine (heroin), morphine acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain, and at synapses of the nucleus accumbens in particular. Morphine is highly addictive when compared to other substances, and tolerance and physical and mental dependences develop very rapidly.

Patients on morphine sometimes say they have insomnia, visual hallucinations and nightmares;[1] if these occur then reduction in dosage or switch to an alternative opioid analgesic should be considered.

The word "morphine" is derived from Morpheus, the god of dreams in Greek mythology. He is the son of Hypnos, god of sleep.

Medical uses

Morphine is used legally:

  • As a pain killer in hospital settings for
    • treating pain after surgery
    • relieving pain associated with trauma
  • In the relief of severe chronic pain, e.g.
  • As an adjunct to general pain killers
  • In epidural anesthesia or intrathecal analgesia
  • For palliative care (i.e. to lessen pain without curing the underlying reason for it. This is often done for patients with incurable diseases)
  • As a medication for severe cough
  • In nebulised form, for treatment of dyspnoea. The evidence for efficacy is slim[1]. Evidence is better for other routes [2].
  • As an antidiarrheal in chronic conditions (e.g., for diarrhea associated with AIDS), although loperamide (a non-absorbed opioid acting only on the gut) is the most commonly used opioid for diarrhea.


  1. Waller SL, Bailey M. Hallucinations during morphine administration. Lancet. 1987 Oct 3;2(8562):801.

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