The Effects of Morphine in Cancer Patients

Morphine treats moderate to severe pain and chronic pain that often accompanies cancer. Patients may take morphine in tablet or liquid form or receive injections that provide continuous pain relief. Doctors may prescribe short- or long-acting morphine treatments. Sometimes pain may develop for patients taking long-acting medication provided through sustained-release tablets or capsules, so doctors may also use faster acting morphine to deal with the immediate pain. Longer-acting morphine works for long-term pain.

A cancer patient on an IV drip is comforted by a doctor. (Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images)

Dulls Pain Sensations

Morphine, a narcotic, or opioid, pain reliever, binds to opioid receptors in the brain to reduce the perception of pain and emotional responses to pain, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer patients benefit significantly from the drug's effect on severe or chronic pain. Morphine has addictive properties, however, so doctors usually limit its usage to patients who need strong pain relief. Patients who suddenly stop taking morphine risk developing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from the drug. Patients with a history of drug abuse or addiction are at high risk for becoming addicted to morphine.

Causes Imbalance

Drowsiness, lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting may occur while taking morphine. Patients under the influence of morphine may have significant pain relief, but they must take great care when standing up after sitting, changing positions or walking because the drug increases their risk of falling or injury. Patients taking morphine usually have someone near them at all times to help keep them steady during physical activity. Effects of morphine may intensify when patients take it with other drugs, including alcohol, sedatives or sleeping medicine. Combining alcohol with morphine can result in dangerous side effects or even death, according to the drug database

Produces Side Effects

Morphine can cause many side effects. Doctors sometimes readjust morphine dosages or use other medications that work with morphine to relieve side effects that do not resolve. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, weakness, agitation, nervousness and headaches, according to Medline Plus. Mood changes, confusion and difficulty sleeping may also occur. Morphine may also cause flu-like symptoms, chills, stiff muscles, double vision, sexual dysfunction or loss of desire and painful or difficult urination. Slow or irregular breathing, bluish or purplish skin color, irregular heartbeat, seizures or hallucinations may develop. Tightness of the throat, difficulty swallowing and swelling of the extremities can also result. Serious side effects require immediate medical attention. Severe weakness or dizziness and cold, clammy skin may be reasons to contact a doctor.

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